Tag Archives: ambulance

Time off and a thank you

Just thought I’d post a quick update. I’ve been off work for a little while after the arrival of my beautiful baby girl 🙂  – please excuse the poor grammar and lazy prose, I’m very sleep deprived – I’m off for a little while longer, as such there’s no cool exciting jobs for me to tell you about. There is the trauma of dirty nappies but that’s not really the point of this blog!

I also wanted to drop a quick thank you to the team at Parameducate on Facebook for sharing my humble blog and bringing literally hundreds of new visitors to my page; welcome all and hope you enjoy it.

 

While I’m here, I’ll post a quick job that’s popped into my head.

During one night shift, we were in a neighbouring city which is well out of our normal patch. The trouble with big cities is that the are such busy places that resources from further and further afield get dragged into the region to cover the huge volume of 999 calls received.

Thankfully, the ambulances have a pretty decent navigation system (Terrafix, for those that want to know), as long as you apply some common sense, so its not too bad finding addresses in foreign areas.

So, with no chance of escape from the city grasp, we receive details of a Red call across the city for a 27 year old having an allergic reaction. These types of calls are funny ones; people call for a range of severities when it comes to reactions. Some people call for full on anaphylaxis where as others will call 999 for a simple skin rash. This chap’s housemates had called for the former.

An allergy to nuts in some leftover curry was all it took. Nut oil in the sauce, to be precise. He was knelt on the floor with has hands out in front of him propping himself up on the back of a chair, desperately gasping for air through his swollen airway. I grabbed my torch and shone it in his mouth looking for obvious swelling, while my crewmate opened the drugs bag and began drawing up the lifesaving drugs.

I quickly grabbed my stethoscope from my pocket (tearing the fabric in the process!) and listened to his chest: wheeze; wheeze; wheeze; loads of wheezing. I turned to my colleague to report my findings but he handed me a nebuliser before I had a chance to say anything – he’s very experienced and knew he’d need the vapourised drugs which the oxygen mask delivered.

I strapped the mask to his face and shoot my colleague a quick glance. We both know this guy is ‘big sick’, we need to give him more drugs, and quickly! I tell him I need to put a needle into a vein to give him more drugs. He hears me but doesn’t respond, he can’t talk! An enourmous vein jumps out at me and a insert a 16 gauge cannula (it’s a wide-bore IV, incase I need to push IV fluids later). I give a powerful steroid, a strong antihistamine and inject adrenaline into his thigh muscle. Constantly reassessing AB and C. I listen once more to his chest; plenty of air moving now, that wheeze is definitely improved. He starts to utter single words to tell me what’s happened.

5 minutes pass but it feels like a lifetime, we perform blood pressure, ECGs and other observations. He became able to talk in full sentences again.
A short while later, he seems to have made a full recovery. It’s so satisfying being able to bring someone back from the brink!

We conveyed him to A&E for further monitoring after the strong drugs we gave him which could affect his heart. I get the feeling that the A&E team don’t believe how bad he was, but we know. We know.

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That newly qualified wobble

I’ve worked on the frontline of the Ambulance service for almost 6 years. I’ve been to my fair share of horrific jobs and in the words of my veteran crew mate, I’ve “got chops” (I smiled and said thanks when he said it, but don’t really know what it means. I assume it means I’ve got bragging rights). 

For the last year prior to qualifying, I’ve been working all but autonomously with my Paramedic crew mates; assessing, making decisions about treatment, administering drugs and handing over to hospital staff. I’ve been confident in my decision making and felt happy to take the lead. Albeit with a safety net of my colleague sat next to me. 

Last month I completed my degree course, qualified and registered as a Paramedic. “Finally” I thought to myself!

So, I’m now in a position to do all of the above; assessing, making decisions about treatment, administering drugs and handing over to hospital staff, BUT it will be on my registration and me signing the paperwork off. I still feel confident and competent and am looking forward to the challenge. 

Imagine my horror then, at the following. 

999 call to a 12 month old little girl who is “hard to wake”. My crew mate and I make good progress through the busy city traffic in our big Mercedes Ambulance, sirens wailing as we speed to the address. 

Upon our arrival the front door is ajar, we grab all of our kit (4 bags, oxygen cylinder, tablet computer and defib) and head in calling “hello, ambulance” as we tentatively enter the house. 

