Chatham paramedic hangs up uniform after 38 years

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Ron McGregor gave up a job paying $6/hr at Dominion Grocers in Chatham to become an ambulance attendant.

His starting pay was $4/hr.

It was 1975 and McGregor was 18-years-old.

"Bringing somebody back to life is the best thing," McGregor told The Chatham Daily News when asked to reflect on a career spanning 38 years.

While he said he didn't keep count, McGregor guessed he successfully resuscitated more than 10 people and delivered 19 babies.

McGregor retired Friday amidst a warm send-off from fellow paramedics and supervisors.

"I'm the last of the Arbour boys," McGregor said with a smile.

The late Doug Arbour hired McGregor back when paramedics were called ambulance attendants and none of the training nor equipment you see them use today was even contemplated.

The service in the 70s used a Cadillac car, with hooks on the inside to suspend up to four patients, said McGregor.

"You just loaded 'em and go," he said.

Sometimes McGregor would stay with patients at the hospital and "help the doctor stitch 'em up."

Training was provided on the job.

New hires would work with a supervisor to learn what to do, said McGregor.

He recalled being brought in when off-shift to assist at a multi-vehicle crash on Grand Avenue West.

While emergency responders were dealing with that, someone drove their car into a crowd of bystanders, he said.

With the advent of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, paramedics don't learn the outcome of patients they've helped, unless families reach out to contact them.

One success story McGregor did have a hand in just over a year ago involved someone he knew.

McGregor found himself and his wife, who is a nurse, and other family members assisting a neighbour who had crashed his motorcycle onto the McGregor's front lawn and was found without vital signs.

"He took us out for brunch three weeks ago. He's doing well," McGregor said, with an even broader smile.

While everyone, from doctors to nurses and paramedics are busier now, he said the emergency health care system is doing a good job.

McGregor said his decision to become a primary care paramedic has been good for him and his family.

He's enjoyed a rewarding career that provided great job security, he said.

"You never know what's coming up. You could be doing an equipment check and the next thing you know you're on the (Highway) 401," he said. "Some days you don't roll a wheel. Other days you miss lunch."

McGregor will attend a niece's wedding this weekend.

After that he plans to keep busy with self-employment in the house construction business.



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