Tag Archives: Family

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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“Well, well, well”

I hear you say.

“It’s that bloody Ambulance bloke. I remember he used to write regular updates on his day-to-day life on a frontline Ambulance. I’d almost forgotten he existed.”

AHA! I have returned with an apology. It’s been a very long time since my last post but life has been very busy!

I went and got myself married, started my final section of studying for my degree in Paramedic Sciences and re-joined a band I was in many many years ago. I know it doesn’t sound that busy, but trust me, it is!

Anyway straight back into it, eh?!

On the subject of apologies, I did start a post I never finished which was along the lines of this:

On the ambulance, we carry a fairly limited range of pain relief, from Paracetamol tablets, to strong IV Morphine with basically only Entonox (gas & air) in between.

To enable us to give the strong pain relief, we need to get IV access with a cannula. This gives us access directly to a patient’s veins to give morphine or paracetamol in the form of a drip. But what if we can’t get access?

I was working in the city with a different crew mate. As soon as we booked onto the vehicles, the radio goes off:

“Morning chaps, sorry to be so prompt this morning. We have an outstanding call for a concern for welfare.”

“Roger, all received, on our way.”

On go the blue lights, no need for sirens at 0630, there’s no traffic about.

We quickly arrived to find a gathering of people, most in dressing gowns but all with bed hair!

It turns out the neighbour had got up for work and head shouting from the elderly lady next door. He went round but couldn’t get. He heard her shout that she was on the floor so called 999. They had also called the lady’s daughter who had a spare key.

We shouted through the letterbox to reassure her we were there and within a short time, her daughter arrived.

She unlocked the door and we walked in. It wasn’t pretty. The poor lady (who slept downstairs) had got up in the night and fallen forwards. She had scuffed her face down the wall as she fell. She’d landed face down and was unable to get up our to pain in her hip as well as general poor mobility and low strength. And there she stayed, for almost 4 hours until her neighbour heard her calling out for help.

We set to work. Quick ABC assessment revealed nothing immediately life threatening. Then we were concerned about a possible next injury as she’d hit her head. She had no central neck pain reducing the likelihood of a broken neck. We then assessed all the bones top-to-toe.

“Surely, just help the poor lady up” I hear you say. It’s certainly what we hear a lot, but if she’s broken a leg and can’t feel any pain due to nerve damage, then the bone pokes through the skin as we move her, that could prove fatal. So we methodically check top-to-toe.

Her injuries were some nasty facial skin tears, a laceration to her shoulder, a broken left wrist and a probable broken left hip. Unsurprisingly, she was in a lot of pain. We knew that before we moved her, we needed to try to get her pain under control. The best way to do so was with IV drugs.

This is where we got into trouble. My crew mate tried several times to get access, but her veins were so small that he couldn’t find one, when he did find one they just collapsed as soon as he touched them with the needle. While he attempted that, I made a plan to get us out of the house. It involved a second crew and moving most of the furniture into the garden. The plan would be to scoop her, carry her back into her bedroom, onto a vacuum mattress – which has hundreds of polystyrene balls in and we suck the air out of it to cocoon the person safely in – carry her through the house, up the front steps and to the stretcher on the pavement.

But, try and try as well did (the 4 of us) we couldn’t get any IV access. We decided to give her Oramorph (morphine drink) but it’s not as fast acting. We had to roll her onto her back before we could do anything.

We knew it would hurt, and so did she. When she was ready, and as quickly and smoothly as possible, we rolled her. She screamed and all we could to was apologise.

We were sorry that this had happened to her. We were sorry that nobody heard her shouting for 4 hours, we were sorry we couldn’t get into the house for a while and we were sorry we couldn’t get her pain under control before we moved her.

The rest of the plan worked like a dream. We dressed her wounds and drove her to A&E with the daughter.

My crew mate and I spoke about the job afterwards and both agreed that it is horrible when you can’t do what you think is best for a patient. It’s our job to ease pain, but when you can’t do that, you feel a little bit worthless. It may sound silly to you, but it’s true.

We returned to A&E an hour later with another patient and asked how she was doing. An x-ray confirmed a broken wrist and broken hip, but she was comfortable. We popped our head round the curtain and she was led there smiling. “Thank you both so much for helping me” she said.