We’re called into the living room by the patient’s dad, who’s holding little one in his arms. She looks round at me as I introduce us which reassures me she’s fully conscious and alert. We take a brief history from dad which includes details of breathlessness for 2 days and a fever. Reduced food intake and being tired and clingy. 

Between my crew mate and I, we take a full set of observations which give us her respiratory rate, heart rate, temperature, blood glucose level and a test to establish how well perfused she is by pinching her finger and seeing how quickly it returns to a normal colour (sometimes the simple tests are the most effective).

We establish that although she seems calm, she’s working hard at breathing with an increased respiratory rate. Her heart rate is also raised. 

6 weeks ago, I would’ve made my decision. Bosh. Sorted. Confident and competent, remember? But I sat there looking at the child, looking at her numbers and I could not for the life of me make a decision about what to do. 

I knew she needed to see a Doctor but couldn’t decide whether to refer her to the out of hours GP or take her directly to A&E.

Her dad was sensible and would’ve known what to look for should we decide to leave her. But what if she deteriorates. Equally I don’t want to fill an A&E bed with a child that could be treated easily in the community. A hundred thoughts whizz through my mind but I could not extract a decision.

After what felt like an age (but was less than 30 seconds) I decided to convey the child to A&E for urgent assessment by a Doctor. 

We took her in, she needed no treatment or drugs so it was an uneventful journey. I had a nice chat to her Dad about this’n’that, and handed her over to the hard working team at the local A&E.
Afterwards I spoke with my Paramedic colleague when we got back to station and confessed that I had struggled to make a decision. 

“It’s completely normal” she reassured me. “You looked at all the facts and made the right decision based on what you had, it was fine.”

Apparently a ‘newly qualified wobble’ is quite normal, and shows that we care about our patients and outcomes. 

My crew mate tonight has been a Paramedic for upwards of 30 years and said he still airs on the side of caution if he’s doubting a decision. That helps 🙂 

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The first Paramedic shift…

…was actually what it was supposed to be this time; This was my first shift working as a registered Paramedic. I’d been given my shiny new ‘Paramedic’ epaulettes, a personal issue Morphine log book and Morphine pouch and was ready to take the lead on the Ambulance for 12 hours.

My first shift as a Para was with my old mentor. We agreed to meet on station early to go through the daily drug audit process – a lengthy but legally necessary process where the first Paramedic to book in/out controlled drugs after midnight that day, has to perform a full controlled drug count and note it in the log book.

Once that was complete, we grabbed the keys ready to check the vehicle before the start of our shift. Suddenly, somewhere between putting the kettle on and grabbing my hi-vis kit, the station phone rang:

“I’m really sorry to call you early, guys, but I’ve got a Red Call that’s just come in in the next village and the nearest crew is 20 minutes away, can you book on early for me??”

The voice was that of one of our Dispatchers, a particularly efficient and trustworthy Dispatcher who happens to be a close personal friend of mine. I knew she wouldn’t ask us to book on early unless she had to.

“Yeah of course, whats the details?”

“It’s a 19 month old who’s been scalded by boiling water”

An immediate rush of adrenaline rushes across me, along with 100 questions about what had happened; how much water; where are they burnt; was this non-accidental; where were the parents; how in the name of all that is Holy do I manage this patient?!

“Right, send it down, mark us as Mobile to Scene.”

“Will do, thank you so much.”

 

I holler through the garage to my crew mate who responded by firing up the truck, which revved to life after rare 12 hour break. We both jumped in the cab and rushed the 8 or so minutes to the address. The whole way there I was thinking how that after months and months of having nothing but non-injury falls and drunk students, my first shift as a Paramedic commenced with what would be considered a nightmare job! I had to consider assessment strategies, treatment plans, drug protocols, the availability of the air ambulance, our proximity to hospital compared to the regional burns centre, how I would calm the child, how I would calm the parents – all this while my crew mate drove at 60mph through the town centre.

 

We arrived at the three-story Georgian-style new-build to find a very anxious looking Mum at the door. As I jumped out, she said “I’m a Police officer, please don’t report me!” This eased tension quite quickly. Even in dire circumstances, the blue-light team always have a warped sense of humour.

“Where are we going?” I replied while smiling calmly but secretly shitting myself.

