Saturday, 31 December 2011

Not a good year for the roses... or anything else for that matter

I've had my little violin out a lot this year, haven't I? I have a friend who actually owns one as a matter of fact!

But it's been a bad year for me and I think I've been very close to the edge of the abyss of unhealthy body and mind over the past few months. So close that I'm still not behaving as I should, nor am I reacting with any enthusiasm to much that is going on around me. I've isolated those I love and have neglected to solve the problems that needed solved before now, resulting in a pile-up of projects that will start my 2012 with just as much stress as 2011 leaves me with.

I still remember the people who have suffered with me however, and I bear in mind, at all times, those who are suffering more and who cannot claim their lives back at all because their tragedies are much bigger than mine, so I am still grateful for what I have and who I love.

It's been a year in which I've lost a baby, lost a good friend and colleague, and lost (although not physically dead) someone I cared for and trusted. And recently, I almost lost Scruffs the cat too; he had to have an operation but he seems to be bouncing back from the brink, thank God.

I have been posting less frequently here too and that has been the result of less time out on the road and less inspiration to continue.

I've also, somehow and miraculously, been able to sustain my writing until the novel was completed. I got the thing published and out there. I started looking into my phD and set myself a goal to begin in the Autumn next year. I completed my Pped qualifications (well, I finally got my Practice Placement Educator certificate, although I'd done the exam a year before) and I rebuilt my business from the loose end it was becoming as a direct result of the death of my son.

I've reflected deeply (and I admit somewhat negatively) too, and discussed with myself the reasoning behind another's intolerance of me during those dark months when I was desperately coping with what I'd witnessed and gone through. There was no sympathy, empathy or even remote understanding given - and this is someone I felt close to and thought I could relate to; someone I truly believed would understand the pain. Conversely, I've gained new friends and others, from my past, have come forward to show their support, regardless of their own issues and the little time they have to spare. It's all made me think about who is important and who is not; it's forced me to consider my edgy mood and the consequences it has had on others too though, so I've balanced the behaviour I've endured with that.

I want to start 2012 positively; get on with things... finish things and create new things. If I am surrounded by friends who aren't really friends at all, then I will simply rid my life of them. I will concentrate only on what is important to me - real love, unconditional stuff that I tend to give out myself, when I'm not going mad with grief.

I'll get fit again, because that too has gone by the wayside in the aftermath of crappy 2011. I will help everyone I can without damaging my family - time is important here, so I need to be more selfish with my own.

I'll get on with writing the second novel; the continuing story of The Station and it's people, but I won't try to do everything myself this time. I'll delegate what needs to be done to others, apart from the writing of course! 'll get '101 Dumb Emergency Calls' out there too when I can raise the funds to publish it - sorry Paul!

I asked someone's forgiveness this year and didn't get it. I guess some people suffer more by carrying hate than by feeling guilt, but I will try again and again if I need to. I won't give up.

As for work, well... Christmas was a nightmare. Thousands of calls for suicidal, depressed, Mental Health patients, on top of drunks and thugs trying to, or succeeding in killing one another. Someone quoted this teenager's death as a 'misunderstanding between youths'. My God, what the Hell does that mean?

At the end of a crisis shift, in which everyone I worked with did their best to keep the festive spirit alive, I got a stress ball in the eye... courtesy of the Witch, L. She knows who she is! She threw it from across the room, intending to draw my attention away from something I was concentrating on but I looked up at the wrong moment and saw it casually being chucked in a beautifully straight line towards my right eye. It was a fleeting moment in time and my stupid eye, instead of avoiding it, watched it coming nearer til it splatted me. Stress balls can cause stress you know! I forgive you Witch L.

So, there you have it. All my worries and woes and New Year resolutions. I'm exorcising them so that I never see them again.

Have a great New Year and if you've had a year like mine or worse, you have my love and best wishes for a good start to the next one!

Be safe

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

I hope you are relaxing and enjoying time with your families. I'll be working from midnight and then again all night tomorrow, such is the luck of my draw this year. But I've been out there and experienced what Christmas now means and I'm not enamoured by it; where has the true meaning of it gone? Where is the goodwill to all? Where is the love and charity and Christian faith that is bound with it?

Unfortunately, the big white bearded guy; that obese symbol of the Coca Cola Corporation, is the only connection our children make with this time of year.

You don't have to be religious; you just have to be nice. I hope you are all being nice to someone. When I go into work, I will be nice to everyone. I'll do my best.

Happy Christmas to you all and thank you for sticking with me!


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Off the rails

This will be interesting. Come the Olympic summer we'll be competing for emergency driving space on the roads with rail engineers.

We claim a legal exemption so that we can drive at speed, cross over red lights and do the 'fun' stuff that the general public think we do just for fits and giggles.

For some reason the police will be asked to either escort or carry rail staff in order to get them to broken down trains or trackside emergencies necessitating 'surgery' or something. Now, if the police are carrying these individuals then at least there will be a professionally trained and highly experienced emergency driver at the wheel. But if they escort another vehicle; one with a rail engineer driver in charge, aren't we looking at a potentially very dangerous situation?

And where is the legal exemption? If we have an accident during a blue light journey, we will be expected to justify our driving. If we are found to have been driving recklessly, then we face the same punishments as every other driver. Technically, even crossing a red light is still illegal and we must 'give way', not just barge through at 50mph. This is why drivers are not legally obliged to get out of our way; it's still a courtesy, unless they are deliberately obstructing us.

So, if a police vehicle collides with another vehicle, or a pedestrian, and someone is killed... or the rail engineer's vehicle crashes, with similar consequences, what will be the reason given for the accidental death of an innocent? Was another life at risk? Was the journey necessary at such speed for the sake of the health and future quality of life of an very sick person? Not really; the journey will have been deemed important for the sake of convenience to rail passengers during a high profile event. It will keep our transport system running 'smoothly' (and that is a contradictory term anyway).

It's all well and good to introduce so-called emergency status to rail engineers for the sake of public image (well it must be because they don't do this at any other time) but I think I'd find it easier to swallow if gas engineers, or the big motoring organisations were allowed to travel on blue lights instead. After all, people die when gas escapes and there's potential for death and injury on the road when you're stranded, right?

And while I'm at it, why not give the RSPCA and every Vet in the country a blue light and siren? Are animals not important enough to deserve our immediate attention?


Sunday, 4 December 2011


So, Mr Clarkson has once again got himself into bother by speaking his mind. Rightly, or wrongly, he says what he thinks and that's his crime.

Now, before you all start writing to me, blasting me for 'siding with the devil' or whatever, I'd like you to think about something he said; something that, aside from the rather cold-hearted comments about shooting strikers and leaving train-suicide body parts for the 'foxy woxies', is actually more truth than scandal.

He said that people who commit suicide by throwing themselves in front of trains cause grief for the driver and massive inconvenience for commuters. Now, I've dealt first-hand with train suicides - you know this - and I have no argument with those remarks, I'm afraid. It's a horrible way to kill yourself and I have every sympathy for the families who've had to cope with what their loved ones have done.

But, the train driver saw it and could not stop it... and ultimately has to live with the horror of it for the rest of his/her life. The commuters on the platform witnessed it all, including the most horrifying aspects of it, where the suicide's body is destroyed by the train. They have to live with it for the rest of their lives too.

As for the inconvenience to commuters. I have to ask you one question and I want you to answer it honestly. How many of you who've been delayed going home from work, or to wherever you were heading, stood on the platform when you heard the announcement 'due to passenger action', and thought 'Oh, that poor man/woman; what a terrible waste of life'... as you morally should have?

How many of you actually stood there and moaned inside about how much of a delay this person was going to cause? And how inconvenient it was to you and everyone else? How many of you thought the word 'selfish'?

We deal with death in many different ways. Another person's death can be a blip to you. It can be a nuisance and no more... or even an inconvenience; spoiling your evening. But it is a person dying. Someone just like you.

You've thought the same kind of thoughts whenever you've been held up on the motorway due to a crash; an incident in which someone may have died. You've been irritated by the selfishness of individuals whose life-crises have stopped you doing what you want with your life.

It's all very human, you know. Live with it; get used to it and stop, for Pete's sake, making other people's rash comments (including mine) seem so important that they become 'offensive'.

Oh and you may not comment on this if you've never commuted by train, nor ever been a driver on a motorway.


Saturday, 12 November 2011

Naomi the Welsh

This was one of the most entertaining tours of duty I've had in a long time. My Welsh paramedic joined me so that she could compare her job to ours, out here in the frontline battlefield that is London. Her name is Naomi and she's been a paramedic for only a short time. Her shifts consist of a few calls and a lot of time driving from one place of 'cover' to the next. Her patient-bound journeys can take up to an hour and the hospital runs are just as long. The LAS? Well, our patient journeys are about 1 to 10 minutes on average and our hospital runs tend to be in the same ballpark. However, we pay for this with many, many more calls, a hell of a lot more abuse and a great deal of risk and violence.

