This ex-soldier devotes his life to helping people

A lesson in the art of being a good human.
Steve Trood in Nepal © Steve Trood
By Oliver Pelling

This adventure is presented in partnership with Kathmandu

Steve Trood spent 20 years in the Australian army. His career included multiple overseas deployments to conflict zones and a six-month exchange with the British Army, during which he was based in Germany. Steve worked alongside some of the toughest military units in the world and through it all, he's seen the best and the worst of humanity.

Now, after spending two decades with a gun in his hand, Steve spends his time helping and healing people in need. He’s a paramedic and paramedic educator for New South Wales ambulance, he’s actively involved with Soldier On – an organisation that helps war veterans with physical or psychological injuries - and he embarks on regular medical treks through rural Nepal to help people with no access to healthcare.

Steve, why did you want to become a paramedic?
I think it was the instability. I joined the army at 17 and did 20 years. When I got out, I’d just got back from Afghanistan. When I left for Afghanistan, my wife was nine weeks pregnant. When I came back I had all intentions of dusting off my pack and heading back over, but when my boy was born…all bets were off. I went into work the next day and resigned.

I took long service leave and found it pretty difficult to go from Afghanistan to just sitting around the house. I began to wonder what I was gonna do – I didn’t think I’d handle a 9-5 job. My wife at the time was a paramedic, so I just thought I’d give it a crack.

What I like about it, aside from the patient care, is that you go to work and you have no idea what’s going to happen. I think that’s why a lot of military go across to emergency services. You do a lot of sitting around, painting rocks, then you have a couple of minutes of shit hitting the fan, then you go back to painting rocks.

What were some of the most interesting or rewarding things that happened to you during your time in the military?
I would’nt give any of it back. I grew up through the army. The experiences I had were unreal. Apart from my deployment to Afghanistan, the most important thing I got out of the military was when we were assisting communities – in floods, fires, searches, helping the Aboriginal communities out west - all that sort of stuff. Just being able to help people.

The jungles of Borneo © Alex McFarland

I’d imagine there are a lot of skills you learn in the army – gained from both training and being in war zones – that you can take home with you and apply to every day life?
Oh absolutely. For example, I was out on a trip with about 17 war veterans, and we retraced the WW2 Death March in Borneo. It was a big mix of people, including some from RSL Life Care, who offer care to returned servicemen.

Prior to us embarking on the trip, I emailed the trekking company we were travelling with and asked if I needed to bring any medical gear. They replied ‘No, no, we’re covered. We’ve got it all.’ Anyway, whilst we were trekking, one of the RSL Life Care girls came down with an illness – she was vomiting, not holding down water. We were about five hours' trek from any road.

I told the trekking people that I needed to give the girl fluids. The main guy opened up his bumbag and said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a Panadol.’ They had nothing. So then I asked for a medical evacuation and they couldn’t provide that either. Luckily we had a couple of current Special Forces guys with us, and one of them ran, with a guide, about three hours through the jungle to get a stretcher.

By the time they got back this girl was non-responsive. So I made the decision to use her Camelbak and put it up her bum to make sure she got some fluids. Over the next hour and a half, she’d had about two litres of fluids and by the time we got her to the road she was conscious again.

For a lot of the veterans on that trip, helping that girl was the first opportunity they’d had to use all their skills in everyday life. By the end of it, some of the guys were psychologically drained because it brought back a lot of bad memories, but other guys got a big boost from it…being able to put their skills to use in every day life can really help veterans.

The TREKT Himalaya squad © Steve Trood

Speaking of putting skills to use - these Medical Treks with TREKT Himalaya sound exciting. You did one last year and have another one coming up – how did these come about?
I’d been talking to a friend about maybe doing some volunteer treks. Then there were the earthquakes in Nepal, and I just started searching online. I looked up different companies and found TREKT Himalaya and got in touch – and it went from there.

So what do these treks entail?
TREKT deliver essential medical care to remote and rural villages. Generally the day hikes are 7-8 hours into these villages. We’ll get there, set up camp, and the next morning the villagers will come in for medical treks. You’ll probably seen between 300-400 people in a village every day.

So the villagers come through an entry point and our Nepalese porters help tell us what their ailment is, and then you can transfer them straight to the pharmacy we have set up, or, if it’s something more severe, we deal with it on site through our triage system. On the last trip we had a dentist with us and he extracted about 200 teeth on the one trip.

Ghorka District, Nepal © DFID

How did your Kathmandu Summit Club sponsorship come about and how has it helped you?
I was just in my local shop here in Wagga [Wagga] and talking to the guy about my trips. He said I should apply for sponsorship. I filled out a form online and told them what I needed, and they got in touch and told me it was all approved. |

Lindsay from Kathmandu actually rang me up a couple of days ago, and I’m going to be taking over a heap of Kathmandu gear to the porters on my next medical trip. It’s amazing how things can connect.

What adventures do you have on the horizon?
Probably my Muay Thai trips to Thailand and the Nepal medical trips on repeat. I’m also trying to get a trip together with medical veterans from around the world to get out to Nepal and help communities – I think that would be just as beneficial for the veterans as it would the locals.

Prepare for your next adventure with the help of Kathmandu, and find out more about TREKT Himalaya.

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