Mum pointed upstairs. She needn’t have bothered, I simply followed the screams until I found the bathroom where a stripped naked boy lay in his fully-clothed dad’s arms, both sat in the bath tub, dad spraying him with a cool shower – the absolute best thing to do initially for any burn.

I took a quick history while I opened the burns kit. My crew mate, instinctively knowing that we would be ‘scooping and running’, began preparing the ambulance to transport the patient and parents.

The child had severe scald burns to his lower face, lips, neck, chest, shoulders, arms and back. It was a full, fresh made coffee that he’d grabbed from the kitchen worktop while his mum turned her back for a second that had caused the damage. There were several large blisters that had already burst, and several more forming.

It’s very important that we (pre-hospital clinicians) estimate the total body surface area that has been burned. There are several quick-and-dirty methods to do this, my favourite at the moment is to treat the patient’s whole palm and fingers as 1% and work it from that. I estimated that in this case, the lad had approximately 10% superficial and partial-thickness burns. This is a significant burn % area for a child and it confirmed my suspicions that we would be bypassing the nearest A&E and heading for the regional burns centre.

We gave him some Calpol (liquid paracetamol/Tylenol for those abroad), strong oral pain relief (liquid morphine) and turned off the shower. We placed cling-film over his burns* and placed cooling burns dressings over the top. Mum carried him to the ambulance while dad changed into some dry clothes.

Once aboard, I completed as many clinical observations as you can on a highly distressed 19 month old, then blue-lighted him to the burns centre. I phoned ahead on the red-phone (the priority line) to prepare the team for my patient.

It was an uneventful journey. The pain relief kicked in quite quickly, and cartoons on Dad’s iPhone were a hit, too! At the hospital I handed over to the Consultant Paediatrician who praised the parents for their quick actions in administering first aid. I sensed he could see the guilt in their eyes of having left a hot drink in reach of their child and wanted to try to pacify them. It was clearly an accident and an easy mistake to make. They weren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last parents to do this! The hospital team thanked us and set to work on the boy.

 

It was a very satisfying job. Our total ‘on scene’ time was 11 minutes. And 4 of that was waiting for Dad to get changed. I felt very proud of my actions as lead clinician, and my crew mate and ex-mentor high-fived me and bought me a coffee – the equivalent of a medal in the Ambulance Service 🙂

 

Our very next job was a drunk man on a park bench who said he couldn’t stand up, then, when we wheeled the stretcher to the park bench, promptly stood up and walked to it…….normal service resumed then.

 

 

*Cling film, believe it or not, is excellent for all burns: not only does it reduce infection, it prevents air getting to the exposed nerve endings and actually reduces pain! Definitely don’t be using butter/moisturiser/ice/anything else!

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The first solo shift…

…turned out to not be solo at all:

 

I arrived on station, alone. Checked the vehicle. Booked out the drugs bag from the safe and logged on for my shift. I radio’d control and asked if they new that a) I’d now qualified and could be used as an EMT (there was a chance I’d still be marked on the manning as a student, and therefor not responsible to anything on my own) and b) if they had a plan for me as apposed to being alone.

“Roger, thanks I’ll update the manning now for you. We do have a plan; a Paramedic in [another town 12 miles away] is also solo on their vehicle. Take your lunch and stuff and head across to crew up with her when you’re ready”.

That’ll do. They told me who I’d be with and I was happy. A very experienced Paramedic of 26 years+ who has always been pleasant when I’ve spoken to her in the past. The last thing you want is a cranky crew mate for a 12 hour shift!

I finished checking my vehicle, made a brew in my travel mug and headed across to meet her. I was available for emergencies the whole drive across, but none came in that I was nearest to, so I arrived uninterrupted.

She, too had checked a vehicle and had her Paramedic kit already loaded, so we used her vehicle. I parked mine in the garage, locked the keys away and added my login to the onboard computer system.

First job, straight away – good timing. 92 year old female, fallen.

We rushed to the address as we always do and were let in by the warden of the sheltered housing site. He told us that he’d found the lady on his morning rounds. She seemed uninjured but he was unable to lift her up. He’d put a pillow under her and a duvet over her to keep her warm, so she was quite comfortable.

We assessed her, found no injuries, so lifted her onto her feet. She was perfectly well so left her at home with a note to the GP to advise of the fall.

