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Babies, Boats and Brilliance

November 28, 2020 | in Community News

This week, Ian Smith and Peter Harris join Club 40 – celebrating the brilliant milestone of reaching 40 years as paramedics and mates.

Left (L-R): Peter Harris, Ian Smith, Dave Riddell and Peter Loveless at the 2000 Medal presentations. Source: Supplied
Right: Ian Smith with his 40 years of service medal on Tuesday at Yarra Junction. Source: Shaun Caulfield

While their paths have overlapped and diverged over the years, their stories show much has changed in the 40 preceding years for this modern ambulance service.

When asked about his entry into the service, Ian, who was managing a horse stud and studied agriculture, remembers it like it was yesterday. “I was flipping through the newspaper one morning and I saw an ad in the classifieds for an Ambulance Officer. I read about it and saw it offered 8 weeks holidays and was sold! I love my holidays!” he recalls with humour.

His mother wasn’t quite as convinced when he went to apply, declaring that Ian couldn’t do the job because “he’d faint at the sight of blood!” Fast forward 40 years and Ian’s whole family are in health care- his wife is a mid-wife, and their two daughters and son are an osteo, nurse and podiatrist, respectively.

For Pete, who was previously a marriage registrar and builder, the appeal was a job that allowed him to be more independent. “Being out on the road meant that you were your own boss and that was challenging. It’s quite technical now and there’s always been a lot of responsibility”.

When considering the biggest changes across his career Ian explains, “we used to have to carry heavy stretchers in and out of the places we’d attend to. We didn’t have them on wheels or the hydraulics we use today. Now there’s a lot more equipment, a bigger variety of drugs and resources”.

Some of the happiest moments for both Ian and Peter involve delivering babies. Between them, they delivered over 30 emergency new borns and to this day, still credit those shifts as the most memorable.

Ian Smith and two of his many baby deliveries as a paramedic.
Source: Supplied

For Ian, another memorable case occurred in July 1989, when was called out to the Monash University swimming pool to attend to a suspected drowning. On the scene, Ian shocked the patient Tim back to a stable condition which effectively saved his life.

Thirty years later, Ian saw Tim’s name in passing in the media, he wondered if it could be the boy from the swimming pool. He dug out his scrapbook full of newspaper clippings, letters of appreciation and thank you notes, including one from Tim’s mum. Sure enough, it was the very same patient, and they reunited last year.

Tim Stinear & Ian Smith in 2019. Source: Ambulance Victoria

“I got the letter from Tim’s mother Jan, in September after the incident, and I got a bit emotional reading the letter”. It was the first time Ian had seen Tim since the incident and he was happy to learn that Tim had a wonderful family and a thriving career in Science. “We didn’t knock off any neurons when we were doing the resuscitation I don’t think!”

When reflecting on what he’s valued throughout his career, Pete is thankful for the continuous training throughout his paramedic career and credits it to keeping his mind young.

Left: Peter Harris (centre) poses with others for the Waverley Monster Raffle 
Right: Murray Barkmeyer, Mike Azzopardi and Peter Harris at the opening of the Berwick branch, 1995 

Today, Ian is still a full time Senior Reserve Paramedic at Yarra Junction while Pete is a casual paramedic at the Knox branch. They both enjoy spending their down time out on the water with their families, with Ian fishing and power boating and Pete, opting for sailing. Although Pete remarks “I enjoy sailing but being 65-odd now, I think it’s time to sell up and upgrade to a power boat!”

Left: Ian Smith with one of his many catches. 
Right: Peter Harris aboard his yacht Source: Supplied

And how will they celebrate their 40th anniversary? Ian and Pete will likely honour the milestone together. “Every year, we get together with our wives and go out to tea… but not sure if it can happen this year!”

Ambulance Victoria are proud to have dedicated and admirable paramedics in Ian and Pete for the past 40 years. Thank you for all your brilliancy and everything you have brought to your communities and our team. Congratulations on this incredible milestone!