SAVING lives must run in the family for father and son Bill and Steve Pearson - who between them have more than 50 years’ experience in the ambulance service.
Bill, a former ambulance driver, and Steve, a senior paramedic, have both managed to stick it out in one of the most stressful and turbulent yet rewarding professions in the NHS.
From delivering babies in the back of ambulances to resuscitating a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, this pair have seen it all.
Steve, aged 48, has recently been recognised with a Long Service Award for his 22 years with the North West Ambulance Service.
But Steve has still got a way to go if he is to match his dad’s 30 years of service.
Bill, aged 70, first started as an ambulance driver in 1966 in Atherton after thinking he would “give it a go”.
Training for ambulance drivers was much more basic at the time — as were the vehicles.
Bill says the service has been “transformed” since he first started.
Bill, who also worked for the Bolton and City of Salford ambulance service, said: “You didn’t need a First Aid certificate when I first started. You did basic First Aid training with St John Ambulance after you’d joined.
“The transformation has been massive. It has changed beyond recognition. It’s much more intense these days for the paramedics. They do so much more.
“I think the thing that hasn’t changed is common sense. A big requirement of the job is to be able to think on your feet.
“No situation is ever the same when you’re part of an ambulance crew. You have to adapt quickly to the situation and to the people you’re trying to help. I don’t think that aspect of the job has changed.”
When Bill was a driver, paramedics only had a radio in the vehicle and navigated their way to casualties using maps. They did not have defibrillators and could only administer oxygen.
Now ambulances are more like mini-hospitals decked out with life-saving equipment. The control room tracks the movements of every technician and paramedic automatically.
Bill, who now lives in Chorley with his wife Kath, added: “It was very basic. You had to phone from the hospital to let control know you were heading back to base.
“Now they go straight from one job to another. I think there’s a greater expectation there now from the public too.
“It used to be a last resort for people.”
Bill eventually moved to the control room to field emergency calls and direct ambulances.
Steve, aged 48, and a father-of-three from Highfield Road, initially worked as a car phone fitter up until he was made redundant in 1992.
That was when he decided to try his hand at his dad’s profession.
Steve, who started as technician before qualifying as a paramedic a year later, said: “I’d grown up with the ambulance service and it was like one big family back in those days.
“Everyone knew each other and all their kids knew each other. There was a huge social aspect to it.
“Unfortunately a lot of that has gone now because we have to deal with a lot more pressure.
“People do have a greater expectation of the service but that’s our fault. We offer so many things and so many different services.
“These days you’re a psychologist, a councillor and so many other things as well as being a paramedic.
“People are in a high level of distress when you arrive and they expect you to be their solution.
“It can be very difficult sometimes. Some days it’s very rewarding but it can be very stressful. It varies from job to job. When someone’s really ill and you’re able to make them more comfortable or relaxed, that’s very rewarding.”
His dad Bill is full of fond memories of the ambulance service but he still remembers some of his most traumatic days. The father-of-three added: “I can remember one day in Salford when two children had been killed in an accident. It was terrible because all I could see were my own children.
“I got home that night and I said to my wife I didn’t think I could do it anymore.
“But I went back and got on with it. That’s what you had to do.
“Luckily nowadays you get more support.”
Bill retired in 1991 but is still a familiar face at the ambulance station in Farnworth.
He added: “It’s nice to come back here and see everyone I used to work with. I’ve known a lot of the paramedics since they were cadets.
“I am full of pride and admiration for the job my son does. It’s a fantastic service they all provide.”