We cleared on scene to be sent another job immediately. It was nearby, to an 84 year old man who had also fallen, this time in the garden while watering the tomatoes. He’d tripped over the hose and landed on soft grass. His neighbour saw him over the fence and called us.

He, too was uninjured, but we found some concerning neurological signs. Further investigation revealed that he hadn’t tripped over the hose at all. He had a sudden weakness in his right leg, which was also present in his right arm. He was confused, repetitive and slurring his words. This poor man was having a stroke. I put an IV in his hand incase we needed to give him any drugs (a risk of stroke patients is that they’ll begin fitting uncontrollably and can only be stopped by IV drugs) and rushed him 28 miles to the nearest A&E. That’s the only problem with living in remote picturesque villages – it’s a very long way to hospital! Old people should be made to live near hospitals. In bungalows. With doors wide enough for stretchers 🙂

We did a few more nothing-jobs, all treated at scene then received a call to a 15 year old fallen from a tree “as high as a house”. People calling 999 in a panic are rubbish at estimating hight so we always reserve judgement until we see how far they’ve fallen.

“Hello, we’re from the ambulance service, what’s happened?”

“My mate fell from up there *points to branch*”

“That one?” I also point.

“No, the one above it”

“Ah, the one that’s as high as a house then”

They were right, he’d fallen somewhere near 12-15 meters, hitting several branches on the way down. Somewhat mercifully, he’d landed in a patch of stinging nettles which broke most of his fall. In fact, the only real external injury was a large abrasion on his arse and stings from the nettles.

We scooped him onto an orthopaedic stretcher and applied a hard collar to help protect his neck incase of injury, gave him some pain relief and made a start for A&E.

Despite his remarkable lack of injury, it’s courteous to call the receiving A&E department so they know you’re on the way with a trauma that has potential to be quite nasty. He was perfectly stable and had no other apparent injuries, but he may have had something under the skin that we cannot see without at least a CT scan.

We arrived at hospital to find a full trauma team – 9 doctors and 2 nurses, all with individual roles. My crew mate gave a full clinical handover and the lead doctor said:

“So basically, he’s hurt his bum?”

“Errr, yeah.”

Everyone smiled slightly, including the patient who was high on gas-and-air. The trauma team set to work  while we told the family in the relative’s room what was happening. I’m confident he’ll be fine. The worst bit of it for him was his mates hearing us say that we’d need to see his bum. They took great pleasure in laughing at him. I suspect it’ll take him a while to live that one down!

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Qualification

So far, every post on this blog has been typed by the hands of a Student Paramedic. I’m pleased to say that I have passed my Paramedic Science Degree course and am now awaiting my Paramedic Registration with the Health and Care Professional Council (HCPC) – the body with which all UK Paramedics must be registered to lawfully practice.

Until then I am allowed to work as an Ambulance Practitioner; like an Advanced EMT. This means that I have autonomy and can work as a senior clinician on a vehicle, making clinical decisions for my patients. I am able to give a range of drugs (excluding IV drugs and controlled drugs such as Morphine) which finally allows me to treat my patients for a range of conditions from heart attacks to anaphylactic shock.

Today, it seems I have no crew mate to work with, meaning that I will be solo responding in an Ambulance, which is suitably terrifying!

As it seems I’m on a run of rubbish jobs, such as a 9 year old with a grazed elbow, a man with a 12 year history of back pain, an RTC with NO DAMAGE to either car and a young man who was worried he’d contracted an STD, I’m not worried about it being an eventful shift!

I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Blood and bloody idiot

There are a couple of terms used to define bleeding in the medical field;

Capillary – this is when the surface of the skin is scratched, but not deeply, and small spots of blood ooze from the damaged capillaries.

Venous – when a vein is nicked and blood will slowly weep from the wound.

Arterial – Blood will spurt out with every beat of the heart, sometimes spraying large distances depending on the size of the artery.

 

That final one, the arterial bleed, is considered to be a catastrophic haemorrhage. That is, if the bleeding is not quickly stemmed, a person will die within minutes.

 

Today, while working from a different station to normal, we were sent to a 25 year old who had punched through a window in a fit of rage, cutting his forearm. We were told the call had come from Police and they would also be attending.

