'There probably isn't another job as fulfilling': Cork paramedic retires after 30 years

He said it was with a heavy heart that he decided to hang up his high-vis jacket.
'There probably isn't another job as fulfilling': Cork paramedic retires after 30 years

Paramedic James McCarthy retires after 30 years working for the National Ambulance Service. Pictured on his last shift in Castletownbere Ambulance Base. Photo Jonathan Tyner

“It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Cork city native Jimmy McCarthy, retiring from his station at Castletownbere after thirty fulfilling years with the National Ambulance Service.

Having left school at 16, Jimmy started working as a hospital porter in CUH at the age of 21, but always knew that his dream job was elsewhere.

“I was working as a porter down in A&E, and I remember one beautiful summer’s morning at about seven o’clock, I saw the ambulance going out and just thought - I would do anything to be inside driving that,” he told The Echo.

Inspired, Jimmy went out and got his license, and got his first break covering a shift in Millstreet hospital in September of 1992. He recalls the mix of nervous excitement in the face of the unknown, and also the warm welcome in the staff kitchen in Millstreet.

Since then, Jimmy has worked in every station across the whole county of Cork, and was one of the longest-serving members of the ambulance service.

James McCarthy (second from left) retires after 30 years working for the National Ambulance Service. Pictured on his last shift in Castletownbere Ambulance Base with Kevin O'Sullivan Operations Resource Manger, Darryl Coen Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer and Paramedic Supervisor Ray McCarthy. Photo Jonathan Tyner
James McCarthy (second from left) retires after 30 years working for the National Ambulance Service. Pictured on his last shift in Castletownbere Ambulance Base with Kevin O'Sullivan Operations Resource Manger, Darryl Coen Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer and Paramedic Supervisor Ray McCarthy. Photo Jonathan Tyner

He and his partner Ray McCarthy were hailed as heroes in 2014, when they saved the lives of 30 patients from a blaze on Castletownbere Hospital’s roof, started by a stray New Year’s Eve firework.

He said that while every day wasn’t the high octane rescue that people might expect, there was nothing more fulfilling than being part of any rescue, great or small.

“I’m sure people think that you’re going to a car accident every day of your working life and pulling people out, and saving lives, but it’s not really, a lot of it is mundane,” he said.

“But when you do go to a call that really needs our service, there probably isn’t another job that could be so fulfilling. I don’t think I would have wanted to do anything else,” he added.

Jimmy said that his one piece of wisdom after thirty years, is the value of “common sense and a level head”.

James McCarthy retires after 30 years working for the National Ambulance Service. Pictured on his last shift in Castletownbere Ambulance Base. Photo Jonathan Tyner
James McCarthy retires after 30 years working for the National Ambulance Service. Pictured on his last shift in Castletownbere Ambulance Base. Photo Jonathan Tyner

“If more people had common sense, we wouldn’t get half the calls. I’ve travelled from Castletownbere up to Bandon for a fella that had a headache, who just wanted to know if he should take a tablet,” he said.

“I think the fact that there’s no charge for the ambulance service, it’s probably the most abused service you’re going to get. 

"People need to realise that silly calls can take an ambulance out of a rural area for five or six hours, and we won’t be there for something more serious,” he added.

Now 60, Jimmy said that the long shifts and overtime involved with the job are becoming too much to handle, and it’s a problem that’s getting worse for those joining the service that he says is increasingly short-staffed.

He said it was with a heavy heart that he decided to hang up his high-vis jacket.

ames McCarthy retires after 30 years working for the National Ambulance Service. Pictured on his last shift in Castletownbere Ambulance Base. Photo Jonathan Tyner
ames McCarthy retires after 30 years working for the National Ambulance Service. Pictured on his last shift in Castletownbere Ambulance Base. Photo Jonathan Tyner

“There was an awful lot of overtime, and I just felt it was time to go. But I still wake up at night wondering if I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. It’s not that I’m walking away from it absolutely delighted,” he said.

“I worked with some lovely lads, we used to have a great time, it was like a family really,” he added.

Now looking forward to the next chapter, Jimmy said he has bought a Volkswagen camper, and plans to travel Ireland with his wife Gabby, who has also recently retired.

Jimmy said he’ll definitely miss the perks of being able to dodge any traffic on his travels.

“I did try to look for some sirens and a blue light to put on the Volkswagen camper, but I don’t think I’ll get away with that,” he laughed.

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