By Kath Gannaway
“The thing about little sisters … they can amaze you, even if they’re younger than you.”
Seventeen-year-old Georgia Corbett’s little sister, Lilia, proved her amazingness in February this year when Georgia suffered a potentially lethal anaphylactic episode at their Yarra Glen home.
Lilia, 13, was recognised for her bravery and clear-thinking on 30 May when she was awarded a Junior Triple Zero Hero Award by the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA).
Lilia was one of 51 young people between five and 16 who were nominated by the ESTA operator on the other end of the line when they dialled triple zero for help.
Georgia, who suffers from a severe auto-immune disorder that causes anaphylaxis, was bringing in the washing when she started to feel she couldn’t breathe.
Their mother, Lee Callec, and 15-year-old sister, Sarah, were out so Lilia swung into action, getting Georgia her EpiPen and calling for an ambulance.
Lee was with Lilia when she accepted her award from Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino and met Daniel Robotham, the ESTA call-taker at the other end of the triple zero line.
They soon discovered they had more in common than their shared emergency. Daniel graduated from Lilydale High School in 2011, the same school the girls attend.
Listening to the call was an emotional experience for them all.
“She was so brave … everything that Daniel asked her, she was able to answer,” Lee said.
“I could hear Georgia in the background really struggling to breath, she was too sick to help in any way but Lilia was looking after her and answering all the questions.”
Georgia has been very ill during the past year requiring the use of the EpiPen numerous times, and hospitalisation 35 times since April last year.
“Lilia has helped me with that, watched me, listened to what I say on the phone when I ring triple zero, so she followed what I did,” Lee said.
For Lilia her response on the day was just what sisters do.
“It was in the moment, you need to do that to save her,” she said.
But reliving the experience was more difficult.
“I couldn’t listen back to all of it,” she said.
“It surprised me. I didn’t remember any of what I said, I just did it for Georgia.”
While Lilia played down her hero status, Daniel was full of praise for her cool head and mature response.
“It’s always quite scary when you can hear someone in the background struggling to breathe at the start of a call.
“Hearing Lil’s voice, she was so calm and had the situation so under control already, my job was just to help her through until the ambulance arrived.”
He said that in the two and a bit years that he has been at ESTA, Lilia really stood out as someone who was more deserving of the award.
“I was on the phone with Lil for close to 20 minutes and in that whole time she might have asked once how long the ambulance was going to be … so cool and calm.”
Daniel said in a job where not every call has a positive outcome, meeting Lilia was great.
“Finding out we went to the same school, putting a face to the name and being able to meet someone you’ve taken through a tough situation makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
He said that kids are great role models when it comes to an emergency and he hoped the awards would trigger a response in parents to teach their children how to ring triple zero, including their phone number and address.
Lilia said the award was recognition for young people in general.
“It was nice for us kids to be seen as people who can do this stuff,” she said.
“And that anyone can do it.”