Sunday, 13 April 2008

Marathon man

Two emergency calls; both conveyed by ambulance.

I was working on a Forward Incident Team (FIT) today, covering the London Marathon. It’s the first time I’ve been on duty for this and it was an honour to be there and watch those amazing people complete the gruelling 26.2 mile course. I used to cover the big football matches up at the old Highbury stadium, so I had some experience of large-scale cover like this. It’s a completely different way of working.

I was assigned to an ambulance with two EMT’s; usually one LAS bod is assigned with a team from the St. John Ambulance but not this year – I was working with colleagues and we had to cover the 6-mile marker before moving up to the 25-mile marker around Parliament Square.

Our first call was to a 24 year-old man who had reached the 24th mile and collapsed because his leg was so painful. From what he told me and our examination of his limb, he had suffered a stress fracture to his tibia and wouldn’t be completing the last few miles to glory...and his medal. I felt sorry for him; it must be very hard to have run that far just to be beaten, almost at the finish line, by an injury. He’d tried bravely to continue and had suffered for miles by all accounts but it was the end of the line now and off he went to hospital.

The second patient had collapsed at the same point as the last; he had gone down suddenly and felt very sick. His BP was low and he looked incredibly pale. We waited for a SJA vehicle and were close to taking him to hospital ourselves when one turned up. There were four people onboard – a ‘cardiac team’ they told me – headed by a doctor. The medic just stood over the man and asked questions – no examination was carried out and it took a while for the chair I had requested to be brought to him. He’d already spent almost 30 minutes shivering on the ground and we thought it best if he was taken into the warmth straight away but for some reason, the doctor thought better of it and seemed less than enthusiastic about caring for him. I should stress that I have worked with many incredible doctors but in the past few days, I have seen some pretty unprofessional behaviour.

Eventually, the man was taken to hospital by SJA, although how they all fitted inside the ambulance was beyond me.

Watching the Marathon made me consider doing it myself one year. I have huge admiration for everyone who did it and for the causes they were supporting in such a magnificent way. The costumes were elaborate and often heavy looking but the weather remained cool, so dehydration and exhaustion was limited to a few.

Water bottles were flying all over the place as runners picked them from the hands of the volunteers lining each marker, drank a few sips and then chucked them to the ground, splashing all of us. Eventually, there were hundreds of plastic bottles in the gutter and on the pavement, many of which contained almost all of the liquid, which I thought was a bit of a waste. We need a greener solution, I think.

A cyclist, who had nothing to do with the run, sped by on the road and had to be chased down and stopped before he caused chaos. Some people just don’t think – it was clear the road was shut but it didn’t concern him.

There were also a number of ‘unofficial’ runners taking part just for the hell of it – hats off to them too!

As the day ended and we watched the last stragglers coming in towards the finish line, I saw a blind runner being led by a friend to complete the run – a humbling thing to witness.

Then, of course, there’s Buster, reportedly 101 years-old and his first Marathon. He hadn't yet finished the run when we were stood down; it took him ten hours and the controversy that followed blighted what was still an amazing achievement for someone his age. I go to houses where people forty years or more younger than him can barely stand up, so I’m impressed, even if he isn’t quite as old as he says. Well done Buster.

Be safe.


Chris said...

Interesting that they had a 4-man crew - we're not even allowed to have third crews on SJA ambulances because of weight distribution problems!

From my point of view (I was there with SJA), and taking into account other stories I've heard, the overall organisation of the event by St John was a shambles!

miss emma said...

wow. my heart goes out to buster! what an amazing achievement! I would love to do the london marathon one day but its hard enough cycling the 26 miles for the london bikeathon and i find running a lot more stressful and harder work!

great post! bet it was nice to deal with people who actually neededyour help and you got a nice view of the runners as well! it beats TV anyday!

batus said...

The blind runner is 'blind Dave' who with his guide mac became the first blind person (and only the 3rd and 4th in the world) to complete 7 marathons in 7 days in 7 continents with london being the last.

Xf said...


Many thanks for the info.

Luce said...

again.. very surprised with SJA.. i was on one of their post in Canary Wharf and we didnt have an ambulance until right near the end.. but sja shoudlnt have 4 on a vehicle because of weight restrictions!... By the way fab book just finished reading it! :P

Oliver Smith said...

Ah the London Marathon...something I consider doing myself one day. Would have to become a lot fitter first, although being an ex-swimmer it shouldn't be too difficult to get fit again (just need the motivation)

Bored Numbskull Student Tech said...

I was there with SJA, and I am going to have to throw in my 2p.
I don't believe the doctors on duty with us were SJA members, I believe that they were supplied by the marathon organizers themselves, and I don't know how used to dealing with patients outside of a hospital they were.
Also, assuming that the SJA ambulance was a crusader, then it should not have had four people and a patient in it. As a previous commenter has stated, we are not allowed to third man them at the moment as the extra weight overburdens the front axle.