By Laura Keil
McBride’s Craig Arnold was honored for 40 years of service as a paramedic last week, a recognition only handed out to 20 others in the province this year.
The event, held in Vancouver, recognized long-serving members of the BC Ambulance Service.
Arnold attributes the start of his paramedic career to his dad.
“He was the unit chief at the time, and he encouraged me to do it,” Craig told the Goat. “And I wanted to help people when they needed it.”
When asked about how he copes with what must sometimes be a very difficult job, he says his approach is to talk about what happened with his colleagues. He also has a very supportive wife.
“She had my back,” he says. “I recall one call when it had been a tough call, a very tough call. And the kids were younger and they were sitting at the table and they were bickering and she said to them that I’d had a tough day and I said, ‘They’re here. Some families don’t have their kids today.’”
Nowadays, there are also critical incident stress protocols after difficult calls.
“You do get phone calls if you’ve had a tough call, which is really good as far as I’m concerned.”
Arnold says the most rewarding part of the job is when they have saved someone’s life or helped them avoid paralysis. Being there for families was another good aspect.
“I go to a call and somebody actually died … but if I can sit and help the family through what they’re going through, guide them through things, help them make decisions and so on… that’s not a good call, but it is a good call.”
He recalls many changes to the ambulance service over the years. When he first started, there was no on-call pay. Then it changed to $1/hour, then $2/hour, then a four-hour guaranteed call-out, then it dropped back to $2/hour last November.
He says the flexible schedule has been important for him, as he’s involved in numerous other things in the community. He hopes to see that flexibility returned, especially to rural stations where part-time jobs are often more desirable than full-time ones.
He says their equipment has improved a lot over the years. For instance, a hydraulic lift on the stretcher has greatly reduced back injuries.
“Now a patient can get on the stretcher, you push a button, hydraulic up, they get to the back of the ambulance, you push another button and it’s into the car. You don’t have to lift your patients near as much, which saves our backs.”
He says he hopes to see Prince George and Valemount fully staffed soon so the McBride station does not have to cross-cover as much.
He figures he’s done approx. 7200 shifts over his 40-year career. Every shift is different, he says.
“Some of them are helping somebody up off the floor. And then there’s other ones that are life-threatening messes. So that’s part of it. You just don’t know what you’re going to.”