Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Another day on the FROO

Abbi was with me today; she was experiencing frontline FRU work and the general routine of the ambulance service for the purposes of research. It's always nice when people take an interest I think, don't you?

A couple of NPCs started the shift off. There’s nothing quite like running on lights and sirens to a call, just to be writing it up as ‘crew on scene, dealing’ or ‘not required’. It makes the risks much more pertinent I think.
Anyhoo, a private taxi driver decided to cut in towards the pavement to park up, without considering an indication or even to look in his mirror at the cyclist who was pedalling along beside him – allegedly. Now, arguably, the cyclist should not have been on the inside (the nearside if you’re a driver) because that is just asking for trouble. Plenty of cyclists die doing that each year. But, equally, the car driver should have looked before he swerved across the poor guy’s path.

I found him in a heap on the road, with quite a few people around him as he bled from a very deep gash in his arm. It had been very well dressed by a first aider who’d stopped to help, and the local hotel had supplied a sheet for him for some reason. The sheet, I should point out, became useful later on when I mopped up his blood with it. We can’t have pools of blood in the street, can we? I did go into the hotel and apologise for destroying the item and they were only too happy for me to keep it and dispose of it properly.

The cyclist was conscious and alert. He had no other injury, apart from his arm, and the driver of the car, who could have killed him, stood over him as if checking to see that he didn't give an errant version of the truth. He never once asked if the guy was okay.

A crew arrived shortly after me and we got the cyclist into the ambulance, where his dressing was removed so that we could examine his injury properly. It was deep; a big chunk of his muscle had been torn out, but the bleeding, which had been described by the first aider as ‘spurting out’, was under control. It was unlikely that an artery had been torn – it was more than likely mistaken identity and a large vein had bled, giving the impression that it was a more important vascular structure. Still, blood is blood and he wasn’t losing any more.

We worked out that the cyclist had clipped the car mirror on his way over the bonnet and landed onto the very sharp chain spokes of his bike. It was those tines that had ripped into his arm. If he’d landed on them with his head or neck, we’d be singing from an entirely different hymn sheet.

Another cyclist who came off his ride wasn’t hit by anything. His chain has failed, jamming his wheel and catapulting him into the air and over his handlebars. He landed in the road and a couple of passing cops stopped to help him out.

When I got on scene, he was sitting with them. He had minor scratches to his elbows and knees. Unlike the last chap, his arm muscles were intact – no chunks missing, so he was lucky.

I popped him in the car and took him up to hospital. En-route we discussed PhDs and stuff. As you do.

Calls to babies with head injuries are always a worry, but rarely found to be serious. So my next job, which took me to the bank of the river, caused me undue concern. First of all, I couldn’t find anyone to open the barrier that stopped me from gaining access to where I needed to be, so I wasted what could have been precious time tapping on my steering wheel, tutting a lot and using the radio as a means of relaying my frustration. Eventually, a security person came and set me free.

Secondly, the mother was walking up to meet me – baby in arms and nothing wrong with it. The little thing had taken a two-foot tumble from her push-chair... onto grass. Mum was worried because her tot ‘wasn’t quite right’ to begin with after the fall. Now, of course, the baby was right as rain.

I took them both to A&E for a check anyway because I do understand the concern she felt, although it might have been a little over-cooked..

A 17 year-old fainted apparently. Well, truth be told, she hadn’t fainted. After climbing the stairs and wending my way around a college, I found her lying on the floor of her classroom, with staff members in attendance. They’d described her as having ‘fitted’ and fainted. I could see the girl was conscious a mile away (which is about the distance you have to walk to get from the entrance to the classroom in this place), so I did the ‘eyelash’ thing and she proved herself a liar.

This young girl just wanted to get out of there. She didn’t want to communicate with anyone; it’s not that she couldn’t. Once she realised the game was up, she miraculously recovered, sat up and spoke to me in the customary, and necessary-for-effect whispering voice that I can’t hear.

