Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Finding Samantha

At first I thought this was going to be a dry, silly little story about a mis-dialed call but then I listened to it and thought about what this young man was about to go into and the fact that a soldier, just like him, had been killed a few days ago in Helmand, leaving behind a wife and a new baby that he'd never seen.

I don't care about the politics here - these men and women are doing their duty, whether you think it's right or wrong and this voicemail reminds us of their youth and fragility in the face of what they are experiencing out there in the dust.|uk|dl5|link4|

It's a bit of a tear-jerker really.


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

It must be true...

The BBC asked me to comment on this story; they wanted my opinion, from the point of view of a front-line paramedic and author, as they did when the Government decided that 24 hour alcohol licensing was the way to break our binge-drinking culture. They were wrong then and they are wrong now I think.

I couldn't go live on television news to give my input, unfortunately, but I will here. The approach currently being taken by successive Governments in order to tackle binge-drinking is stupidly blind and out of touch. The pricing and availability of booze has very little to do with what's going on. Young people are setting off on a night out with the deliberate, pre-meditated intention of getting as drunk as possible. Only a small minority behave like this but they are the ones who are causing the problem. Facebook is full of admissions from young people who have been so drunk that they forget what they did or who they were with... or that they ended up in hospital 'drying out'. It's almost a badge of honour and it's becoming cultural. I said this on air back in 2008 when I was first asked to comment.

So, weak attempts at dealing with this by punishing everyone else (the usual British way) and increasing taxes and pricing on alcohol are futile. They simply won't work.

The big supermarkets are getting knocked constantly for selling cheap, discounted booze but they are in business to do just that with everything they sell! We don't complain when they offer us ten sausages for the price of eight, do we? However, if a brainless proportion of the population were stuffing themselves with so many piggy-filled wraps that they posed a health risk to themselves and a burden of cost to us all, then Hell yes - let's tax the sausages out of everyone's reach and let's impose a minimum price on each on, depending on the fat content. Let's tell the supermarkets how to run their businesses.

We are on the brink of insanity with this. Only one thing is required - good, solid, honest parenting. A return to strict control over children. We know they have rights - just don't keep telling them!

I was delighted to find this little snippet in the news too|uk|dl1|link8|  I've been off work unwell recently and got myself into a complicated little scenario by becoming so. I had tried to book annual leave for three days when I knew this was coming (you can always sense a viral attack). I don't generally get ill  but since starting work as a paramedic in London, I have been knocked off my feet a few times now. The stress of the job and the people we come into contact with erodes the immune system. Nevertheless, I still don't get THAT unwell and I rarely get Flu. Viral attacks tend to take me out for a while though.

Anyway, my leave was refused and I staggered into work feeling lousy and 'looking like shit', according to my colleagues. I bravely fought off the urge to slump at the desk until I couldn't concentrate any more, so I was advised to leave the premises and go home. Obviously, having applied for leave and being refused it, I now looked like a prize loser who was going on a 'sickie' instead - something I would never do. Sometimes you just can't win.

I spent a long, long weekend in bed, sleeping mostly and getting through it. Now I am due to go back to work and I still haven't fully shaken the damned thing off! So, I was warmed by that little report on my situation. Obviously, if it's been studied and it's in the news... it must be true.

Be safe.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Saving trees

My first book, which is still selling well after three years, is now available in electronic form and can be  downloaded for Kindle or onto your Mac or PC. Those of you who live 'Down Under' and in other countries where getting hold of the book was problematic and expensive (who wants to buy a £4 book for £11, including postage?) can now get a copy with a couple of clicks and not much money.

At first my publisher was reluctant to go ahead with e-books; the reasons are commercial and understandable. The question that needs answered is whether or not e-books, which are growing massively in popularity, will be the death of traditional books and therefore book shops. Profit margins are also cut dramatically for publishers and authors alike, so will this mean the demise of small publishing houses and a discouraging trend for those who want to write?

I guess it all depends on how many people switch to e-books. If millions do and the market does not change in terms of volume sales, then it's possible nothing much will happen to affect the author-publisher commercial relationship but book shops will disappear and that will be a shame because there's still something wonderful about picking up a 'real' book and flicking through the pages. I don't know about you but the feel of a book; it's cover and the content all contribute to persuading me to buy it. I can't see that being the same with an electronic tablet.