So, a fainting rough sleeper in a train station, whose medical history included five heart bypasses, started us off but we were joined by the ambulance crew at the same time, so neither of us laid a hand on the patient.

This was quickly followed by a police call to a young woman who was fitting in a shop. Armed cops had come across her and had rendered some basic aid whilst waiting for our arrival. Again, the crew was on scene very quickly too, so it was a minimal challenge for us. I spoke to the patient's mother on the 'phone, because her daughter was post ictal and very confused, so couldn't tell us anything about herself. The cops had taken her mobile phone and called mum to explain what had happened, and to glean more information. I was passed the phone, so that I could get the medical info I needed.

'She has these all the time. She'll be okay soon. She doesn't need to go to hospital', mum told me.

'But she took her anti-epileptic medicine and she still had a fit', I explained.

'Yes, but she'll be fine. She always recovers', mum replied.

'Well, she fell onto a cafe floor this time. If we let her go now, she may have another fit and fall in front of a car.'

I think I persuaded her mum not to pursue the 'she'll be okay' route. The crew took the patient to hospital.

In Oxford Street, a 19 year-old Red Bull drinking girl was hyperventilation and having palpitations. I told the crew we'd deal with it without the need to take her to hospital. She'd declined that anyway and just wanted not to be at work I think. Her colleagues were around and they were very sympathetic, so, after calming her down and reminding her what Red Bull and the likes can do, we left her in the gentle care of her boss.

And a fainting 21 year-old hotel cleaner, who'd been unconscious for a brief time, was taken away for checks by the crew after we'd spent a few minutes finding out that she was doing three jobs a day and not eating well enough to remain standing up. Low-paid foreign workers are suffering in the Capital as they try to make ends meet. They earn enough in reality, thanks to the minimum wage (which you might argue is never enough... but at least it's a start), however, living in or around London is very expensive, and so anything they work hard to earn simply disappears in rent and other costs. No wonder the poor woman was running from one job to another and neglecting herself.

During the weekend of shifts, we had two anaphylactic calls. The first was serious; the man was collapsed at the bottom of the stairs inside a shop. His wife was with him and she explained that he'd come in to buy antihistamine because he'd felt he was reacting to something he'd touched earlier. He'd fallen down and couldn't get back up.

He was covered in a rash and, although his breathing hadn't become compromised, it was clear he was going into Anaphylactic shock. His systems were shutting down. He looked like a man deteriorating there and then. He'd lost bowel control and his vital signs - pulse and blood pressure especially - were out of control.

Naomi is a registered paramedic, so there was no need for her to stand and do nothing. She helped me get started on saving this man's life. A crew had arrived, with another paramedic, so we had more than enough hands and resources to deal with this. If only the shoppers would stop climbing the stairs by walking over us!

We got oxygen on, an anti-histamine and some adrenlanine into him, and very quickly moved him to the ambulance, where we'd stabilise him even more before setting off to hospital. He'd need urgent intervention to bring his BP up. He was still very conscious and quite able to talk to us, but he was clearly frightened.

Naomi has had little experience in giving IM injections, by her own admission, I should add. So I asked her to administer an injection to the patient. She did so and I've never seen anyone jump so much in my life. The patient lurched as if being lanced by a ten-foot pole. Poor Naomi's face... bless.

It was, nevertheless, a job well done by all; a good team effort. A combined Anglo-Welsh effort you could say. The patient arrived at hospital in much better shape than we'd found him and (just so you know) has no objection to this being written.

Our second anaphylactic call was less dramatic. A 17 year-old French visitor began to suffer shortness of breath after eating something she disagreed with. She injected herself with her Anapen auto-injector and her family called an ambulance.

I was a little concerned that they'd chucked the Anapen, with exposed needle, into a litter bin. I asked the family members to go and retrieve it. If someone had pricked their skin with it whilst rummaging around (there are people who do rubbish-rummaging), they'd have been given a nasty little puncture, which may have carried a little Adrenaline into the tissue. Epinephrine causes local tissue necrosis; it's not friendly.

She was fine though. Her Anapen had worked and her breathing was normal, but she still had to go to hospital because Adrenaline doesn't last very long... Histamine does.

There's a sinister looking Santa-type wandering around Trafalgar Square. He has the red suit and the white beard... but he wears orange wellies and he has the complexion of a 1990's Michael Jackson. He is utterly weird to behold and I wouldn't want my little boy seeing him and believing him to be the bringer of presents. I have no doubt his reindeer are parked somewhere but I don't want to see them. Look out for him and send me a pic if you can.

Naomi's comical adventures didn't end with the jumping patient, so I'll share them with you, because they are a lot more entertaining than a list of no-patient-contacts.

A visit to a 52 year-old hostel-dwelling man with abdominal pain, caused by liver damage and Hepatitis, meant she had to ask a simple question or two....

"Do you take pain killers?" She asked.

"Yes, I do", he answered.

"What for?" She continues.

"Pain!" He says, with the exasperated look of a man who is speaking to the Village Idiot.

I had to grin, as did she. We both knew what she meant, but it was funny to hear how it was received.

Then we went to see an 88 year-old man who'd collapsed in a department store. He was very unwell looking; diaphoretic and with suspicious periods of apnoea. We'd already started treatment, wrapped him up and taken him out to the ambulance. The vehicle was parked at a risky angle because the road had been narrowed due to works going on, so we'd asked the workmen to keep an eye on traffic flow and our bags as we continued treatment inside the vehicle.

Just as I was about to get on the ambulance, I saw Naomi trip over the bags and fall, like a lumbering sack of wood, to the ground. It was as though she'd seen them but still wanted to fly over them. This was also witnessed by about five grinning workmen. The poor woman didn't know where to look. Obviously balance and grace aren't taught out in Wales... in London we are all practically Ballerinas!

Maybe I should retract that last comment :-)

Anyway, she recovered, but without the benefit of video evidence (and I wish I'd filmed it), there is no way you can know just how comical it was. She's tough as nails, so she won't mind how I've described it.

The rest of the weekend consisted of more no-show patients and no-contact calls, including the one to Park Lane underpass for an 'unconscious' man. When we got there and went underground to find him, we saw a slumbering street-dweller... inside a sleeping bag. Now, if someone inside a sleeping bag in an underpass in the middle of the day isn't the biggest clue you'll ever get to NOT being dead, then I despair.

He even had a little pool of change lying next to him. Evidently, other, less frantic members of the public who'd passed by had seen it for what it was and thrown a little money at him. Now he has effectively cost you and I hundreds of pounds, just so we can see that he is, in fact..asleep. Oh, and not too happy to be woken up by me.

We ended the tour of duty with a very unwell man with chest pain and a soaring blood pressure. He needed to go to hospital quickly and we made sure that he did.

I've been invited by Naomi's boss to do a few shifts out that way, so that I can experience another way of working. I'm looking forward to it and will report back of course, with all the details. Well, the ones I'm allowed to write about.

All in all, Naomi gave me and my colleagues a laugh at her own expense but she was very well liked and respected. Cheeky banter and humiliating situations often combine in this job to make us what we are. This is a human profession and, regardless of the perspectives of a narrow minority, we really care about what we do. I now know that the Welsh produce paramedics that are just as caring and professionally minded... even if a little brutal with their needles and a little confusing with their questions... and a bit clumsy and blind.

We love you Naomi, you're the best.

Be safe.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


They were filming scenes from the forthcoming updated film version of ‘The Sweeney’ in and around Trafalgar Square today. I know this for two reasons; firstly because, as my breakfast lay beside me in the car, all hot and fresh and lovely looking, I was sent a call that placed me right on top of the location – Trafalgar Square. A drunken male was standing/slumping against one of the statues and security staff couldn’t move him. So I had to let my coffee and breakfast bun get cold, as I attempted to persuade the man to move on. Unfortunately he couldn’t or wouldn’t, so I had to call an ambulance for him. He was so far gone on alcohol that he’d become a statue himself.

The staff on scene told me that a film crew was about to start shooting, and that they wanted him cleared from the Square as soon as possible. I obliged by helping the crew to load him into the ambulance. He was, however, unable/unwilling to help us and he was no lightweight, so he remained on the floor of the ambulance – sleeping soundly and only responding to refuse, by means of pushing and hand-raising, any attempt to help him or take measurements. I’d managed to get a BM, which was lucky, but he was resistant to anything else.

