An arm stuck in a cannon and a call to get TV switched on - ambulanceman John retires after 43 years (From Thisisdorset)
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An arm stuck in a cannon and a call to get TV switched on - ambulanceman John retires after 43 years
BRITAIN’S longest-serving frontline ambulanceman has been given a plaque after clocking up 43 years’ service before his retirement.
John King, of Poole, started as a volunteer in St John Ambulance but studied horticulture at Kingston Maurward.
He worked at a garden centre and in the Merchant Navy before joining Dorset Ambulance in February 1969 at the age of 21.
He still remembers his first call. “It was a dead ’un, collapsed at home. I hadn’t seen a dead person before but I was okay with it,” he recalled.
“I joined as a day man but was expected to do shifts of 24 hours on, 24 hours off. We had a dorm upstairs so we were on standby at the station.
“We didn’t get called out as much as they do now – doctors used to go out and see patients then and people only called when they had problems.”
When John started work, ambulance personnel were only taught basic first aid.
When Bournemouth became one of the first centres in country to offer paramedic training, he gained the more advanced qualification.
He has never kept a tally of the emergencies he has attended and babies he has delivered, but the father-of-five admits he found cot deaths and other tragedies involving children the hardest to handle.
He was one of the first on the scene in Hamworthy many years ago, when a mentally ill young woman stabbed herself to death and left her three young children injured. All the children survived.
John prefers talking about funny incidents, such as the little girl who jammed her arm in a cannon at Brownsea Castle.
“A doctor came over with us and gave her Entinox to relax her, so we were able to free her.”
Then there was the house where he knocked on the door was told to “Come in”. He found the invitation had come from a pet mynah bird.
Over the years he has seen a rise in drunkenness, especially in women; more drug abuse and overdoses; and an increasing lack of respect for the service.
“I’ve known people to call who just wanted their TV switched on. Many years ago, there was an alcoholic doctor who called us because he wanted us to go and buy him some whisky. His offer was declined.
“I’ve had people being violent, but always managed to extricate myself. Verbal abuse is a daily thing. You usually find relatives are the worst.
“Quite often it’s the small jobs that give you most satisfaction because you can instantly see you’ve done something useful.”
John retired as a paramedic in 2009 but was immediately re-employed as an emergency care assistant so he could continue his frontline duties to the age of 65.