The People We Meet

Doing this job, you are invited into the homes of everyone, rich and poor, to treat either themselves or their loved ones. We are in a privileged position where we turn up as total strangers, with heavy bags and fancy equipment, muddy boots and smiles and are allowed into their  home to poke and prod them to try to find out what’s wrong and make it better.

There’s no other job where you’d be allowed to do that!

I am often amazed at the people I meet in my job. Occasionally someone mildly famous who might have once said something outrageous on some god-awful reality TV show and become a minor “celebrity”, but I don’t care about them. I mean the true, unsung heroes of our time, they are the people who are a real pleasure to meet.

I was recently asked if I had ever met and treated a celebrity. Of course, due to patient confidentiality laws, even if I had, I couldn’t say. What I did say, was that I have no interest in meeting ‘celebrities’ but love to hear the stories from elderly patients about their pasts.

Three particular gentleman spring to mind. One elderly patient who required ambulance transport to hospital for a routine procedure, openly talked about his time in the war. He fought in Burma against the Japanese, and was a Flamethrower Gunner. He recalled instances where he and his buddies were ordered to advance on machine gun positions.

“Cook ’em Jo” (not his real name) they’d say, and he’d fill the pillbox with fire. I could scarcely believe that the white haired, corduroy wearing old man sat before me had such a horrific job to perform in the worst of circumstances.

Another man told me of how he was a Spitfire pilot and a Flight Lieutenant in a specially formed squadron who’s task it was to fly over enemy territory and look for prisoner of war camps. He had an enormous part in saving thousands of lives by finding them from the air, and here he was, sat on my ambulance talking to me.

The final gent’ told me, with a tear in his eye as we stretchered his wife to the ambulance, that he stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He said that he wouldn’t say any more than that and actually apologised for crying. He apologised!  My crew mate and I, who had been stunned into silence, comforted him and said that he had nothing to apologise for and that we are unimaginably thankful for the actions of him and his friends.

It’s a humbling moment, let me tell you, when someone decides to share something like that with you. In my opinion, they don’t need to give the whole story, or recount war stories. Just to have them in my company is rewarding enough. Then, at the end of the journey, they thank me for looking after them or their loved ones. Everything I do pales into insignificance compared to the sacrifice that they were ready to make, and yet they still thank me and my crew mates.

I for one am always mindful of the lives that our older generation may have lived. The changes they’ve seen and the sacrifices they’ve made  just so I can sit here, freely, and type up a post on my little blog.


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