He lay where he lay all the way to hospital and had to be physically ‘spilled’ out onto a chair at the other end.

The other thing that alerted me to the movie shoot was the presence later on of all sorts of actors, lighting and cameras... and a very loud Director who was telling the public, via megaphone, to ‘stay back’ or ‘get out of the way’. The headliner for this movie is Ray Winstone, a great British actor that I have tons of respect for; I remember going to the cinema when I was a teenager and watching him in a movie called ‘Scum’ – a very hard-hitting film about life in a Juvenile Detention Centre. From then, the man’s career has just gone from strength to strength.

A 94 year-old lady with shortness of breath (SOB) sat in a chair in her front room while her carer explained what the problem was and her husband, who was as old as she, undulated in temperament from ranting, repeated confusion to quiet acceptance of his wife’s condition. He had Alzheimer’s and, even though I’d explained that his wife was going to hospital and that her breathing was not good, he still asked what was happening and where she was going.

The crew wrapped her up in oxygen and blankets and he was left with the carer. It was very sad to think that these two would possibly never see each other again.

My pharmacist observer joined me again at this point; she’d had a rubbish shift last time, so now that I was back on air, I thought it only fair to re-invite her today.

In a tourist hotel I met a family from the Lebanon whose 22 year-old son stumbled off a step awkwardly the night before, after a drinking session that surely took control of his ability to feel pain appropriately. Unsurprisingly, he woke up with a very swollen ankle; a sprain for sure, and possibly a fracture, as a result of the twisting missed-step from last night.

His family – dad, mum and sister Beatrice (a lovely and not so well known Lebanese name – I’m kidding; it’s not Lebanese, but you know that, right?), were in the room as I cautioned the young man about drinking too much in future. The difference between a twisted landing from a few steps and a fall onto an underground rail is not so great, as you will know if you are regular reader of this blog.

Anyway, they were very nice people and during the short trip to hospital (ankle boy went with his mum in the ambulance and dad and Beatrice joined me in the car) we chatted about many things, relevant and irrelevant. I don’t often chat to people with any depth unless I know them well and they care enough to listen, but I felt I got on well with the dad to exchange views.

Once in hospital, I bid them all goodbye and I was given permission to mention them here. Beatrice won’t mind at all, unless I’ve spelled her name incorrectly!

Back on the square, the action scenes were being filmed and Mr Winston, et al, were running around with guns that made no sound, except a faint click as they expended plastic shells. The Director helped co-ordinate the sound with the action by shouting ‘bang, bang... running, running... bang, bang, bang!’ Hilarious.

During a break in the proceedings, one of the cast, a 67 year-old female, was brought to me and she explained that, during the running-shooting scene, one of the ‘gunmen’ had fallen on top of her on the stairs. She was an extra and he was one of the actors. Apparently, he weighed a bit, and so the collision had caused her neck and shoulder pain, which she went to extraordinary lengths to remind me about... she continued her medical history with the crew when they arrived to take over.

She was also very concerned about what her Supervisor would say... she wanted her personal belongings brought to her and she had to sign something if she couldn’t continue with the day, so I agreed to sort this out for her.

Meanwhile, a knock on the ambulance door alerted us to a new patient. He was vomiting blood on the pavement outside; behind the ambulance in fact. It was all getting a bit dramatic on Trafalgar Square!

The man vomiting blood had a genetic condition that caused this, among other things, to occur and he was reasonably stable when I checked him out. I asked for another ambulance, and when the crew saw the man, they recognised him and knew of his problems. This helped speed up the delivery process, so I could get on with finding the actresses personal bits and pieces.

I hunted her Supervisor down in a restaurant, not far from the square, and I explained what had happened to her. I asked for her personal belongings (I’d been given a list) and it became a bit of a treasure hunt. There were lots of acting types eating and drinking in the place, and the neck/shoulder patient’s stuff was somewhere among them all. I had to follow descriptions written on her notes so that I could locate everything she owned. It took a few tries (how many bags with black checks could there be in one place?), but I eventually solved the clues.

With Control’s permission, we trundled to the hospital where the lady had been taken, and gave her what she owned.

After a short interval, during which we were able to watch a little more of the movie being shot in the square, I was called to an elderly doctor in a very posh building. He was having difficulty breathing. As we entered the building, a woman told us to go up to the fourth floor. A lift took us up to a bedroom and there, on the bed, was the patient. He was in trouble. His breathing was very poor and his lungs rattled with fluid – even without a stethoscope it was audible. His sats were 80% on air and I gave him a little oxygen to boost it.

The retired doctor had chronic lung disease and was clearly dying. The woman downstairs was his wife and the entire building was their home. Nobody else lived with them. It was eerie to walk down the stairs after the crew had arrived to take the patient away (they’d need the lift); every floor was in darkness and clearly unused, but there was evidence of a past life in each shadow-filled room... evidence of a healthier, younger couple who’d occupied all of the house, instead of the small parts they now moved between using the lift.

Off to the London Aquarium next for a 3 year-old ‘coughing up blood’. This is normally not the case and all that usually happens is a little of the red stuff comes out after a particularly exertive coughing session that is violent enough to tear the small blood vessels in the throat. I wasn’t anticipating a catastrophe to be honest, and when we arrived it took a while to locate the exact spot I’d been given.

When we got to the restaurant, there was no sign of a child, mother or blood to support the call. But as we left, a woman told me that the mother had literally just gone with the little boy. She was making her own way across the road to hospital. She also told me that the child had coughed after eating and a large pool of blood had come from his mouth. This was not the description I expected and so I was relieved that mum and child had gone because it is actually a longer trip by vehicle than it is on foot in that particular place.

The shift ended with the alleged beating up of a 16 year-old school girl by a gang of Travellers who’d entered the fast food restaurant she and her friends were in. According to the young girl, one of them had tripped over her foot and turned on her as if she’d stuck it out deliberately. The gang surrounded her and she got a couple of punches to the face, just for being there. The assault was allegedly carried out by a 14 year-old boy.

I met her and her friends... and her teacher, at a police station, where they were recording the incident. The culprits may never be caught, but this young French visitor will probably never trust this City again. Her nose looked broken but she’d need an xray to confirm that.

Be safe.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Invisible paramedic

I had a few observers out with me on the latest run of shifts; a pharmacist from St Thomas’ Hospital, a medical student from UAE and a paramedic from the Welsh Ambulance Service.

Computerising a system is all well and good but a human eye or two is much more valuable when you are running an emergency service I think. I spent an entire shift out in my area, listening to sirens around me and wondering why I was being ignored. It was obviously busy but I hadn’t been given a single incident to deal with.

By the end of my shift I had begun to seriously doubt my normally cynical view of how we are an over-used and abused service. I had checked in and made myself available. I had given my call-sign and status at the start of the shift. If I wasn’t getting any calls, it was because there were more than enough resources already out there I figured.

This was the pharmacists shift and she wasn’t impressed at the lack of work we do out here!

When I called in to end my shift I was told that, although they’d known I was out there, the computer did not. My call-sign wasn’t registered with the system, so it was completely blind to me and calls were being routed to everyone else around me instead. This was the first shift I’ve experienced on the FRU where I did absolutely nothing all day long.

My next shift was Faye’s, the UAE doctor-to-be, and it was a little more useful to the London public. I was using an old call-sign and calls were sent, as usual, in my direction.

The first call was to a 97 year-old lady who was having difficulty in breathing. When I arrived her carer told me she’d been fine until the moment she was leaving; that’s when the old lady began to complain of breathing problems. In fact, she was having a panic attack and was hyperventilating. She was known to suffer from such attacks. She lived alone and her only contact with the outside world, apart from a visit to her church when she could, was her carer.

I spoke to her as she sobbed and I tried to calm her down. She was lonely and desperate for company and a change of environment. She was stuck on the fourth floor of a council block. She couldn’t use the lift, even though she was mobile, because it scared her (she’d been trapped in it when it broke down in the past), so she tended to use the stairs when she went to church. This is a major challenge for such a frail little old lady. Maybe Councils should consider where they put the elderly when it comes to accommodating them.

I left her in the safe hands of the crew, after chatting to her and holding her hand until she’d calmed down.

Soon after this, I was off to see a 30 year-old man who was fitting in the street. There were major demonstrations taking place in Central London, so things were getting tight, in terms of getting to and from places. This man, a street-dweller, was close to where everything was kicking off. As a result, after I’d carried out basic obs and got him into the car, a demo of about 200 people streamed past me. The police cordoned me into the pavement and the ambulance I had requested was stuck at the end of the slow-moving procession. It seemed ridiculous; although this patient was stable enough (he was shaking in the ‘I might have a fit’ fashion but it was mostly under his own control), if he’d gone into cardiac arrest I would have been hard pushed to get reinforcements to me in time.