The progessive shift from paper to binary code for reading will end another tangible human urge. We will no longer feel the need to build book shelves. So there goes Ikea!


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Tonsilpus in Canada

The little woollen one is currently in Canada but he seems to be lost in their postal system (for the second time). He still has a few more hosts to get round in that country before setting off to the USA for a month-long tour. Then he's off to India with any luck but it all depends on the timing and when he gets delayed for days or weeks at a time, his schedule is thrown into chaos - as are his donations from hosts and fans.

The website is attracting a large number of people and his twitter page is growing too. If you haven't already subscribed to either, please do so now - I want to see his fan base growing because the aim is to make him world famous by this time next year.

Come on people, sign up to host him, especially if you live in an 'exotic' country or you are going somewhere interesting for a holiday or work. Donations are slow in coming in for the little guy, so I need as many of you as possible to apply via the website to take him on for a few days.

An international news agency has secured the rights to his photographs and we hope that the exposure he will get when his tour ends later this year will make him very well known around the world. You will have helped to make that happen. The same agency is offering £100 for the best photographs taken of him during his tour, so there's an incentive for you.

So, if you are going to see the Taj Mahal, or climbing Mount Everest - take him along and snap him having fun and being reckless!


Monday, 3 January 2011

Anatomy for beginners

I did another car shift out of the south and spent most of it dealing with the usual stuff; abdominal pains, sore throats, minor allergic reactions... until I received a call for a 'cut throat' - and I don't mean a pirate!

Up until this call, which was the last of the night, I'd already put myself on high alert for the possibility of delivering another baby when a second-time mum waited too long for a taxi (as always) and had a relative put in a 999 call for a 'birth imminent' instead. Luckily, a crew took over within minutes of the inevitable. I really didn't care one way or the other. I'd have been glad to deliver it and was ready to but I thought about the mess I'd be working in and that I only had one uniform with no spare to go back to. I shouldn't have bothered worrying; my uniform was to become a blood-stained mess anyway.

A lift with an air freshener jammed into the ceiling was an unpleasant and unusual surprise too as I plodded along to yet another routine call that had no place being on the 'emergency' calls list. With a running rate of around 5,000 calls per day over the past few weeks, we really have been put under enormous pressure by individuals with nothing better to do than fret over small things. There is no solution and I predict (and you can mark my words here) that it will only get worse, year on year. Going to a sore throat while having to inhale the pungent stink of 'Pine forest' or whatever the hell it was coming from that air freshener, made me less than sympathetic on arrival.

Now, the last call of the night was messy. The guy had been attacked and was lying on the floor when I arrived. His throat had been sliced open so badly that his skin gaped and the underlying structures of his neck could be seen. Blood was everywhere and a large pool of the stuff made a pillow for his head. He was drunk and unaware of the severity of his wound, although he did ask if he was going to die a number of times but it was the half-hearted statement of an inebriated person with no idea of the life-endangered situation he was actually in.

None of his major blood vessels had been cut. If they had, he would have been dead before I got to him and the two police officers that I found dealing with him would not have been as calm as they were. He was very lucky but one silly move would be all it would take to render him unlucky. He kept moving his head and the musculature of his neck threatened to finish the job that had been started by his assailant. If his carotid artery ruptured (and it could clearly be seen throbbing away at the surface of the wound) he'd die very, very quickly.

A crew arrived and together we managed to get him into the ambulance without further trauma. By now, of course, I was stained in his blood. Ironically, my boots were clean but my jacket and stab vest were soaked and I looked like a paramedic butcher. I certainly wasn't going to be able to go to another 'pain in belly' call looking like I'd just murdered my last patient.

I have to say that the man's attacker had sliced his throat so cleanly that it almost looked as if he'd had some surgical training. To be able to open up that part of the body without cutting into the Jugular vein or the Carotid artery - or damage the muscles and trachea, was either incredibly good fortune (for the victim of course) or sound anatomical judgement. I go for the former since I doubt very much that there is a Jack The Ripper type running around glassing people with such accuracy.

So, red-stained and exhausted after the struggle to keep him from dying on us, I took myself back to the station where I dumped at least one perfectly good hi-vis jacket in the clinical waste bin.

Happy New Year and...

Be safe.