After 46 years on the job Hamilton Paramedic retiring to life of gardening, grandkids (and bees)
Published January 11, 2024 at 4:13 pm
The life of a paramedic can be a thankless job, with the knowledge that you have made a difference – often in dramatic fashion – in the lives of those you serve usually enough satisfaction for most who enter the profession.
After 46 years on the job in Hamilton, Joe Cox has plenty of stories about a long career saving lives and the “survivor” mentality that exists in so many Hamilton residents.
He also has stories of people whose lives he touched going out of their way to thank him and his team – years after the incident.
“It’s very heart-warming,” said Cox, who retired a week ago from Hamilton Paramedics; a career that began way back in 1977 with Fleetwood Ambulance, and is about to embark on a new career gardening, looking after his two grandkids and maybe even a little beekeeping.
But the memories of a long paramedic career will always stay with him.
He was on a call in the early days at when a young employee at a nearby gas station had her sciatic nerve and femoral artery perforated when the glass door to the station was hit by a car.
“It was fortunate we were not far away,” Cox remembered. “She was bleeding profusely but we were able to put pressure on it and get her to the ER at Henderson (now Juravinski) Hospital.”
“We don’t often hear from our patients again but eight or nine years later I was standing in line at Tim Hortons and a guy bought my coffees and told me we had saved his daughter’s life.”
Fridays used to be fast food lunch day for the paramedic team and Cox remembered one Friday at the Harvey’s location on the Mountain about 30 years ago when a woman in high heels came running through the parking lot to tell us there was an unconscious man in a car.
The man had suffered cardiac arrest while his granddaughter was at a nearby ATM and when Cox and his team got to him he was already ‘VSA’ – Vital Signs Absent. “His granddaughter came out of the bank to see us working on her grandfather,” he said. “We started compression and shocked him once and got his pulse back.”
“The cool thing is we went back to the same Harvey’s three weeks later and he was there and bought us lunch. After that he showed up at our base twice a year for the next five years to bring us coffees. He never forgot.”
But while the life saving moments make the headlines, Cox also remembers all the other things Hamilton Paramedics do that don’t get the attention of the public, as well as the efforts made by the community to ensure those less fortunate are looked after.
“We have people that live in squalor that don’t ask for help but they get by because they are survivors and because they have a support team of neighbours who help them,” he said. “People are good natured in general. They’re amazing.”
The paramedics teams also help when they can, he added. “People are embarrassed to say they have no food so we always look in the fridge when we do a wellness check. And we set them up with support – food, clothing, furniture. Even a fridge one time.”
“If we don’t know, we can’t help. Things like that happen a lot. They’re just not publicized.”
According to his bosses at Hamilton Paramedic, Cox’s “true calling” is with Community Paramedic Seniors, a free community-based health care alternative to the regular health system where paramedics provide preventative, at-home health care visits.
“We reach out to them for medical risk assessment, check their blood pressure and general wellness or get them support in other ways, usually on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.” Cox said. “Sometimes they’re just lonely.”
The initiative focuses on reducing avoidable use of emergency and ambulance services and helps older adults and vulnerable, at-risk people live safely in their homes with chronic disease support, coordination with primary care providers and other agencies and referrals to community programs and resources.
“We can even monitor their vitals remotely.”
That Cox got a job as a paramedic at all is only because of a bit of nepotism at the McDonalds restaurant where he worked as a swing manager in the late 1970s.
“The boss’s nephew was doing the same job as me and getting paid more so I knocked on the door of Fleetwood Ambulance and they took me on.”
They even held his job for him when he took some required college courses at Fanshawe College in London in ‘78-79 and he was still there in 2000 when the City of Hamilton took over ambulance operations.
Hamilton Paramedics is glad he stuck around. “Joe strived to put ‘fun’ in every aspect of his day,” the service tweeted. “Your years of service and dedication will be remembered. Thank you for your service!”
Keeping busy in retirement shouldn’t be a problem for Cox, what with the gardening and those grandsons. As for the beekeeping, that should come in handy when his wife Carol presents him with a honey-do list.
Joe will be ready.inthehammer's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising