WHEN hairdresser Eamon Coll spotted a job advert for a paramedic more than 20 years ago, he jumped at the chance to swap his scissors for a stethoscope.
Eamon, from Kerrykeel, began his career in 2000, based initially in ambulance stations in Killybegs and Carndonagh before being transferred to Letterkenny.
He worked for four years on the first Rapid Response vehicle to be stationed in the north west.
It was a career he relished for over two decades, and on Friday morning last, colleagues held a coffee morning in Letterkenny Ambulance Station to mark his retirement after 22 years of service with the National Ambulance Service (NAS).
Originally from Clydebank in Scotland, Eamon (66) was no stranger to Donegal, as he enjoyed many childhood holidays to the county, where both his parents were from.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Eamon said he has no regrets over his career change.
“I came over to Donegal in 1992. I was looking for work and I was keeping an open mind as I wanted a new challenge.
I never planned on being a paramedic, it wasn’t something that I had ever thought about but I saw the advert and I applied for it.
I had been a ladies’ hairdresser beforehand and wanted a change of career.”
Remembering first call out
“I was working with a colleague Declan Nee, who is retired now, and we were called out to assist an elderly woman.
“I remember it well because I was only new to the job and I remember how nervous I felt but my colleagues were and always have been outstanding.
“I was put at my ease and because of that, I was able to help put the woman at her ease.”
Eamon said the arrival of the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic was just as unsettling for those on the frontline as for everyone else.
“It was very scary for staff and patients, we had never experienced anything like it before. As time went on and we learned more about the virus things became easier.
“It was a very difficult time for patients and a huge part of my role was to offer continued reassurance.
“Once that was given, patients relaxed.
“Working on the inside you see the untold story of staff working their hearts out in the very best way for patients under very difficult and challenging circumstances.
“Staff work with such respect and diligence for all their patients and I saw that right across all departments.”
Eamon, pictured right, said the coffee morning to mark his retirement where his colleagues waved him off one final time was a “very emotional” day.
“I will miss my colleagues and patients and all the camaraderie in the A&E department,” he said.
Although now retired, Eamon’s hands will continue to be full as he enjoys time with his six grandchildren.
“I have four granddaughters and two grandsons who all arrived in two years so my house will be busy,” laughed Eamon, who said he was also hoping to resume his hobbies of fishing and hill walking.
Paying tribute to Eamon’s dedication, a spokesperson for the NAS said he will be remembered by his colleagues as a paramedic who “was always focused” and “as a person who put the patient first and foremost”.
“Eamon is looking forward to enjoying his retirement and spending time with his wife Veronica and family, and he is especially looking forward to enjoying quality time with his grandchildren.
“He has a keen interest in fishing and hill walking and he is hoping to give some time to these hobbies during his retirement.”
Online tributes have also been paid to Eamon by many who worked alongside him.
One person wrote: “Congratulations Eamon. Well deserved. Wishing you a very happy retirement. Thanks for all the years dedication and service.”
Another well-wisher penned: “Happy retirement Eamon. It was a pleasure to have worked with you in the North West. Enjoyed the chats out in the yard between call outs.
“Wishing you the very best for the future.”