Rebekah Ljubijankic overcame family tragedy to find her true calling as a paramedic.
Rebekah Ljubijankic overcame family tragedy to find her true calling as a paramedic. Mike Richards GLA030314AMBO

Multiple tragedies inspire woman to become a paramedic

TANNUM Sands hairdresser and mother of two Rebekah Ljubijankic is studying to be a paramedic after a series of violent tragedies inspired her towards a career helping others.

The determined 32-year-old is pushing through a fear of maths and science study to do a Bachelor of Paramedic Science course at Central Queensland University.

Ms Ljubijankic said she didn't realise how significant her worry was until she had to do an exam with maths in it as part of her coursework a few weeks ago, and felt physically unwell.

But that only made her more determined to succeed.

"Either you confront fear, or it will keep following you and punching you in the face, until you've had enough and you step up," she said.

Ms Ljubijankic is passionate about becoming a paramedic after a series of incidents involving family and friends, including accidently running over her sister Emma Sippel while they were driving between family properties at Redgate four years ago.

The sisters had been enjoying a social family catch-up when the accident happened on Easter Friday in 2010. 

Ms Ljubijankic drove her sister home, but when she went to get out of the car to walk to the house after an argument, Mrs Sippel grabbed onto the back of the ute. She went under the wheels and sustained serious injuries.

While alcohol was involved and Ms Ljubijankic had no control over her sister's actions, she still feels to some degree responsible.

"I was operating the vehicle and my sister was run over," she said. "It was a horror movie in front of my eyes. I was devastated."

Her sister had to learn to walk and talk again, but is now fully recovered.

Ms Ljubijankic recalls a critical moment on the side of the road at the time of the accident when her sister's life was saved by an intensive care paramedic.

"He put a drain in her chest. There was blood everywhere and I could hear all the air coming out," she said.

"It was like she was dying in front of me, but he was actually saving her life. I stood there and it was mind-blowing to watch the ICP save her like that.

"Emma probably would have died if he wasn't on call, and if he couldn't do the procedure she needed.

"That's why I'm so passionate about this. I want other families to have what that paramedic gave my beautiful sister ... another chance at life."

Ms Ljubijankic attributes her positive approach to realisations she had in 2011 following the death of a close friend from breast cancer.

Her friend was a pillar of strength, but while she fought hard against the cancer as it spread, she eventually lost.

"Seeing her in that coffin, that made me realise life's too short," Ms Ljubijankic said.

"I thought I can either crumble, procrastinate, feel sorry for myself and play victim, or I can just get up and learn from it."

That's why I'm so passionate about this. I want other families to have what that paramedic gave my beautiful sister ... another chance at life

Ms Ljubijankic also went through the death of her brother in a car accident when she was 14.

"At my sister's accident I actually had to look fear in the face," she said. "I had to go through the hoop, I couldn't go round it.

"I love the fact that I'm about to start uni. I never thought I could do that."

Ms Ljubijankic is one of about 30 students enrolled in a CQU Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies (STEPS) program aimed at helping people gain entry to tertiary level education.

For more information on the STEPS program contact CQU's Helen Holden on 4970 7337.

CQU STEPS program

  • Most students complete the program in 12 weeks and can study at CQU Gladstone campus or by distance.
  • Concurrent enrolment in a CQU bachelor's degree is also offered.

STEPS courses

  • Preparation Skills for University
  • Essay Writing
  • Technical Writing for University
  • Mathematics for University at the Fundamental, Intermediate and Technical levels
  • Computing Skills
  • Positive Learning
  • Introductory Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Foundation Science.

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