He spent ten years working as a funeral director, but now a Croydon man is working and training with the London Ambulance Service to qualify as a paramedic.
Paul Maddison, 30, became an undertaker when he dropped out of university, but last year he successfully completed 22 weeks of training to become an emergency ambulance crew member.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Paul, who is originally from Sunderland but moved to London five years ago.
“But as I was approaching 30 I asked myself: ‘Is funeral directing something that I want to do for the rest of my life, or is now the best time to take that big step?”
Paul explained that becoming a funeral director came out of a discussion with his friends.
He said: “I was doing a social work degree but it really wasn’t for me.
“We were talking about jobs we could do and funeral directing came up.
“It was a joke really but the next day I thought: you know, that’s not such a bad idea.”
But it was by no means an easy choice for Paul.
“You’re constantly dealing with people’s grief,” he said.
“It can be difficult to see people in such grief and not be able to make a change to that.”
Paul would not always admit what he did for a living when meeting people for the first time.
Paul said: “I told people I was an ‘events coordinator’ because it’s true.
“I did coordinate an event. It just happened to be a funeral.”
It’s clear Paul sees his previous work as the perfect preparation for his new career.
“It did set me up well for dealing with people in high-stress situations,” he said.
“Grief is such a massive emotion and you’re not always going to be yourself with that emotion.
“You’re going to be sad, angry, aggressive and all the emotions in between.”
Paul explained how everything seemed to come together to give him the push he needed to apply to the ambulance service.
He said: “My old housemate, who works for the ambulance service, told me they were recruiting.
“And on the same day, my friend who works for the North East Ambulance Service, texted me to say: ‘They’re recruiting in London, you should apply for the job’.
“And about an hour later my Mum sent me a text saying: ‘The ambulance service are recruiting, you should apply!’
“So I saw it as a sign.”
Not long after completing his initial training, Paul faced an unexpected test of his newly acquired skills.
He explained: “I was going go-karting with my friend who’s a paramedic.
“There had been quite a serious RTC (road traffic collision) maybe 30 seconds to a minute before we arrived at the scene.
“I knew we’d covered everything we needed to in training school, but I thought: Have I taken this in?, Am I going to be good enough to deal with a situation like that and be able to think clearly, act clearly, and remember all of the things I’ve been taught?
“And then I don’t really remember thinking about it, I just remember doing what came naturally to me – which is what I’d been trained to do.
“That was my first traumatic incident – and I wasn’t even on duty at the time.
The London Ambulance Service is the busiest in the UK and one of the busiest in the world receiving on average 5,060 calls a day.
Almost a quarter of these emergency calls are to immediately life-threatening situations but every call out is different, with crews never really knowing what they will be faced with.
Paul said: “The days are very varied. Some days you can have run of the mill – coughs, sickness, chest pains, things like that.
“And then there’s days where you’re going to traumatic events; car accidents and falls, various incidents like that.”
This is just the first step.
Paul hopes to build on his experience and go on to train as a qualified paramedic.
He said: “When you do your paramedic training, when you pass that, you get your paramedic bag.
“That’s definitely something I’ll be aiming for, once I’ve got a bit more experience as an ambulance crew member under my belt.”