James Paget at 40: Ian's story of helping to save lives

an Walker has been part of the team at the James Paget since it first opened its doors.

Ian Walker has been part of the team at the James Paget since it first opened its doors. - Credit: JPUH

This month the James Paget University Hospital is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its official opening.

To help celebrate the landmark date we have been talking to some of the staff who work there and who have worked there.

Here we speak to Ian Walker, who was part of the hospital's theatre team.

Ian Walker has been part of the team at the James Paget since it first opened its doors.

For more than four decades, he was part of the hospital’s theatres team, helping surgeon perform life-saving operations.

But when not in this theatre ‘scrubs’, Ian was brightening the hospital’s corridors with paintings by local artists, including himself. It’s a role he continues to play as Chair of the hospital’s Arts Committee.

It was May 1978 - three years before the James Paget opened - when Ian first walked into the main operating theatres at the old Yarmouth General Hospital on Deneside as a Trainee Operating Department Assistant (now known as Operating Department Practitioners).

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“I was the new boy and somewhat nervous as I entered the hallowed halls of surgery,” recalled Ian.

The operating theatres at Deneside where basic - and a far cry from the modern facilities that awaited theatre staff when they transferred to the James Paget in 1981 not only from the Yarmouth General but hospitals in Gorleston and Lowestoft too.

“At the old Yarmouth General and the other hospitals, our equipment and facilities were so basic that today they would not have been allowed. For instance our rest room was literally the small male changing room and cupboard that also doubled up as the storeroom for the gas cylinders for the anaesthetic machines!” said Ian.

“There were no piped anaesthetic gases available in those days with which to anaesthetise the patients. Once we had anaesthetised the patient in an extremely small anaesthetic room we moved into the theatre where the patient’s vital signs were monitored with just three pieces of equipment, namely a manual sphygmomanometer (Blood pressure machine) , a pulse meter (to count the pulse) and an old ECG machine.

“This was the sum total of our patient monitoring which today would be deemed totally inadequate. However our patients received the best of care and underwent minor and major surgery using such basic equipment and they survived and they went home very thankful.”

A bird's eye view of the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston

A bird's eye view of the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston - Credit: JPUH

On moving over to the Paget, operating theatre staff could scarcely believe what they now had, with brand new facilities and the latest equipment.

“It seemed like we had reached heaven!” said Ian.