One of the longest serving paramedics in the UK is still saving lives in the capital after 50 years at London Ambulance Service.
Kevin Walker, 70, still rides his bike to from his nearby home to Ilford Ambulance Station where he has spent his whole career, having returned to work part-time after just one month spent in retirement.
“The highlights have definitely been resuscitating people,” said Kevin, who was awarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his work as a paramedic. “I joined up because I wanted to try and help people and I still enjoy the job. Being a paramedic makes you feel you’re doing something worthwhile.”
One of his most memorable moments was saving the life of a woman he knew as a receptionist in one of the hospitals he took patients to.
“When you see someone you know in cardiac arrest, it’s not nice,” said Kevin. “Thankfully we brought her back and when I was out shopping she came up to my wife and said ‘your husband saved my life’.”
Before the city had fully felt the effects of a series of clean air acts it was subject to thick ‘pea soup fogs’ and Kevin recalled how they had to navigate the streets with burning torches to reach patients and take them to hospital in the late 1960s.
He said: “They used to put a third man on the ambulance who would walk in front with a foot-long wax taper. Between walking to the patient and then to hospital they could end up walking about seven miles.
“In those days we didn’t do so much treatment; if the patient was badly injured we just had to try and stop the bleeding and get them to hospital as quickly as we could.”
The state-of-the art ambulances Kevin uses today, fully equipped to deal with a range of emergencies and navigate quickly through the city streets, are a far cry from the original fleet.
He added: “The vehicles then were old diesels; you could do about 50 miles an hour going downhill with the wind behind you. In the winter they wouldn’t start so we had to put a mattress on the only petrol coach in our fleet then push the diesel ambulances around the yard until they started.”
Assistant Director of Operations Ian Johns said: “By any measure Kevin is an extraordinary man who has committed his life to making sure people are taken care of.”