When I asked the man about his medical history, he revealed that he’d been suffering seizures for a long time and that the doctors hadn’t diagnosed anything yet. He also told me they’d taken all his meds away from him on his last stay at hospital. This made me think. Although he did attempt a few tremorous warnings that he may fit again, it never looked likely to me. He always looked well enough in control of himself and Faye told me that when I looked away, he stopped shaking.

Eventually, the ambulance got through and I got him off to hospital. Central London was being cordoned off at Whitehall and The Mall, so I was about to become trapped inside a smallish footprint area.

But I was sent North and away from the protesters for a short while, as I searched for an elusive hospital-gowned angry woman who was, according to the caller, shouting abuse and being aggressive. I drove around the area a few times but couldn’t spot her; she either never existed, or had gone underground (quite literally)... or had wandered back to hospital to have her gown changed.

The police arrived on scene but, after a search of the park, they had similar luck. One of the officers is a friend of mine (that’s what you call a cop you’ve bumped into on dozens of jobs through the years) and we spent ten minutes jawing about this and that before calling it a day on the great search and rescue expedition dubbed the ‘phantom ranter’.

A few hours went by and I watched the demonstrations become larger and more central. This made the police very nervous and so, acting on intelligence I guess, they used their vans to completely block off the entrances to the important streets. It looked as if they were expecting a full scale riot. Instead, we got treated to an antique car rally that wound itself through the streets towards Piccadilly, the area of my next (and last) call of the shift. A 35 year-old woman was reportedly ‘collapsed’ and unconscious in a five star Hotel.

I’m afraid that when I get a report like that, the cynic in me comes out because over the years I can count on one hand the number of calls, described just like this, that actually turn out to be as given. Usually, there is a perfectly conscious person at the end of the trip. Conscious, breathing and laying on the floor waiting to be rescued for something that is nothing to do with the initial 999 request.

So, down into the bowels of the hotel we went... down until we reached the staff areas, where things are a little less than five star. The staff member showing me to the patient seemed surprised that she wasn’t where he’d left her. He was told that she’d ‘moved somewhere else’. This, of course, is a major feat for an unconscious person – Jesus being the only known historical exception to the rule of unconscious/dead equals’ inanimacy (I’m not entirely sure of this word but it sounds right).

When I was guided round to where she was, I found her lying on the floor, on her side and not willing to acknowledge me. She was conscious because her eyelids were flapping a bit and when I referred to her by name, she practically sat up... although she didn’t.

Now I don’t really mind if people want to display their emotional distress at feeling unwell by dramatically dropping to the floor, thus scaring the pants off those around them, who may think they’ve just witnessed a death, but there are people in real trouble out there and they really need an ambulance. I’d much rather be paying attention to them.

So I managed to get her to open her eyes and tell me what the problem was. She had a stomach ache. That was it. Painful as it may have been to her, it didn’t necessitate a Red emergency response.

The crew arrived within a few minutes and, as I watched in my rear-view mirror, she walked out with them, supported by a staff member. As I referred back to my paperwork, a strange and almost surreal thing caught my eye. I saw a man pushing an antique car up the hill towards Piccadilly. I think the vehicle was person-powered because the running man seemed to be comfortable doing what he was doing – pushing a car with someone sitting in it. I suddenly felt the urge to shout out ‘What’s the point? Why don’t you both just jog?’ But I didn’t.

On the way back to base, we passed another one of these old vehicles. It had broken down and the men driving it were frantically trying to get it started again. They weren’t cranking a handle and they weren’t push-starting a motor... they were setting fire to its underbelly in order to get a boiler heated so that steam could power it up the hill! Flames were belching out from below and tourists were stopping to film and photograph the sight.

I don’t care what they say about London in some places; this is one of the funniest cities in the world.

Be safe.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Ready to go!

Use the PAYPAL button on the left hand bar to pay for your signed copy of The Station.

Remember to choose what format you want and email me to let me know your name, so that I can personalise it, otherwise I'll just scribble on it randomly.

Give me a few weeks to get them out to you (I'll try for sooner if possible).

Please write a review on Amazon and elsewhere... give me feedback!



Monday, 24 October 2011

Signed copies of the The Station

I'm getting copies ordered to sign for those of you who want one; if you want my squiggle on a hardback of the book, please drop me a comment or email me and let me know.

I'll set up a payment account soon and you can pre-order them. You've got to give it a few weeks before they get to you though.

I've noticed the prices appear a bit too high for a novel, so I am querying this with the publisher (I don't set the price, they do). I will let you know the cost of hardcover copies when I get information back.


End of life

Right now, the worst things happening around me involve children. I cope and get on with it, but I am much more sensitive than ever before. I guess that will eventually settle down.

So, calls involving pregnant women whose waters have gone, and they are only 20 weeks or so into term, make me very sad indeed. I know the woman has probably just lost her baby and I know exactly what she and her other half are about to go through.

But these calls pale into insignificance when I listen to the last moments of a child who is in Palliative Care; a child who has stopped breathing and whose nurse is carrying out CPR in a vane attempt (and contrary to the meaning of 'end of life care') to revive him.

I listened in as the call-taker processed the resuscitating nurse through the procedure, against all odds. I could hear mum in the background sobbing. "Please my darling, come on my little angel", she says. She repeats this over and over again as her child undergoes the physical punishment required to force life back into the lifeless.

I had to put my head into my hands. I was thinking I might be losing it. Or maybe I've gone soft. Or maybe the fact that children live for such a short time, just to die in medically predictable circumstances, is finally getting through to me and I'm feeling the pain of parents who are going through a hell of a lot more than I did.

If there are parents like that reading this, I want to say I can't believe you have the strength; I honestly salute your souls for loving so deeply for such short years, just to say goodbye without ever having watched your child grow old enough to earn death.

It breaks me against religion and it denies me the power to support weak and institutionalised people who think their lot is so bad that they need ambulances for every little problem they have - their drink problem, their drug problem. I wish we could drag them to see these kids. Take them all up to Great Ormond Street Hospital, or any children's hospital, so they can see what suffering with dignity looks like.

If you have the time and a little money left, give something to any Children's Hospital you know. They really need it. If I ever get Mr Tonsilpus back I will start another campaign so he can raise money for Children's Hospitals.

Be safe.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Yellow calls and red rage

There was a dirty yellow moon sitting low on the horizon as I trundled home after this shift.

Two small women from Louisiana asked if I would allow them to have their photographs taken with me and the car. With a deep blue, sunny sky and a backdrop of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, I thought it would be unreasonable for me to say no.

Each in turn, they stood by me, making me feel tall for a change. They smiled and giggled and confirmed with one another that they’d taken the perfect pictures for the folks back home. “I want to show my daughters that you guys drive on the wrong side”, one of the happy ladies told me. This made me smile.

The first call came in a few hours after I’d started and I was concerned by the response category it had been given. ‘3 year old vomiting blood’ was surely more urgent than a low-amber? I queried it and my colleague in Control allowed me to continue to it, even though I’d been cancelled.

When I arrived I spent three or four valuable minutes wandering around the council estate, trying to find the building I needed. As usual there were no clear signs and the place was a mish-mash of concrete boxes, piled three storeys high. Calls to places like this increase the possibility of us getting to a life-threatening crisis later than we should. It could literally cost you your life if you live in one of these estates.

I eventually got to where I was needed, with the help of a resident and the man who made the 999 call. I was led up to a front room and met the little boy and his mother. She told me that he’d had a cough for a month and, although tests were being done to find out what was wrong with him, he seemed no better for seeing the doctor recently. This morning he’d coughed and produced ‘stringy blood’, according to his mum.

I explained that it was fairly common to produce a little bit of blood in sputum when you’ve been coughing hard and for a long period; it’s the result of small blood vessels rupturing due to the pressure. However, when I first saw this little blond-haired boy, I noticed how pale he was. He was also very lethargic; his behaviour wasn’t animated as it should be for his age.

He also had a number of bruises on his leg and I asked if he tended to mark easily. Both parents (dad had shown me in and was now in the room) confirmed that he did. Obviously I need to tell you that I wasn’t prying because I suspected any kind of abuse. This was a loved child and that was clear. The parents had become frustrated with his condition because he couldn’t sleep due to his nocturnal coughing fits. He also had less energy than normal recently and his pallor gave them real cause for concern.

I considered anaemia, particularly aplastic anaemia but there are many other conditions that could cause these signs and symptoms; some minor and transitional and some, like the one that ran through my mind, a little more significant.

