Bob has QAS covered – at 96
HE may be Australia's oldest debut author at 96, but that hasn't stopped Bob McDermant writing about how the post-war, rag-tag Queensland Ambulance Service became the best in the world.
Bob's book The Ambo recounts the journey of Bob and his fellow ambulance officer Arthur Deoberitz who in 1947 set about turning around the "antiquated" Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade to bring its treatment in line with modern medicine.
"When I came back from the army, the ambulance service had been running for about 50-odd years and they had no change in their syllabus," Bob said.
"They had been taught to put a bandage and pad on a wound or spread a fracture and drive them (patients) to hospital; that was it."
Adding to this, there was no training for the "ambos".
After 10 years of working to gain permission to change the syllabus and introduce training, Bob and Arthur started at the bottom, gradually changing the face of the service. Bob ultimately became the QAS training officer.
"With all the work we put into it, I had to believe it was going somewhere," Bob said. "We now have the best ambulance service in the world.
"To me, they went from nothing to the best.''
Up until now, no one had captured the history of the QAS. It took Bob more than 12 months to have The Ambo ready for publication.
"I am at a stage where I am legally blind. I couldn't write, my hearing is gone, so it wasn't all that easy."
With the help of Robin Storey, who leads biography-writing classes at Sunshine Coast's Seasons venue at Caloundra, they started with one chapter, to test out the writing process.
Bob's only child, Greg McDermant, had already collected information from Bob about names and places. Robin taped the stories, typed them up and then read them back to Bob.
"Greg sorted out the mistakes and we gradually did it, chapter by chapter," Bob said. "Robin did a terrific job. It was a tricky thing to move out of the real life and into the ambulance world and expect to know all the terminology.''
While Robin took on the labour-intensive recording and writing, and negotiating with the publishers, Bob proudly notes that Greg was responsible for the design of the book cover.
Bob encourages other seniors to document their experiences, but not without professional help. He's already encouraged a former banker, who lives in Bob's village, to write his memoir.
QAS Commissioner Russell Bowles said Bob's book meant a great deal to the ambulance service.
"Once you lose history you can never get it back, so to capture this is just so great," Mr Bowles said.
"A lot of people think that the ambulance service was always like it is today, but in the book you see the struggles that Bob went through to put the foundation stones in place for us to have the great ambulance service that we have today."
The Ambo is available through Amazon, Booktopia, Angus and Robertson, Fishpond, and Barnes and Noble.