On Friday, I had the opportunity to meet Edmund Daly, the former LAS paramedic at the centre of the controversy which has triggered a national outcry about the treatment of ambulance clinicians. He told me the details of his story.
In 2005, Eddie Daly won 'Accident & Emergency Person of the Year'
But more than that, we chatted about many things; his welfare, his interests and life after the ambulance service. Even now, after all he's been put through, he was clearly a polite, gentle and caring professional. It was quite evident from my time with Eddie that he was every bit the man that had been described so effusively by his many former colleagues who have reached out to me.
It is for those people - and for Eddie - that I write this blogpost.
A chief concern, and part of the reason I wanted to meet Eddie, was to ensure that he was okay. With his name appearing in national press and the storm that has followed, reports of Eddie's frailty gave cause to be worried about his well-being. Was our use of his name causing him distress? Could we be damaging whatever solace he had found for himself since his rejection by the service which had been his life for three decades?
Thankfully, he was quick to express his gratitude for all the efforts being made in his name. He explained that he had been moved to learn that he hasn't just been forgotten and that there are those who empathise and support him. He is happy for us to carry on and recognises that how he has been treated will happen to others unless that culture is challenged. He has even given me permission to tell his story in full, and I will just as soon as I've worked through my copious notes and approached other relevant parties for balance.
It was my initial impression that Eddie was more frustrated and confused by his treatment than angry and bitter, although the full spectrum of those emotions were undoubtedly in there too. Despite it all, he still retained a warm, amiable manner even while relating some truly horrendous details which have had a terrible, lasting impact on his life. He is still troubled by those. This gave me some insight into how I imagine his demeanour would have been on even the most demanding of attendances. I've been fortunate to have worked with a few paramedics with similar traits, the kind everyone respects and tries to emulate. But they are rare. The rest of us just do the best we can.
As Eddie and I sat on a bench outside King's Cross Station, drinking coffee and eating a MacDonalds, he told me about his career. He started working for the ambulance service in 1984 and was among the first generation of paramedics in the early 1990s. His passion for the job and his desire to help people was apparent and genuine. It was little wonder he became a team leader responsible for the tutelage and welfare of junior clinicians. Even now, as he tries to come to terms with life after his career, he is putting himself back into the service of others as a care assistant (after a brief period doing security work which he didn't take to).
He misses many aspects of his paramedic life and still spoke fondly of many work colleagues and of his sideline as 'the guy who looked after the fish'. As an avid keeper of marine life at home, Eddie enjoyed maintaining the fish tanks at a number of LAS stations (if anyone could report that they are still healthy, I'm sure Eddie would be glad to read it).
He misses it, but assures me he has moved on and wouldn't go back if he could. He would, however, like to clear his name.
To summarise our encounter, Eddie Daly came across as a thoroughly decent man. He is quite clearly a credit to the paramedic name and was so to the London Ambulance Service. Any service would be lucky to have him. It is my opinion that his career coming to an end in the manner that it did is a travesty and a miscarriage of justice. Everything I have learned from Eddie and a number of other sources makes it very difficult to grasp how it could have come to this.
But it did.
Many questions remain and I intend to find answers, for the good of the paramedic profession and most importantly, for Eddie.