The crisp autumn of his 80th year is fast approaching, yet Jimmy Cooper shows no inklings of hanging up his nursing hat.
His days are dedicated to the Intensive Care Unit at Belfast’s acclaimed Royal Victoria Hospital. This noteworthy individual, however, is no stranger to retirement. At the age of 69, he briefly explored the tranquil shores of a life devoid of responsibility but soon grew bored. Hence, he humbly returned to the rigor and rhythm of the hospital ward.
In the pale luminescence of the ward, Jimmy confides, “The job just gives me immense satisfaction. I can’t envision parting with it anytime soon.”
An unexpected encounter in a rather quaint cottage hospital near Brighton in the 1970s proved to be the guiding light in Jimmy’s professional journey. As nostalgia washes over him, he recounts the incident. “Upon hearing the ever familiar phrase, ‘What’s up doc?’ I discovered two delightful ladies in the middle of a tea break.”
“In my haste to feign purpose, I informed them I was there to collect information about the available job opportunities.” This seemingly trivial conversation however, paved the way to an enriching nursing career for Jimmy.
Training as a nurse in somewhat more rigorous times, he humorously recalls how gender role delineations were strictly observed. “As a young male nurse, I was not even allowed to attend lectures pertaining to female patients, let alone treat them. It was indeed two full years into my profession before I encountered a female patient.”
In 1984, the Brighton bombing led Jimmy to look after politicians of the Conservative Party. Recalling the event, Jimmy said, “I was managing the unit when I received the call about a bomb. I initially dismissed it as staff tomfoolery, but soon reality dawned upon me.”
For the last two decades, Jimmy has served the critical cases on the ICU ward at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital. His colleagues, including Heather O’Connor, who was mentored by him, fondly refer to him as “Granda.” Described as an incredible teacher and an immensely patient person, Jimmy remains a favorite amongst his teammates. Dr. Brian McCloskey, a senior consultant on the ward, speaks highly of his unwavering calm and experienced nursing skills.
Despite boasting five decades of service in the health sector, the idea of idling about holds no appeal for Jimmy Cooper. His zeal for life and his profession keeps him motivated to continue working for at least another three years. According to him, the invigorating atmosphere of staying in stride with the younger staff keeps him feeling “fit and young.”