Chris Dundas-Twizell

Chris Dundas-TwizellFormer mechanic Chris was inspired to join the ambulance service after his wife Jemma died at the age of 36 after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

The 30-year-old is originally from Bedlington in Northumberland but moved to County Durham seven years ago. He joined NEAS in January 2021 and when he’s not at work, you’ll find him paddle boarding or travelling.

Q. What attracted you to the job?

A. I lost my wife Jemma to cervical cancer when she was only 36 years old, this pushed me into wanting to change careers and train to be a paramedic and my way into doing that was to joining NEAS as a clinical care assistant.

Q. What brings you to work every day?

A. The chance to make a difference, whether that is big or small. I like the variety of the job, it is never the same, it is far from a normal 9-5 as you never know what or where you will be sent next. It can be a difficult job to do, but we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it.

I also love the camaraderie – we might come across Yorkshire Ambulance Service crews at hospital, we don’t know them but we wear the same uniform and talk to each other like colleagues, I’ve never had that in any other job. 

Q. What is an average shift like?

A. An average shift consists of a lot of talking, a lot carrying and a lot of coffee to keep you going. 

Q. What skills do you think people need to be able to do your job?

A. You need to be committed, caring and honest; communication skills are also very important – if you can’t talk the back legs off a donkey it’s not going to work!  

Q. It can be a traumatic job at times, how do you look after yourself and what support do you get?

A. It can be a traumatic a times and you can see some very unpleasant things. It is important to talk about it when it starts to get too much, we all support each other and help each other out. At the end of the day ambulance staff aren’t super-human, we are just regular people.

Q. What has it been like working through the pandemic?

A. I started during the pandemic so I know no difference. I don’t know what it was like beforehand.

Q. Where do you see your career heading?

A. My goal is to become a paramedic and help further my ability to care for people in need. 

Q. How do you feel about being part of the BBC Ambulance show?

A. Being involved in the show was fantastic experience, I would do it all over again if I could. I was a bit nervous about the cameras at first but at the end of the day we’ve got a job to do so I just got on with it, and we had a fantastic cameraman called John who became part of the crew and after that first shift we actually forgot the cameras were there. I feel very proud of being a part of it.

Q. Your first episode made us quite emotional. Can you talk to us about that?

A. The patient had said he had lost his wife and me and Becca were talking about it afterwards. We didn’t actually realise John was filming us at the point that we were talking, but I’m quite open about losing Jemma and she didn’t have a smear test for 10 years so I’m quite passionate about it.

Q. What impact do you hope the series will have in the North East?

A. Hopefully it will allow the public to see a glimpse of what it is like to apart of the ambulance service on a day-to-day basis.

Q. What do you love about the North East?

A. In the North East people are very friendly, I’ve never had the same feel anywhere else, that togetherness. I’m a Newcastle United fan (but with the job I don’t get to watch them that much these days) and love a Greggs steak bake!

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