Monday, 31 December 2007

The Last Post (of 2007)

Six emergency calls. One assist-only and five required an ambulance.

I saw this cactus in Homebase and felt very sorry for I bought it and took it home, away from the laughing mockery of all those who saw little of it's character beyond appearances :-)

A nice easy-paced day, starting with a 78 year-old woman who fell down her stairs at home yesterday, bruising her head and face. She had suffered a fit today and her worried relatives called an ambulance. A wise move I think.

I found her tucked up in bed when I arrived. She was fairly alert but her face was mottled with blue and yellow (the elderly tend to look much worse for wear after a bump or fall). She seemed unconcerned about her condition, however.

‘Would you like us to take you to hospital?’ asked my colleague (the ambulance crew arrived pretty much at the same time as me).

‘Do you really think that’s necessary?’ she replied.

Like I said, unconcerned. Off she went nevertheless; a stoical old lady with a likely head injury and potential internal bleeding.

My next patient was older – 97 years-old to be precise. She was sitting at her dining table, her son and daughter-in-law by her side. She had ‘gone funny’ just after her meal. Her behaviour was abnormal and she seemed to be very weak. She had vomited several times and I could smell that from her when I began my obs. She had a pale, lost look about her and I believe she had suffered a stroke.

This call brought me down from the West End to my base station, literally on the doorstep of HQ. There were no ambulances available at the station or nearby, so the crew arrived from even further afield – Islington! Don’t think you are guaranteed an instant response just because you live next to an ambulance station...quite the opposite in fact; we are often out and about or being dragged far, far away.

FRED was doing interesting things too. The system sent me up to Islington for that earlier job and sent my FRU colleague from that area into MY patch. Kind of doesn’t make any logistical sense, does it? I am told FRED will be switched off during New Year’s there’s a vote of confidence.

Another local job next - a Somalian woman who became ill as soon as she stepped off the plane from Africa. She had gone over there for a few months and had come home vomiting, shivering and lethargic. She coughed in my direction several times until I asked her not to (I had to have that translated because she spoke no English). I have a cough of my own at the moment and the last thing I need is a possible tropical disease.

After a few questions and a few more tests I discovered that she was diabetic and that she had taken her insulin over to Africa but had come home without it. So, she hadn’t taken her meds for a few days now...her BM confirmed that, it was quite high. She had brought this on herself. The cough was a separate problem I think but I still wasn't allowing her to cough in my face.

A long drive into the south and I found myself at the address of a very well known time-waster. I have written many times about him and he has had visits from our Officers to try and dissuade him from calling us unnecessarily. Nothing has worked and he doesn’t care.

When the call came in I set off but didn’t pay much attention to the name or the address until I got into the area and immediately recognised the street. All I had to do then was confirm that he wasn’t actually dying. He never is.

‘So, what’s the problem today?’ I asked him as he lumbered down his stairs to meet me. I felt like a taxi driver or chauffeur.

‘Oh, I’m ill mate. I’m not well at all. I have pain in me guts.’ He replied, sitting down on the last step at my request.

‘Does the pain go anywhere else?’

He pointed to his back and the rest of his abdomen. I was testing him because the call description stated that he had chest pain, thus the emergency response. It said nothing of abdominal or back pain. Or a pain in the neck for that matter...

‘Is that it? No other pain?’ I asked him.

He sussed me and pointed warily to his chest.

‘Oh, and a pain in here too, mate.’

I ‘aint your mate, I thought.

The ambulance arrived soon enough and I apologised to the crew in advance but it was unnecessary because they knew him too. Still, he said he had chest pain and we can’t ignore that, so he went to hospital. I know he’s lonely and I know he is old but he is aware of what he’s doing and one day it will cost him dearly. Crying wolf with the ambulance service will always cost you in the end.

I drove back into the West End and got called to a 20 year-old female who had fainted in a store. She had never fainted before and seemed to be recovering well when I got there but she still felt a bit sick. I asked her the usual question about pregnancy and she was pretty sure she couldn’t be. I often wonder how sure women are when they tell me that. It was best she went to hospital and so I waited for the ambulance to take her away and had a smile and a joke with her until it did.

On my way back to base, I got called to a 20 year-old female at an underground station who was ‘anaemic’. I thought this must be a joke – an emergency call for a common medical complaint? I asked Control to hold fire on the ambulance until I had checked it out. It was that time of the day; ambulances would be thin on the ground until the shift changes were complete and I knew how Control sometimes struggled to get vehicles to calls at this hour.

On my way, the job was cancelled then reinstated. Then I got a call on my ‘phone and the voice at the other end said

‘I cancelled you on this because you only have fifteen minutes left of your shift. I thought it might be a waste of time for you but it’s up to you if you want to do it’.

It was very nice of her to do that. I was only half a mile from base and could easily have turned around and got home on time. I didn’t, however. I also thought ‘what if this is not as given?’

