Volunteer profile: Eden’s brave heart recognised in Heart Foundation awards

Volunteer lifesavers train to be rescue-ready knowing they could need these skills to save someone’s life at any moment. For 17-year-old Surf Life Saving Lakes Entrance member Eden McMillan, she used her skills to save a loved one. 

The teenager has been a member of SLS Lakes Entrance since the 2011-12 season when she was seven years old and has moved through the ranks to become a patrolling member, completing her Surf Rescue Certificate in 2017, followed by her Bronze Medallion in 2019. 

However, her most vital lifesaving moment yet came while enjoying New Year’s Day 2020 boating at Lakes Entrance, when her sister Asha injured her back after being thrown from a biscuit being towed behind the boat. 

“I was on the biscuit with her, and we both came off,” Eden remembers. “At first, I surfaced from the water laughing, but then I looked around and saw my sister had been hurt. 

“I quickly realised something was wrong and that I needed to step in, she had gone into shock and kept saying that her back hurt.  

“Through my lifesaving training, I knew the seriousness of the situation and how to help her. I stabilised her while dad brought the boat around and we safely got her out of the lake to await medical attention.” 

Image credit: Laura Ferguson, Weekly Times

As Eden had suspected, the incident was serious, and Asha suffered from three fractured vertebrae in her back. Thankfully, due to Eden’s quick actions, after spending six weeks in a spinal brace and 12 weeks of rehab, Asha made a full recovery from her injuries. 

Eden’s rescue efforts were recognised by the Heart Foundation in the annual Heart Awards, which promote the contribution volunteers make to regional communities.  

To Eden’s pleasant surprise, she was a top three finalist in the Heart Awards. 

“I didn’t expect to be nominated for a Heart Award, let alone be in the top three, which was a real privilege to be recognised for my involvement within the community and the club,” she said. 

“Volunteers are so important in a regional community like Lakes Entrance. We have a lot of tourists who visit the town who aren’t familiar with the conditions in the water, so it feels good to be one of the people who is there to keep people safe in the water.” 

Eden’s lifesaving journey has come in a full circle, from being a nipper herself to training upcoming nippers at SLS Lakes Entrance, giving back to the program that taught her the skills that allowed her to save her sister’s life. 

In season 2021-22, she will take on a new challenge, having recently been voted in as vice club captain.  

“I really enjoy helping the nippers at Lakes Entrance, I love the feeling of being able to help and know the kids will be safe in the water and continue to enhance their skills and involvement in the club like I did,” Eden said.  

“I want to keep patrolling as a volunteer every summer and go on to become a patrol captain and a professional lifeguard in upcoming summer seasons too.” 

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