I took the child and his parents to hospital and booked him into Paediatric A&E, hoping along with mum and dad, that the doctors would find nothing more wrong with him that a viral infection.

Contrast the last call with this one; my next outing was south of the river for a 30 year-old male ‘lying on the street, status unknown’. This means that somebody has called 999 and reported a man who was probably sleeping and nothing more. When asked if they’d check consciousness or breathing, the caller has declined to do so. This hints at the caller being in a building, possibly overlooking the ‘dead’ body.

I got there and found a slumbering drunk. The single pertinent clue that was next to him was the can of lager. It’s funny how that little detail escaped the caller’s interest. It would have been helpful. But I already knew this was nothing more than an eyesore-cleanup job and a MOP had tasked the good-old ambulance service to do it.

And here’s the shocking contrast. The little boy coughing blood was not as high a priority as the man I found curled up and obviously asleep in the street. This man got the highest priority response in fact, because we simply can’t afford to take the risk that he isn’t in cardiac arrest. It’s not the Service to blame; most of my colleagues in Control would see this for what it was, and act accordingly. It’s the public – the person who decided he needed an ambulance when he didn’t even look like he was unwell. That person felt it was their duty to call us, yet couldn’t go and check the man to see if he was okay.

Good Samaritans makes these calls from buses as they pass by. The fact that the street is teeming with people and that dozens, if not hundreds of individuals have walked passed this man without reporting any alarm, doesn’t seem to register. What happened to common sense in this world?

So, I tried to wake him up and got a furious tirade of abuse for my trouble. I decided he was too tricky to handle, so I asked for the police to come and move him. They responded by informing me that they had nothing available to assist and that they were watching the man on CCTV and he looked ‘asleep’, so why were they needed?

They had a point. Being drunk and asleep on the pavement is not a crime, per se, so why would they bother with it? Indeed, they’d spotted he was asleep by remote control, so it made me a bit unhappy that we couldn’t do the same. Instead of which I had to make another approach and risk getting a punch or full-blown mugging from this unpleasant person. I could have left him there but I’d have no paperwork to support his request for me to “f**k off” (which is tantamount to a refusal), and knowing Sod and his stupid law, this guy would drop dead the minute I drove off.

So I walked back over, after watching his foetal body and hating him for being able to sleep when I felt so tired. Ten or twelve people passed by... some of them were school kids. They all recognised what the hysterical 999 caller couldn’t. They knew he was drunk and asleep. They all knew he was alive and breathing; their grins and chuckles and comments of "look at that stupid effing drunk" proved this.

The twenty minutes I’d spent watching over him like a sponsor had obviously helped chill him out, because when tried for the second time to rouse him without bloodshed, he sat up and became reasonable (ish) about the whole thing. “Why the f**k can’t people leave me to sleep?” he moaned. I agreed with him; why couldn’t they just leave him to sleep?

He began to wrestle with a short, yellow cigarette that had most likely been recovered from a bin, and a lighter that refused to spark, let alone light. The ciggie and the lighter helped me muse over his life and I felt guilty about that. I saw the combination of the yellow short-end cigarrete and the useless lighter as a sum-up of who he was now.

“Oi, mate. Can you try to light this for me?” he asked, handing me the dead Bic. I wondered how this was going to look up in CCTV heaven as the eyes of the law watched me. I could almost hear them sniggering as they witnessed my fall from paramedic hero on the streets, to ciggie-lighting bitch to the great unwashed. My mental eyes rolled at the thought. But I’m not too proud to light a man’s cigarette if it gets him out of my life. If only the damned lighter would do its job!

Luckily, this drunken sleepy-head had a spare or ten on him, so he offered me another lighter and this one, thankfully, did what it was paid to do. Thus, within a few minutes, and after almost half an hour and the wasting of hundreds of pounds of tax-payers money, the blue-light emergency, potentially life-saving call, ended with me slinking back to my car and driving off with a happy, drunken idiot in my rear-view mirror - sitting on the same piece of pavement he’d slept on and been deemed dead upon. I had no doubt whatsoever that he’d simply draw out his cigarette, blacken his lungs a little more and fall back down into a pillow-less dream and that the general public would walk on by til somebody, somewhere decided he was a corpse.

Be safe.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Drama Queen?

A whole big dramatic chain-reaction took place on a call for a cyclist versus pedestrian. He was pedalling at a pace the wrong way up a cycle lane and she was minding her own business and crossing the lane, looking in the direction of normal traffic flow. It was clear, so she proceeded.

Maybe she should have taken a second to look the other way, but she didn’t and she was thumped by the cyclist. She was thrown onto the pavement, hurting her arm on landing, and he was chucked from the bike and dropped onto the road with some force.

The whole thing was witnessed, so when I arrived I was frantically guided in by a windmill with distress on his face. The reason for this became clear when I parked up and exited the car. The cyclist was howling and screaming in pain.

He told me he’d damaged his pelvis before, after a previous cycling accident in which he was, in his own words, ‘left for dead’. He said his pain was 10/10 and screamed out when any suggestion of examining his hip and pelvis was made.

‘I need to have a look to assess the extent of any injury’, I said.

‘Don’t touch me! I don’t want you to look at it!’ he shouted back.

Now, there are times when it is clear when someone is over-cooking their pain and there are times when it is doubtful that any injury of significance exists. This, however, was one of those borderline cases. His actions, demeanour and language suggested more going on behind the scenes than this possible injury, but his physical appearance (one leg shorter than the other and some rotation), hinted at something else. Of course, anyone can make one leg shorter than the other by appearance, if they so desire... but who am I to judge?

His pelvis or femur may well have been damaged by the catapulted landing but some of the things he came out with were outlandish and illogical for someone who needed immediate medical attention. I felt it was a combination of over-doing it and a reluctance to acknowledge the means to an end. He was like a petulant child refusing a tissue for a runny nose.

He relented when we got him into the ambulance and, even with the initial rotated, shortened look, his hips and pelvis seemed fine, sturdy and in position. The poor woman standing on the pavement, however, was left to worry herself grey about what she might have done to this guy. She thought he was dying.

I attended to her soon after leaving the crew with our screaming (now morphine controlled) cyclist and had a look at the woman’s arm. She had a significant bruise there and swelling had developed, so I took her to A&E to have it x-rayed. I suspected that, ironically, she’d be found to have much more wrong with her physically than our speeding patient. She made quite a point of ensuring she was led away and out of his sight when she arrived at the department and he was still waiting, apparently pain-free now, on the trolley bed in triage.

I know a few people like this and I'm sorry to sound arrogant and judgemental, because I'm sure there is an excuse for them somewhere. But they think that someone like me... and my colleagues, are so easily fooled... are so inexperienced and gullible, as to believe they have an injury that has the potential to kill, and yet underneath it, they are dramatic. There is no drama in real pain, there is only pain.

In the wee hours, just before going home and when the strangest cases surface, I was asked to investigate a man who was fitting outside a Casino. ‘Door staff on scene’ I was told.

I arrived to find the door staff doing their job... staffing the doors, whilst my patient lay flat on his back on the pavement. They had given him a wide berth and I treated him to a closer inspection.

‘He just dropped down and started fitting or something’, the tall, wide, door staff men said.

The young man was bleeding from the head and this made me cautious about what was happening here.
‘So where did the blood come from?’ I asked.

I thought I was being diplomatic but I must have sounded accusatory, because their reaction to the question was immediately defensive and highly unlikely.

‘Mate’, they chimed. ‘He just fell down and had some kind of fit. The blood just appeared.’

Hmm, I thought. Just appeared, did it? To be honest with you, my first thought was that he’d been a bit mouthy with them and they’d given him a push. I know that’s not fair but it’s happened before and wouldn’t be an unrealistic scenario given the time of day, the place, and the wild, drugged look of the man on the ground.

I had to struggle with him a few times to keep him under control and his arms flailed in my general direction as I did so, but it was clear early on that he wasn’t going to remain calm and my initial thoughts were that he’d sustained a significant head injury, or he’d taken something to cause this behaviour. Of course the logical pathway is followed routinely but it also takes into account the possibility that he was just like that normally; that is was in his genes.

I asked the doormen a few times about the man’s injury but they kept their distance and stuck to their story. The patient was going on about people coming after him and seemed highly agitated about the prospect that he was going to be attacked. So, he started ranting at me, as if I was the threat. This made me a little uneasy about my prospects of staying safe, even with the two large gentlemen standing at the Casino door. I tried to call in for backup and got no response. Then I called in again... and again. I pressed the priority button on my radio and got zilch back. Then, as a last resort, and because I really needed a cop or two to help me out, I activated the crew emergency alarm. This is used when we are under attack or need urgent, urgent, police attendance. To be fair, all I needed was urgent police attendance. Just one urgent... not two.