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Life Cycles.

It’s funny that less than 2 weeks after feeling elated, nay euphoric, over the fact that we successfully resuscitated two people, that we should attend two deaths were nothing can be done.

Not my usual crew mate, but a lady I’ve worked with often and get on well with. She’s an experienced Paramedic with something like 19 years under her belt.

Our first emergency call of the day was to a fall that was in the next city, so a fair drive. Half way there, our control divert us to an emergency back in our own town (It’s impossible to predict things like this)! It had come through as an elderly gentleman who had collapsed and was not breathing. I turned the ambulance around and made progress to the address Traffic was bad and it took a lot of ducking and diving to weave my way safely thought the country lanes. Blue lights flashing and sirens blaring.

We arrived to find that a Paramedic on a Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) had arrived first, so we rushed into the house where we were pointed in the bedroom by a lady we assumed to be the patient’s wife. Our colleague on the RRV was alone in the room with the patient who was on the floor and looking a shade of blue/purple. He obviously wasn’t breathing and the monitor that our colleague had attached showed his heart was in Asystole (the flat line often seen on TV shows like Casualty and ER). The RRV Paramedic looked at us instantly and shook his head. We all knew what that meant. He had collapsed quite some time before 999 was called. Then followed probably the worst 35 minutes of my life.

The RRV Paramedic volunteered to tell the wife that her husband of 60+ years was dead. The howl of devastation that followed will not leave me for some time. It was the sound of her very soul escaping amongst questions of “Why?!” and ‘What if I had only…?’ We did our best to comfort her but it must have seemed as though it was an awful moment from which she may never recover. I was sad. Not for the gentleman who had passed away, he was at peace. No, I felt sad for the family that he had left behind. His daughter was on scene too, but was clearly in shock, with wide eyes and not a lot to say.

The gentleman was too large to lift back onto the bed, and so I arranged some pillows under his head and covered him up to the neck with a blanket – as if he was taking a nap. I talked to him while I did this, apologising that there was nothing we could do, and that we would look after his wife for the short time we were there. I’m not sure why I talk to the deceased but I know I’m not the only healthcare worker that does!

The Police were called (as they always are in an unexpected death) to act as coroner’s officers, and completed the necessary paperwork (of which there is lots). While this was done, my crew mate asked the wife if she’d like to see him. She said that she would, and so was taken into the bedroom. To see a lady, near 80 years of age, drop to her knees and wail over the body of her husband was awful. She hugged him and kissed him, telling him how much she loved him. It was heartbreaking. We sat her back with her daughter, passed our condolences and left them in the care of the Police Officer.

My crew mate, the RRV Paramedic and I were all allowed back to our station for a brew and to regain some composure (we’re no good to our next patient, if we’re still thinking of our last). I’m not ashamed to say that I was quite teary. I looked over and saw my crew mate filling up, as well as the RRV Paramedic. 52 years of experience sat in that room, 49 of them from my two colleagues. We all sat in silence a moment and reflected. We talked for a while about it. “It’s not that often that a job will really affect us all like that”, we agreed.

Half way through our cup of tea, our radio tones went off and our dispatcher called through.

“I’m really sorry guys, we’ve got another job coming in……”

Then the radio fell silent. He called back a second later sounding devastated at what the call was, and that we would have to attend immediately after dealing with that unforgettable, harrowing call.

“It’s coming in as a lady ‘on the floor, possibly dead'”.

We didn’t hesitate, rushed to our vehicles – all three of us – and sped to the address. We arrived in less than 5 minutes to find that sadly, once again, nothing could be done. The lady had been found by a neighbour who’d popped round to see her. She had died at some point in the night, meaning resuscitation would have not been successful.

We sent the RRV back to station and dealt with the scene. Police, paperwork and consolation. This time the family were not on scene and had to be phoned to tell them the news. I think that made this situation easier to witness (this sounds selfish, but I don’t think either of us could take another emotional beating like the last call).

It’s an odd feeling when you can’t save someone. A mix of emotions run through you like a freight train. But such is the empathic nature of ambulance staff, we feel sadness for the family, not ourselves.

I shed a tear later when I got home that night, comforted by my beautiful girlfriend. I know it’s cliché, but things like that really do make you appreciate your loved ones.

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