London

45 years and 8 babies later, paramedic Chris Darby retires

Chris Darby began his paramedic career in 1974 when he was just 20 years old, back in what he calls the 'scoop and run' days.

Chris Darby worked his last shift on his 65th birthday

Paramedic Chris Darby worked his last shift on Thursday, June 6. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Thursday, June 6th was a big day for paramedic Chris Darby. It was Darby's last day on the job with Middlesex-London EMS, after nearly 45 years.. Darby is retiring and went out on the day of his 65th birthday. Before his last shift, he sat down with London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen.

Congratulations and happy birthday. It must feel little surreal for you today. Why did you decide today is the day?

My heart wanted me to work until I'd finished my 45 years, and my head cut in and said I could really use the summer off. 

Take us back to the time when you were just a kid, 20 years old when you started. What was that like?

I was a 20 year old kid out in Lambeth. I'd belonged to the local volunteer fire department, met some people who were involved in ambulance, which sparked an interest. I enjoyed serving and that's where the path began back in 1974.

Chris Darby pictured 1975 (Chris Darby/Twitter)

What was the job like back then?

It was a real departure from where it is today. Looking back, some people would say it was a 'scoop and run' scenario. It was all about how quick could you load the patient in the ambulance and arrive to the hospital. Some of the younger folks called it 'diesel therapy.' Drive as fast as you can. The exact opposite is there today. Some people affectionately call it 'stay and play.' We bring the emergency room to the citizens of London and Middlesex County to provide care earlier in their experience of having an illness or an injury, and their outcomes are a lot better today, I must say, than they were 44 years ago.

After nearly 45 years, paramedic Chris Darby is retiring. Chris sits down with London Morning to reminisce over his long career of service in the Forest City. 6:47

If you were to take a trip down memory lane, are there a few cases that still stick with you, or haunt you, or bring a smile to your face today?

There are calls that have brought tears to my eyes. Probably the most challenging calls are younger people. We've had kids that get into car accidents over the years, those are the tougher aspects of the job. Seeing young people hurt. Paramedics are responsible for seeing patients on their first, their worst and their last days. 

Have you started a life? Did you ever deliver a baby? 

I've delivered 8. The first was probably the most dramatic. It was about 5000 feet above Thunder Bay, and I delivered a baby and coincidentally on her 16th birthday, her mother tracked me down and got ahold of me through the ministry of health. I was able to talk to the young lady who I delivered some 16 years earlier, to the day. 

What will you miss the most?

The people. The paramedics are phenomenal. The nurses and docs are absolutely amazing. The care they give and the stresses they face today with things like call loads and hallways medicine and in addition to that the other emergency services.  I was just speaking to Chief Williams moments before we went on air and he reminded me that I'd taught him CPR back in 1992. Things like that make me realize that I've enjoyed the job a lot.

Q&A edited for length and clarity.