Pressing my ‘I’m in real trouble, come and help me quickly’ button made no difference and I heard nothing back. I must have been in a blind spot.

The ranting patient was on his feet and pushing at me to get past. The two doormen looked on nervously, which I found chillingly confidence-busting. Did they know something about him that I didn’t? Did he have an Uzi in his pocket? I was inspired by the knowledge that his pockets were far too small to conceal such a weapon. I’d just have to avoid his fists instead... or the world's smallest Uzi.

An ambulance rolled up as I managed to get the man to lie down again. I had to keep a little distance from him because he was still convinced he was about to be mobbed by a gang.

He said that he’d run 3 miles to escape a mob of youths that had attacked him and who ‘hated’ him. He had come a long way across London, just to collapse in a heap on the pavement.

There was no sign of any gang, so we got him onto the ambulance and the crew called for police on my behalf. It was too late for physical protection but we still needed this matter cleared up.

When the cops turned up, they knew the man and said he had a long history with them. That history included drug use and violence, so I hadn’t been over-reacting after all. His story about being assaulted and chased for miles may well have been true but, from what I was hearing, he’d more than likely brought it on himself.

And so another weekend night ends with a sunrise and a spatter of someone else’s blood on my sleeve. It’s crazy.

Be safe.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Station is out there...

Okay. The new book is out at last. You should see it on Amazon, etc very soon (I'm told these things take a few weeks). In the meantime, you can buy it direct from the publisher. Don't be nervous about them being an American company, charging you in dollars... they have a UK distributor, so you shouldn't be waiting for weeks and you shouldn't be paying more than the book's value to get a copy.

You can buy it in hardback or softcover - it's up to you.

Follow this link:

Please let me know what you think of it. remember it's a work of fiction and does not purport to reflect anything true or real about the ambulance service.....

Oh, and can you all please get your friends to buy it... plug it on Facebook and Twitter... give it a buzz if you like it. I want to do well with this one... it'll encourage me to write another one. I really don't care that I am blatantly plugging it. Nobody else is, so why not me?



Mickey's dead

I watched a mouse dying today. Yes... a mouse. Scruffs had caught it and was playing with it, but I took it from him and put it into a bucket so that I could chuck it into the field behind my house. I've given many a mouse a second chance by doing this. This one however, well, he was feisty and he managed to clamber up and out of the bucket before I had a chance to stop him. He obviously didn't trust my intentions.

He plopped onto the grass and ran for his life, but Scruffs was on him again and he was pawed to a stand-still. I told my cat to let him go and he did (Scruffs is generally obedient, believe it or not - he sits on command), but the mouse made a fatal mistake - he dashed away from the safety of me and my bucket. He ran straight into Scruff's path again, and this time Scruffy boy was having him. He grabbed him in his mouth and made to escape into the house with it.

I managed to get him to drop the little thing though and I picked it up and saw straight away that it was limp and weak. Scruffs hadn't pierced his body with his teeth; he rarely does that, but I guess the crush of his mouth had been enough to cause internal damage.

But I thought the little thing may also be playing dead, because they do that. I put him on the ground and watched him. His breathing was shallow and quick, and when I dropped him to the ground, his little paws jerked out, as if he was scared of the fall... or wanted to be kept out of harm's way. Then he just lay there, eyes open, and began to gasp in long, crying breaths. I recognised this. I've seen humans do it. It's called agonal breathing and it's the last thing that any breathing creature will do before they die.

I watched as he opened his little mouth and silently screamed, time and time again, over and over... and then he just stopped. His eyes never closed and he never looked in pain but he clearly was.

Why am I telling you this? I'm telling you this because as I watched him die, I felt more emotion for him than I have done recently for people.

I've had a bad year, and you all know that, but I don't deserve anything for it because there are plenty of people having bad years... and some having much, much worse. But my year has helped me focus on what's really important and it's helped me see the futility of trying to educate the public about how not to abuse their emergency ambulance service. It's hardened me against those who deliberately destroy their lives when there has never been the threat of a cat to kill them, against a backdrop of children and babies who have terminal illnesses and whose parents are living only in the shadow of inevitability for a loss that will be so great that they cannot fathom life for themselves any longer.

I'm not giving up and I'm not clinically depressed... but I am changing my mind about things.

I went out tonight. I went to a gig ('Battle of the bands') that was specially organised by my colleagues for my colleagues and in aid of charity. I spent a few hours drinking with them, laughing with them and listening to music produced and performed by them. It was great fun and a sobering reminder to me that I am not part of a company, or an organisation. I am part of a family. Every one of the people I saw tonight (the club was almost exclusively full of London Ambulance staff) do the same job as me. The fact that I write this blog and have done other things is completely irrelevant. These people also have to deal with the reality of the job, day in, day out. They know that there is no answer and never will be. Certain members of the public will always abuse their emergency services; they care not a jot that we care.

I listened-in to a call recently in which a man had dialled 999 for help because he was in pain. From the very start he was aggressive, abusive and very threatening towards the call-taker. The call-taker remained calm and professional against a tirade of swearing, animosity and direct threats. The man even threatened to punch the first medical person he saw. This was simply because he had toothache and we hadn't sent him an ambulance as a matter of priority.

Someone's 83 year-old grandmother was lying on the floor, unable to get up. She'd been there for hours waiting for us because we were tied up with other 'emergency' calls, and this guy didn't care to know, even when that was being explained to him by the polite call-taker.

I love my job. I believe my colleagues love their jobs - they must do, because they could apply to drive a train and earn a hell of a lot more and take a hell of a lot less abuse.

Christmas is coming. It's the season you all know makes my blood boil, because it's when the worst of people come out of the rotting woodwork of society. Lawyers, doctors, City bankers and a host of other 'respectable' professions will get drunker than normal, and will pile abuse, vomit and spit onto us. Please, read the mouse story again.  Try to understand what happens to people when they live the prediction of such things.

I recently noticed that someone gave me a less than flattering review for 'Life & Death on The Streets', (a professional moaner, judging by the number of other books he's also whined about) and, to be honest, I don't care because that's the name of the game. But he described me as 'just another gobby ambulance person', or something very similar. He went on to describe how I did the usual moaning about the state of things in my profession. I realised that this critic was probably not in the ambulance service, or anything at all to do with the NHS. His or her opinion is that we should all just shut up and 'do our jobs'... as many others out there think. But this isn't just a job, it's a vocation; you either love it or you don't, and for all of us... me and my colleagues, after years of abuse and violence and assaults; years of pandering to those who think they need us but do not, and a mini-lifetime of the same old faces doing the same old things to get to hospital - I think we have earned the right to be gobby.

Me, my emotions, my colleagues and one dying mouse have kicked me back into reality.

Be safe.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Yes, I've been lazy

I haven't died or disappeared; not yet anyway! I've just been very busy with other things and writing has not been a priority.

The novel is arriving in October because I am publishing it is the USA, so it'll be out there before it gets here. You'll be able to get it in print or download it for Kindle or any other reader from Amazon, etc. I'll put a link on the page for you when it's ready. So far the reviews have been good, so I'm encouraged.

I was sent this link to an episode of Trauma that I appeared in about 7 years ago; it was my first one-under and my first job with the HEMS team. It's worth watching because you won't get many TV opportunities to see a resus taking place on a tube station platform. See if you can spot my youthful self in there. I can't believe how time rolls on, honestly. Thanks for sending me that Suzi, it's been years since I last watched!

I'm also shoving my music up into the public domain. I've decided I don't care one way or the other if it's not liked because it was so long ago anyway and there's nothing worse than having created stuff and then allow it to die without an airing! I started by re-releasing a Christmas single I had out back in the 1980's; 'Father Christmas' it's called, ironically. It's on iTunes, so have a listen and if you like it, buy it and make it a retrospective worldwide hit :-) You can search for it with the keywords father christmas mister e, which is my singer/songwriter/muso pseudonym. I'll be releasing a lot more music over the next year or two... that way, when I die, it'll all have been loved or slagged off... but at least heard.

I'll be back to normal blogging soon, I promise. Just got to get all these other projects out of the way first!


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Post Mortem

Well, well, well. Even I am surprised at the way the riot aftermath has been handled. The Press have run and re-run images and CCTV footage of the individuals responsible for looting and criminal damage, shaming most of them very effectively and sending a clear message to them all about the way we, the people, feel about their behaviour.

I got a lot of feedback, as expected, from my last post and a few of you did not agree with my opinion but that's fine. It is, after all, only my opinion. However, I received emails and messages from young people; teenagers and school children, who agreed totally with my rant. Some of them feel embarrassed to belong to the same generation, social class or geographical area as the idiots that torched and stole their way through last week.