We arrived after the Police and followed the significant trial of blood to a male laying on the floor, with his girlfriend tightly holding a towel around his arm, blood pouring down through her fingers. Thankfully, we had brought our critical haemorrhage kit in with us, so prepared to uncover, assess and re-dress the wound.

My crew mate wrapped his hands tightly around the arm to slow any bleeding while I prepared some gauze, a trauma dressing (more on that later) and a tourniquet.

*This next section is not for the squeamish!*

I slowly removed the towels to find a large wound which was deep enough to nearly see bone through muscle and tendons. He had two large skin flaps where he had effectively de-gloved his arm, he had some blood clots within the wound from a venous bleed, and a quite noticeable spurting bleed from his Ulnar artery (one of two which run down the forearm). He had lost around 1500ml of blood. The quick actions of his partner prevented him losing any more than that, which would have lead to shock.

We quickly ‘eyeballed’ the wound for any pieces of glass – there was none – and wrapped our trauma dressing around it. The trauma dressing we used has been developed by the military. It is specially designed to apply pressure directly over a section of injury on a limb, without using a tourniquet, which is always the last line of defence in a catastrophic bleed, as the limb may not survive.

While all this was going on, we obtained a quick history of what had happened. An argument with his ‘missus’ caused a fit of rage and he’d punched a window. He was also intoxicated and had been taking cocaine. He was also a bit of a knob head.

He immediately took a dislike to my crew mate (the person applying pressure to his wound to stop him bleeding to death) because he had “one of them faces innit”, calling him a c*nt and saying he would smash his face in. Delightful. Thankfully, I’ve got a knack of getting on with people like that, a trick I learned from an old crew mate of mine. As such, I quickly built up a rapport with him and persuaded him to come to hospital with us. Yes, I had to actually persuade him!

During this, he continued to be verbally aggressive to all of us and stood unaided to show us how strong he was. Now, he clearly worked out, but also clearly used steroids. We advised he shouldn’t eat or drink in case he needed surgery, so he drank a pint of water. We recommended a wheelchair due to the blood loss, so he walked upstairs to find his phone, all the while, using the C-bomb like it was punctuation and swearing at us all and being generally aggressive and intimidating. The Police said they would travel with us and called for backup from the PC they had dubbed the ‘man-mountain’. And with good reason. At 6’2″ and 18 stone of muscle, he would certainly be able to contain our almost equally sized patient – owing to the advantage of a working arm. And pepper spray. And a taser.

He eventually walked to the ambulance and sat in a chair because we’d suggested he lay on the stretcher (am I building up a picture of what this bloke is like?). I inserted a cannula into his vein to give some pain relief through a drip. All the while he told me how shit I was at my job. We swiftly left the scene on blue lights heading for A&E. After around 6 minutes of travelling, he decided he had become board of wearing a seatbelt and sitting in a chair while in an ambulance travelling at speed through a town centre, so he undid it – against mine and the PC’s insistence – just as my crew mate had to reduce his speed for traffic ahead. As such, the unrestrained man now hurtled towards the bulkhead, stopping himself on a work surface, pulling his IV line out as he did so. This angered him greatly, and clearly it was my fault so he began swearing at me and saying how I wasn’t fit to do the job etc etc. We had to stop the ambulance, causing traffic chaos, to re-restrain him on the stretcher.There was no way I was going back near him with a needle, so I offered him some gas and air for the pain, which he accepted….

 

…for 3 minutes before throwing the mouthpiece at me and calling me a smug c*nt. The Police officer all the while provided suitable dissuasion from him trying anything. I was glad of the PC’s presence!

This pattern of threatening violence, kicking equipment and behaving like a general tit continued for the long 20 minute drive to A&E. It was one of the most stressful journeys I’ve ever had while attending a patient in an ambulance, and I’ve dealt with some stuff in my time! During the whole trip, I had to keep an eye on the wound to make sure it didn’t start bleeding through the dressing, I had to check that it wasn’t so tight it was cutting circulation off to his hand and somehow get some vital signs. He declined any vital signs and wouldn’t let me near him. All I could do was document it and make sure the built-in CCTV was functioning.

We handed him over to the A&E nurse with an apology, as they’d have to deal with his very unpleasant manner. I feel I should add that he hadn’t lost enough blood to cause severe agitation like that, he was just drunk, high and angry.