‘It’s alright, I’ll carry on and see what’s what’, I offered.

I got there to find a young Asian girl with her boyfriend and a few other lads sitting in the ticket hall. A member of staff had called us because she had felt a bit faint on the train. Now that she was in the fresh air, she felt much better and was quite happy for me to cancel the ambulance. Her anaemia had nothing to do with this current little crisis. I think the staff thought they should mention something that sounded vaguely important so that an ambulance would come quicker. I think it’s high time a training course was organised for the public sector. I’d call it ‘when NOT to call an ambulance’. Fifty quid per head. Lunch provided. Payment in advance.

I got home late but I’m brave.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!! I’ll be out and about, picking up your drunk, semi-lifeless bodies on New Year’s Day night, if you see what I mean. Then I am on extended leave. Have a good New Year and please try to drink sensibly. That means, as soon as the world starts to make sense and the ugliest woman you have ever met shape-shifts into a vision of beauty...STOP!!!

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to you too!! Thanks for all your posts and I look forward to reading them again... next year!!

miss emma said...

Have a brilliant new year and enjoy your rest!!!
Ive ordered the book so Im looking forward to getting it!

Robin said...

Loved the cactus!! Did you take the piccie in homebase? Bet it gave the staff a giggle!!
Happy New Year to you too and enjoy your leave!
Look forward to reading your posts next year. R :o)

oliviascotland said...

Happy New Year!! I hope the shift isn't too bad tonight ... Was in London over Christmas, and have never seen so many ambulances rushing everywhere ... thanks to your blog (and your excellent book, which I thoroughly enjoyed and am looking forward to re-reading!!) I realised what might actually be happening!

Hope your leave goes well and, again, Happy New Year to you and to your family.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the first aid course should include the "when/when not to call an ambulance". Happy new year.

Sue said...

Happy New Year! If you're working nights then I guess it wasn't you driving the FRU down Charing Cross Rd about 2.15 this afternoon. I did wonder!

Jen said...

Happy New Year to you too!

Thanks for all the hard work you do :)

Alan said...

Hi mate, love the blog, the book is in the post cant wait. Happy new year, stay safe out there

Cpl. A McGee
Ambulance Officer
Swords Unit
Order of Malta Ambulance Corps

Dublin, Ireland

OMAC Delta 26 Out!

Paramedic to be! said...

One thing i have always wondered about paramedics. Because you are constantly around sick people coughing in your face and vomiting near you do you not get ill often. Do you not catch some of thier illnessess?
By the way got your book for christmas it is fab. really enjoying it.

Dan said...

Happy new year matey. If it helps, I made sure I carried my very very drunk other half home, despite others at the party wanting to call an ambulance.

No time wasting from me! She can suffer on the sofa!

Anonymous said...

Can a paramedic insert a chest drain and can they perform a needle thorocentesis ?

"Smudge" said...

Happy New Year to you too. Hope all goes well tonight. I've just got hold of a copy of your book; all I can say is that it's fantastic - keep up the good work, both as a paramedic and blogger / writer!

Anonymous said...

Aw, that's a sick cactus on a life support machine. It's known as a yellow peanut cactus, a freak form of Echinopsis chamaecereus. They occur with no chlorophyll, so would die rapidly were it not for the fact they get grafted onto some green stock of a different cactus species shortly after birth. The problem is, they usually graft them onto such a small base that they don't live very long.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to you and yours. Hope the cough goes soon, and I love the cactus. Didn't comment on your previous post but sympathies to you and hope you are over that one for now. Enjoy your leave, and your book wasn't in my stocking so I've ordered it myself and look forward to its arrival.
As always take care, Gill

Xf said...

paramedic to be

Thanks. And no, we don't get as ill as you'd think. I still get the odd 'man flu' virus but apart from that I should be pretty immune to the other stuff.

Having said that I got a nasty dose of viral meningitis from a patient years ago...but I'm tougher now :-)

Xf said...


No, paramedics in the UK cannot insert chest drains or carry out needle Thors, unless they have the specific training and guidelines for doing so. Although I got the training as an army medic, civilian medics generally don't perform those procedures. They're best done in hospital.

Xf said...


Good man. Hopefully, you kept an eye on her to make sure she was okay?


Xf said...


Thanks for the info on my cactus...very interesting, although I wasn't thinking about that stuff when I first spotted it, strangely enough...


Xf said...


enjoy the book!

Alan said...

Oh, I will, just got an email to say theyre out of stock but will dispact it as soon as they get it

Take it your off today, was watching sky news the footage of the large hospital fire thats ongoing looking at all the LAS personelle wondering if you were among them

Oh man flu, nasty nasty thing that

Stay Safe

Cpl. A McGee
Ambulance Officer
Swords Unit
Order of Malta Ambulance Corps

Dublin, Ireland

OMAC Delta 26 Out!

Anonymous said...

How much for the cactus?