The Government and the police got together and decided to name and shame all those that could be identified. The newspapers listed them, along with their charges and sentences, and the TV news made spectacles of them bumping into lamp-posts and hiding their faces, as they tried to avoid the kind of mass publicity that would ruin their lives.

Not one person has moaned about the 'rights' of these thieves; nobody has complained, as far as I know, about their names and faces being publicised for the whole country (the world in fact) to see. And that makes me feel very glad. Would a Labour Government have allowed this? Who knows... but it worked. It created a contrast for the people involved in the trouble, so that they could measure themselves and their actions against rising public opinion, which was hugely against them. We have, in effect, done exactly what was required of us - we put our badly behaved hooligan kids on the naughty step and told them to think about what they've done. We have commited our little criminals to the media stocks.

But, there are a few anomalies. Those that did not 'fit the bill' for this type of feral behaviour -  like the millionaire's daughter who acted as the getaway driver for a gang of looters. she was obviously bored of daddy's money and wanted a bit of low-life excitement. Then there was the out-of-work musician who called the cops 'facists' because they arrested him. He'd stolen a musical instrument. Or the ballerina who decided to steal while it was possible, and then gave herself up when she saw her face being publicly advertised as part of a rogue's gallery. She'd asked herself why she'd done it.

This wasn't all about the usual suspects. This was about opportunism and spleen-venting against authority, as if the individual cop on the street had anything to do with University fee hikes, or unemployment levels... or the price of a ballerina's clothing.

Among the unusual suspects, we had the real hardcore problem; arsonists, serial criminals and murderers. They are going to face justice very soon and when their faces are revealed - especially the ones who mugged the injured student - they will understand that something is changing in this society. People are no longer going to allow them to rule the roost.

For mowing down three innocent young men who were protecting their community, there must be a very long sentence, without parole - please. And for murdering an ageing man who was unilaterally protesting against the behaviour of these louts as they mobbed around him, the individual(s) responsible should never see the outside world again.

We need to examine the underlying problems of course, but for now, I think those affected directly by this need to be punished properly.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

It's a hard life

Hands up if you are one of the few people in this country who use phrases like 'disenchanted youth' or 'nothing else to do'... or 'they have no prospects', when you talk about the individuals, some as young as eleven, who 'rioted' and stole from honest hard-working business people?

Good for you I say. And jolly good for those of you who revel in the 'they have rights' syndrome of society in which the youth of today are allowed, by merit of the goody-two-shoes of the European courts and other weak-minded people, to haunt the streets, mug the injured, throw stones, bottles and other debris at police officers, and torch shops and homes. Well done for complaining bitterly and endlessly about the 'heavy-handed' behaviour of law enforcement when faced with hundreds of feral, braying teenagers, hell-bent on causing injury or death. Let them stand there and take it. Let them leave their batons in their belts because that, surely, is sending out the right signal, isn't it?

We now have a dangerous situation in this society. So dangerous in fact that I fully expect to receive the usual number of threatening, poisonous remarks that I get from time to time when I vent about these things. I'll get them from people who fully support an individual's right to violently protest and let the authorities know who's boss - the same people who hate authority and loathe the way others live. Our societal situation is no different to that of a household, where parents (or in a lot of cases, single mums) have no control whatsoever over their children. There is no discipline, no moral guidance and absolutely no punishment or consequences for bad actions.

There are hundreds of thousands of disaffected people in this country. There are millions or people who can't make ends meet and who live in deprived, God-forsaken places, but not all of them behave like this. Not every single mum, or single dad has lost complete control of their off-spring either... but there is a seed of this problem in that kind of family set-up. A lot of our problems stem from a total lack of micro-Government within the home.

I saw a large, mouthy woman have a go at a man on the news yesterday. She endorsed the point I now make here. She said to the reporter that kids 'are treated like scum, so they behave like scum... what do you expect?' It was her universal excuse for looting, arson, violence and murder on the streets. It was a statement that would never in a million years, provoke the response 'Yes, you are absolutely right, and here is the solution'.

Then a man appeared and put his opinion forward, stating that what she had said was no argument and couldn't possibly justify what was going on. Interestingly, her short, fat eleven year old boy started to remonstrate with the man, as if he had a functional statement to make about it! The mother then verbally attacked the man, saying it was 'his ignorance that had led to this problem' and that he should 'jog on'.

Here's my point. I am from a council estate; I come from one of the hardest places in the country, where violence and theft was very common, and expected. I grew up in a working-class environment, not a poor one, because in those days there were jobs for everyone, but I still had a rough time of it. I suffered all of the stuff that child psychologists and social workers would label 'high risk' for bad behaviour... but I also had something else. I had a healthy fear and respect of the police and authority. I was given certain tools to enable me to see right from wrong, and to be properly scared if I did anything illegal. I open doors for the elderly and females (shamefully sexist, I know). I say please and thank you and feel guilty when I don't exercise manners when expected of me. Simple tools are required so that children do not become wild animals; strong, disciplined family environments are critical. I don't mean abusive families.

The Press has been to blame for a lot of the disrespect shown to police these days. Whenever a cop makes a mistake, or gets stupid and over-steps the mark, it gets inflated into a series of hysterical headlines that carry on for days, or weeks, so that Joe Public is in no doubt about who the real enemy is. The death of an innocent person at the hands of the authorities is an outrage, there's no question, but it might be worth considering under what circumstances some of those deaths came about. Was there a life-threatening situation in play... like a riot? Was a weapon being brandished? Are we saying that cops aren't human and that they can't feel frightened for their own lives?

If you don't agree with me, then what's your solution? Don't just attack my writing, because that's dumber than burning a shop for the sake of it. Tell me what YOU would do to sort this out and how it makes things better for us all.

I believe we need to return to values that are intrinsic to a safe, decent society. We need discipline; proper punishment for serious law-breakers. Let's bring back National Service. We can keep our armed forces up to strength and give these kids a place to go, money in their pockets and a sense of duty and commitment. It's not the cure-all, I know, because there were students, a teaching assistant and many other non-deprived individuals involved in the stealing spree - it wasn't just 'council-house scum', but it would begin to change how our children behave.

Three people died as the direct result of the violence that went on further north. These men were protecting their community. I found it interesting that while Turks and Pakistanis... and other 'minority' groups got themselves together to defend their homes and businesses, a twenty-odd year old moron ranted about how all the Polish were 'taking our jobs'. This guy, who also appeared on the news, looked like he'd never worked in his life and would never go on to do anything useful in society. The Poles do the jobs that Brits won't do, so his whole logic is flawed. He's repeating a rhetoric that is off-the-shelf racism and hatred. Thankfully, the white English didn't dishonour themselves because they too began to stand up for their streets. This, I believe, is partly why things have quietened down.

One man is shot by police in London. It's tragic but there must be a reason why an officer felt threatened enough to open up. If there isn't a good excuse, then he will face the consequences, but anyone carrying a gun should expect to risk being shot, let's not have any mindless arguments about that! A few days later and this country is in crisis; hundreds of businesses will either go under, or will face hefty insurance bills - or will move away from the very places they were serving and providing jobs to. A father tries to resuscitate his dying son, whose been mown down by a car, and we still have individuals whose mentality is so warped they can find sick reasons for it all to have happened. Even the family of the man shot by police had stated that the riots have nothing to do with their son's death.

We need to respect the rights of our children but we must stop telling them they have rights. Parents must start to show strength and deliver punishment so that kids learn there are consequences for their actions. They must also deliver praise and support. Society must create the biggest naughty step imaginable or we are all surely going to Hell.


Monday, 1 August 2011

A dark place

There is a sick feeling of no control or recollection of what’s about to happen. I’m being taken away somewhere where I can’t escape and where no one will find me. 

There are no land marks or road signs here. There is nothing. I used to scream for help but no one ever heard me or helped me so I don’t scream anymore. I can feel my body sliding out of control underneath me; soon I will have no authority of the muscles or bones that normally obey my every command. 

I’ve decided I’m not going to fight it anymore. Instead I will wait. It might be minutes, it might be hours or it could even be days sitting here alone in the darkness until the clouds start to lift releasing beams of aesthetic light through the deep smog that hangs slightly above a path. I don’t know where the path starts or how far along it I am but I know if I carry on walking soon I will be back.

This was written by Stephanie Smith. She's describing epilepsy. She's describing her fears. I thought some of you might like to pay her blog a visit. She is young and she needs empathy and support from others like her, so please be kind to her.


