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Paramedic retires after 50 years of saving lives

AN AMBULANCE service stalwart is retiring after five decades of saving lives.

Fifty years ago, on 04 February 1974, a 23-year-old Gwyn Griffiths from Caernarfon joined the Caernarfonshire Fire and Ambulance Service.

The now 73-year-old has enjoyed a varied career, both in Wales and across the border in England, until his retirement on Sunday, finishing as an Advanced Paramedic Practitioner.

Gwyn originally began his career as a ‘Trainee Ambulance Man’ and has seen the organisation grow from a regional ambulance service to the national service it is today. 

He said: “I started as a ‘Trainee Ambulance Man’ before graduating to a ‘Qualified Ambulance Man’ a year later and then a ‘Leading Ambulance Man’ in 1980.

“In 1989, after 15 years of service in Wales, I joined the Mersey Metropolitan Ambulance Service as an Ambulance Training Officer before returning two years later in 1991 as an Ambulance Training Officer with the Gwynedd Ambulance Service as it was back then.”

Gwyn went on to spend the next 24 years with the Welsh Ambulance Service, initially retiring in 2015 then returning three months later as a bank paramedic.

Wayne Davies, the Trust’s Locality Manager for North Gwynedd and Anglesey, said: “I wish Gwyn a great and happy retirement, it’s truly well deserved.

“I really do think that the Welsh Ambulance Service and our patients have benefited greatly over the years from his experience and the hard work that he has put in.

Among Gwyn’s many achievements, in May 2015 he qualified as the Welsh Ambulance Service’s first Advanced Paramedic Practitioner in north Wales.

Andy Swinburn, the Trust’s Executive Director of Paramedicine, said: “Gwyn was a pioneer of advanced paramedic practice, being amongst the first people in the country to qualify into this new role and the first in north Wales.

“Today in Wales, Advanced Paramedic Practitioners play a vital role in assessing and providing initial care to patients.

“Thanks to people like Gwyn who helped establish the role, the service is often able to give patients the care they need at the scene, preventing unnecessary journeys to hospital.”

Gwyn, who is a keen mountaineer, also gave up his free time volunteering with the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team for 20 years, bringing his vast skills and experience to assist people in difficulty at Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park.

Remarkably, Gwyn also found time to impart his many years of wisdom by taking on the role of an Associate Lecturer in Healthcare Sciences at Bangor University.

Among the many outstanding achievements during his five decades of service, Gwyn was proud to be part of a team which helped train and teach emergency medical care to colleagues in Kuwait following the near destruction of the medical services in the country after the Iraqi invasion in 1990.

Gwyn said: “I spent nine years on and off in Kuwait as a training instructor and worked with some truly remarkable people out there.

”When we arrived, the country was in the very early stages of recovery after the invasion and the part of the country where we were based was literally like a warzone with heavy damage and destruction.

“Over the best part of a decade, I was able to watch the country rebuild and was privileged to be part of the team that helped restore emergency medical services to the people of Kuwait.”

Gwyn’s remarkable service overseas was recognised in June 2008, with Dr. Mohammad Al-Sharhan, Director General of the Kuwaiti Emergency Medical Services, noting Gwyn’s unwavering support, dedication and outstanding contribution to the people of Kuwait.

Gwyn, who has two children with his partner Linda as well as nine grandchildren between them is now looking forward to his retirement and this time, has no plans to return to the service.

Instead, he is now in the process of planning his next adventure, mountaineering in Morocco and across the Himalayas.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “I would like to thank Gwyn for an impressive five decades of service to Welsh communities and beyond.

“He will have positively touched the lives of thousands of people not just during his career with the Welsh Ambulance Service but also during the decades spent volunteering with the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team and the time spent abroad helping to train and educate medical staff in Kuwait.

“He can rightly be proud of all that he has done, and I sincerely hope that he has a long, happy and well-deserved retirement.”

When asked to reflect upon his long and varied career, Gwyn said: “When I look back over the last five decades, I am proud to have been involved with so many great organisations and to have worked with so many truly wonderful people.

“Whether it was on shift as a paramedic, volunteering with the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team or helping to train others, I can honestly say that it’s not been a job, it’s been a way of life.”

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