'˜Such satisfaction when you save somebody's life'
After 35 years with the ambulance service, Bridlington's locality manager Mike Wright has earned the right to put his feet up and enjoy a cuppa.
Instead, he is retiring from the service and will be making the teas and coffees at the town centre cafe he owns with his family.
Paramedics need to be quick-thinking and fast-acting, and prepared to expect the unexpected. It’s not a job anyone could do.
And it has changed remarkably since Mike saw a job advertised in the Free Press just as he was looking for a career change.
He said: “When I started in 1981, there was no such thing as a paramedic, I was an ambulance man, because the patient transport service and the accident and emergency role were both combined.
“I was originally taken on to transport patients to the day hospital in Bempton Lane and did that for six weeks.
“Then I got the chance to go on to the A&E rota.
“Back then, we had oxygen, entonox, splints, dressings and that was about it. It was a lot simpler in those days.
“Paramedics came in around 1988 and I was one of the first to qualify in Humberside a year later.
“We had extended skills and could defibrillate patients, give cardiac drugs and intravenous drips.”
Mike had originally spent 10 years in the Merchant Navy but left in 1981.
“I didn’t know what to do. I thought about each of the services and decided I fancied the ambulance service.
“I saw an advert in the Free Press a couple of weeks later. Fifty people applied for the job and I got it.”
He worked in Bridlington for 20 years, moving from the old ambulance station in St John Street to the new base when the town’s hospital opened in 1987.
In 2001, Mike went to be operational supervisor in York and after a couple of years he moved to Scarborough to be area manager.
It was only meant to be for a couple of months but he stayed 13 years, eventually transferring back to his home town last summer.
He is now responsible for the stations at Bridlington, Hornsea and Driffield, looking after around 60 staff.
It is more of an managerial role now, but he still has the blue lights on his car, and kit in his boot, in case he is ever needed.
“I have always enjoyed responding to 999s,” he said, “The job of a paramedic is so intense these days. There is a lot to know, a lot to learn and a lot of training. They can do a lot more now than I could.
“I still love the job now but I am looking forward to the new focus in my life. I couldn’t retire and do nothing.”
Once he has been to visit his son in Australia, Mike will be helping his daughter Sophia to run Cafe Society in Bridge Street
The work should be more predictable than life in the ambulance service.
He said: “You get everything, from childbirth to death. Some staff used to get childbirth call outs regularly, but the closest I got was a call to Wold Newton in the middle of the night.
“I walked into the hallway and I could hear a baby crying and ran upstairs.
“She had just delivered the baby herself.”
He admits it is not an easy job to do, and it requires a strong character. “You get such satisfaction when you save somebody’s life, but you do feel it when it’s a less positive outcome.
“Some people are affected more acutely than others but we have great support from occupational health to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.”There are tales of tragedy which stick in his mind as low points from his 35 years with the ambulance service.
There are other unsual calls which will remember for a long time.
He added: “When I started we had a target of 19 minutes to reach a call. There wasn’t as much pressure as there is now.
“These days, we have to get to a ‘purple’ life-threatening call within eight minutes and an ‘amber’ call within 19 minutes.
“A lot of the public think that as soon as they call an ambulance, it should be on their doorstep. They don’t realise that demand is high and we have to prioritise calls.
“We do have some regular callers who are always ringing and that gets us frustrated, because often, we know they don’t need to go to hospital.
“It is sometimes difficult to deal with people like that.”