Friday, 29 July 2011

The unsung

A good shift is one where the calls are steady and not too bad, and where the teams around you are good to work with. Generally speaking, all the frontline crews I meet are great but the A&E Support crews, who don’t really get a look in, are among some of the stars. I’ve met a few and have been very impressed by their knowledge, skills and the application of their work. I worked this shift with an A&E Support crew shadowing me on calls... well not deliberately, they just happened to be the nearest and most appropriate for the type of call I was getting.

It started with a jog down to Waterloo station, where another crew was already on scene, dealing with a separate incident from mine. I was going to a ‘leg injury’. A motorcycle paramedic was already there, and a screen had been erected around the poor 58 year-old lady who’d fallen and hurt herself. I was invited to take a look at the injury and was quite startled to see a fractured knee cap and a dislocated lower leg. The patella was broken through its centre; one half had slid up the leg and the other half remained more or less in place. It was a gruesome looking injury but the lady was in no pain at all. Amazingly, this injury had occurred as the result of a spectacular slip... on a train ticket that was lying on the polished floor of the station concourse!

The MRU paramedic had to leave us because yet another call had come in from the station – an epileptic was having a fit not far from where we were. Three emergency calls had been taken from the same area in a 20 minute period.

So, I chatted to the woman, offered her entonox for when we moved her leg, which was inevitable, and waited for the third ambulance to come and take her away.

It wasn’t long before my colleagues showed up and we carefully straightened the leg. She took no pain relief because she told us she felt no pain. I could imagine someone younger and fitter screaming in agony at this point, but not this lady. When the leg straightened out, it automatically slid back into place and we were left with an aligned limb (it had been at an angle from the knee down prior to this) and a Patella with a single, unmistakable ridge across the middle.

We took her on board the ambulance and she still felt okay, apart from the odd twinge.  She still didn’t need any pain relief and I was very impressed by her attitude, but I knew that her knee would never be the same again and she’d probably have other associated problems to deal with throughout her life now.

From one station to another; this time a tube station a few miles away from my last call. A 37 year-old man was sitting on a bench, feeling dizzy every time he got up to walk. He’d been like this all night and had tried to resolve it by eating fruit... who knows? Anyway, on his way to work, he became too dizzy to continue the journey, so here he was, waiting for me.

He had a history of hypertension, so it’s possible there’s a link. He wasn’t vomiting but he did feel nauseous, so when the ambulance arrived (an A&E Support crew) he was carefully trundled out on a chair. His ECG was normal-ish and his vital signs were good, so the crew took him to hospital and I traveled behind them in the car, just in case.

On the next call, for a 24 year-old man with back pain, I was sent to an office complex that was under renovation. The patient was the site carpenter but when I got on scene, I didn’t find him nailing bits of wood together, instead he was lying flat on a wallpaper pasting table. He was in agony.

The man had suffered a back injury years before but had been fine since. Now, all he did was sit down and his lower bank went. He told me the pain radiated down his leg on the same side. It was possible that he’d pulled a muscle, or there was nerve involvement. A disc may have given a little. Whatever it was, he had to come off that table.

I asked for, and received another A&E Support crew. I’d given the young man entonox and a dose of morphine, and his pain score had reduced. So, when the crew arrived, we got him to carefully move himself off the table. He wasn’t so unstable that he needed a spinal board, but he had to be handled with kid gloves because the smallest change in his position caused pain. By the time he’d started sitting down in the carry chair, he was complaining of nothing more than the dizziness expected after a long lie down on a table. That and the morphine, I expect.

The poor guy was worried sick about the long-term effect the injury would have on him, especially as he was self-employed and relied on work with no sick-pay benefits. He told me he had a new baby at home and it concerned him that he might not be able to make ends meet. I felt a lot of sympathy for him.

No patient contact with the next one but only because I went to the wrong hotel. In my defence, there are two hotels in the same little area, with the same name, apart from a minor sub-title. I’d stood in the lobby of the wrong place, ready to complain about being held up on an emergency call (an elderly woman was feeling very unwell), when the Manager informed me that they didn’t have the room number I asked for. He pointed across the road and said ‘But they do’.

So, I drove ten metres to get to the correct address and the crew showed up. I became redundant at that point, so I left them to it.

The same A&E Support crew came to assist with the next call of the day. It was for a 36 year-old man who worked in a hotel that is notorious for calling ambulances and then repeatedly calling back, with worsening symptoms that often don’t exist, just because they have been waiting. On this occasion, they’d called for a man with ‘abdominal pain’. That is not enough of an emergency to get an 8-minute response, so they had to wait. But, true to form, they called 999 again and added ‘difficulty in breathing’, which made the call go RED and I was asked to go and check it out.

I got there to find that the man had groin pain and had no trouble breathing at all... except for the obvious breathing change that accompanies groin pain.

One of his testicles was causing him discomfort and the sharp, burning pain was travelling up into his groin and lower abdomen. Although this is an unfortunate situation for any man, it still isn’t a life or death emergency, so I asked for an A&E Support crew, and I got the same call sign assigned to me that had helped me on the back pain call.

Once aboard the ambulance I asked the man to drop his trousers and let me see what the problem was. Unorthodox as this may seem to you, it is quite important to visualise a point of pain, so that obvious injury can be ruled out. It’s simply a question of whether or not you have the steel to do it. Obviously, with a female the rules for me change but visual examination is still crucial wherever possible. I was looking for evidence of torsion (twisting) of the testicle, a potentially ball-losing injury.

I had a quick look and I couldn’t see any evidence of unilateral enlargement. However, I was able to get the man to specify exactly where the pain originated on his testicle. He pointed to the bottom of it. He may have Epididymitis, I thought. He’d be going to hospital to have it checked out (excuse the obvious hotel-inspired pun) whatever the problem was. If he had torsion, it would have to be dealt with immediately.

He’d told us his pain was 10/10, but he jumped and cried out ‘Allah!’ (he is a Muslim), when his finger was pricked for a bit of blood. People who say they have more pain than someone giving birth, and then scream when they get a little jab with a one-million gauge needle really need to get their thresholds in perspective.
Once again, I left him to the crew to take away to hospital. He’d declined pain relief on the basis that more pain would be required in order for him to receive it. He was stable and in no immediate danger. So I wasn’t required any more. The crew, S and J, were happy to take over and transport him over as few bumps in the road as possible.

The end of the shift consisted of me sitting in the car on Traffy Square, thinking about all the years I’d been standing by on that spot, and the people I’d worked with... and the observers I’d shared my scenery with. A young film producer had arranged to meet with me so that she could chat about how we hand patients over at hospital. She’s making a short movie and it includes a scene where ambulance paramedics lose a patient. So, I was to tell her how best that could happen in hospital.

She got more than she bargained for because, just before she turned up (and I should add that I had ended my day’s duty and was heading home after the meeting), I was asked to check on an alcoholic who was lolling about on the pedestrian area, while tourist kids and their tourist teachers, passed by.

He was a Romanian man; quite young and very shabby, although his photo ID depicted someone who’d been brighter, cleaner and a lot more alert than this in a previous life. He was drunk and demanding an ambulance for stomach pains. Liver pain – that was his problem.

I had to put off my meeting while I dealt with him, so the producer stood by with the rest of the interested public, as I held on to him when he thrashed around and insisted on lying back down every time he was sat up. I had a Trafalgar Square security man with me – he was the one who’d asked me to help – so two of us were struggling at times to keep this guy under control. He wasn’t violent, but he slammed his head onto the ground repeatedly in an attempt to over-ride sanity. He wasn’t drunk enough to behave like that, he just wanted to.

I called in for an ambulance and lost communication with Control completely when my hand-held radio died (flat bat) and my car radio didn’t want to transmit any more. Up until that moment, both were working just fine.

Luckily, I got a message through to them via my own desk, CSD, and I was sent an A&E Support crew again. Not the same crew, a different one, but still very welcome.

After a bit of chatting and being ignored, we got him into the ambulance (but only after he feigned collapse and put my back out). He spent all of ten minutes in there, arguing with us about his condition, which we weren’t disputing at all. Then he declared that he needed to pee, and he stood to do so inside the ambulance. I’ve seen this happen many times.

He was told off in no uncertain terms by the crew, and he turned to leave. Even though we were giving him what he wanted – a lift to hospital – he still felt his need to urinate, right there and then, was much more important. He got out of the ambulance and headed towards the public toilets (we think).

And that was that. He’d refused help after all the drama he’d put us through. I asked the crew to leave so that they could get home on time, rather than wait for him to return, and I spent another ten minutes on the square, telling the producer how to lose a patient in fiction-land, whilst simultaneously giving the Romanian peeing drunk a second chance to get help if he needed it.

He obviously didn’t because he never returned.

Be safe.