Afterwards, I was washed out and a bit teary. It’s very hard to provide life saving treatment to someone, only for them to call you a c*nt 27 times and throw things at you. I can scarcely believe there are people like that out there. But there are, and I’m sure I’ll meet many more during my career.

 

So, I guess….don’t do drugs. Or punch windows. Or be a prick to people who save your life 🙂

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Green cross code

The morning had been a busy one.

We’d attended a lady who’d fallen out of bed, was uninjured so we helped her up, checked her over and left her to her breakfast, we’d taken a 57 year old man with chest pain to hospital with a possible heart attack, and rushed a 60 year old man to hospital who was having a bleed on the brain – what we like to call ‘big sick’! 

We were almost back to our station for a much needed restock and cup of tea when we received another call. 

It came through as a road name in the next city. No house number, just a road name. Usually that means someone has fallen in the street, or there’s been a car crash. 

We received a message which said: “14 year old hit by car – unconscious, massive head injury”

Shit! Pedal to the floor and off we go. My colleague driving as I don my hi-vis jacket and think about how I might treat the patient depending on what we’re presented with. 

We receive another message:

“Ambulanc officer is on scene, he states the patient is GCS5 (which means barely conscious!) and has requested priority 1 backup and the air ambulance as a priority.”

Double shit!

We arrive shortly after to exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to see at an incident like this. An ambulance officer’s car straddling the road, a pickup truck parked awkwardly at the curb, a man sat beside it in tears while members of the public console him, a police car screeching to a halt to block traffic and a lifeless child led in the road with a stream of blood trickling down the Tarmac, our officer colleague at her side rapidly assessing her. 

The clinical handover was brief, it didn’t need to be complicated, we could all see what had happened and all knew what we needed to do. 

Her level of consciousness raised after some oxygen. She was in pain and distressed. 

“Quick ABC; airway clear. Breathing adequately and chest clear on auscultation, radial pulses present, she’s tachycardic (fast heart rate) and pale. Let’s get some IV access and get her off the floor.” 

Another paramedic arrives in a car to assist. I look up and see several more police cars now on scene interviewing witnesses. The patient’s mum arrives in a frenzy! Now we have 2 to look after, the paramedic who’d just arrived set to reassuring mum that we were working hard to save her daughter.

With some volunteers holding up a blanket to make a screen for some dignity, we cut her clothes off to assess her fully. She had a large head wound that we had pressure on, a presumed neck injury, large abrasions on her back and shoulders where she’d rolled down the road like a rag doll. She had wounds to her lower legs but as far as we could tell, no broken bones. We gave her some pain relief, a drip, some anti-sickness medicine as she’d vomited profusely (another concerning sign of head/brain injury). She was a little more ‘with it’ now. The helicopter had landed at a nearby school as the road was too narrow for them to safely land. A police car sped off to collect them. A HEMS paramedic and critical care paramedic arrived just as a critical care doctor arrived by road from another base. We told the story and it was agreed we would take her by road to the nearest children’s major trauma centre under blue lights with the doctor on board. 

We scooped her off the floor and onto our stretcher ready to load onto the ambulance. Another quick ABC check and we were ready to leave. The helicopter left having offered their opinions and assistance and we prepared to leave he scene. 

It was around 40 minutes to the trauma unit, with my crew mate driving and me in the back with the doctor and patient. She was fully immobilised and calmed by the pain killers we’d given via the IV. She vomited twice en-route meaning we had to roll her on the spinal stretcher she was on. Not easy with just two of you while doing 70mph through city streets, but this is the career I chose! 

We arrived to a resus room full of doctors, nurses, surgeons, orthopods, paediatric specialists and porters, around 18 people who would now take over her care. 

There was silence as the critical care doctor gave his handover. As soon as he’d finished, the trauma lead set everyone to work. 

Each was allocated a task from airway and breathing to assessing neurological function of her feet. Every inch rapidly assessed for defecit before whisking her away for a CT scan to see what was happening under the skin level.
Absolutely exhausting and emotionally draining, as dealing with children often can be. The police had driven mum to hospital, leaving us space to work in the back of our cramped ambulance. 

Hoping for a good outcome for her thanks to our interventions, we’ll probably never find out though. 

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