Try not to be upset with me, because I know a few of you think that when I talk like this, I am showing disrespect to patients but I’m not – I’m just emphasising that there are other problems that people have – emotional problems, that do not, and should never, fall under the remit of the emergency ambulance services. Every minute spent with a teenager who just doesn’t like her life, is a minute less available for someone who is really fitting, or who had really fainted... or whose emotional crises is so great that they are suicidal or in need of rescue. ‘I don’t like college and I’d prefer to be somewhere else’ doesn’t qualify.

I took her and her friend (they always take their mates with them) to hospital and I taught the teacher the eyelash trick for future reference.

At a tube station an 11 year-old tourist fell onto a bit of wood and cut his knee open. It wasn’t a big wound but an ambulance was called regardless. There was a teacher with the child and he was quite prepared to take him to A&E on the bus, but I was already there and I said I’d give them a lift. The underground staff had called 999 for this, which is not like them. They have good first aiders and they know how busy we are.
On the way out, with injured child and teacher in tow, we passed his school group and they all waved and wished him well. They gave him worried looks and nodded in his direction. But did they smile at the friendly paramedic... nope.

Finally, an urgent call from a MOP who found a man lying in the street ‘unconscious’ with bruises on his head. I pulled up and walked over to the dead man. The tall tourist standing beside him looked like he was in shock. It never occurred to him that if this man on the pavement was in such trouble, how come everybody else was walking past? How come the local people hadn’t taken an interest? The answer my friends, is because he was a known alcoholic - maybe not to the kindly, concerned traveller, but certainly to me and to half of Soho.

I woke him up and he moved along, after a short chat about not sleeping in the middle of a busy pavement in broad daylight and scaring the public.

He did have bruise on his face, but they were nothing more than fresh street-battle scars. They all have them.

‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t realise. He just wouldn’t move at all for me,’ said the tourist man.

‘That’s okay. It’s not a big deal because I was close by and now we can save an ambulance trip,’ I replied.

And that’s the big truth I guess. When I get to wake them up before every alarm bell sounds for nothing, then an ambulance goes somewhere else, where it might actually make a difference. If we could cut out the nonsense calls, the emotional calls, the alcohol-related calls and the hoax calls, we’d have a very excellent ambulance service here. Abbi will take that information back with her.

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

What is this eye-lash trick?!

Fiz said...

You know what,Stuart? You'd be more appreciated by people in Herts and Essex than by the thoughtless London lot. Why don't you try them instead of LAS?

Xf said...


I have seriously considered it you know!

Xf said...


You simply run your finger gently along the person's eyelash. If it flickers, they are conscious. It's called eyelash reflex and it generally confirms consciousness; it's very difficult... almost impossible in fact, for people not to react, even when they know it's coming.

It's a pianless, unobtrusive way of confirming a level of consciousness. In many people, O don't even have to do it because their eyelids are flickering away before I get near them.

Anonymous said...

I never knew that! Useful thing to know (I'm a FA) :)

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you define your task and I don't know how serious the girl's problems are.

But I for myself prefer such "emotional calls" before suicides. So I don't think it is a waste of time. Why not talking if that means not to run for some abuse of sleeping drugs or someone on a railroad later?
Of course that does not apply if the girl was far away from suicide.

Also I can't blame that tourist for calling an ambulance. It is better than not calling one if one is needed. There was an experiment with a crashed car on a road. It took about half an hour, before another car stopped. Most people just look at their rear mirror and if they see someone, they drive on thinking the car behind them will stop and look after the accident. Problem is, the people in the car behind them think "He does not stop, so why should I?"

Anonymous said...

Bicycles should not be on the inside?? Where should they be then?

Xf said...


Not riding up the inside of a moving vehicle; not advisable is it? And if you'd care to read back, you'll see that I mention the cyclist riding alongside the car. AND the word allegedly is used, as well as 'arguably' in order that you might not be confused about this being a judgment but an observation.

Xf said...


Glad to have been of service! :-)

Hannah said...

Hi Stuart!
Just to say I appreciate your blogging! Been reading your stuff for a long time now. Please keep it coming :D

Anonymous said...

I'm not commenting on the incident as I wasn't there - All I'm commenting on was your statement "Now, arguably, the cyclist should not have been on the inside... because that is just asking for trouble."

Cycling on the inside is not asking for trouble, it's where you are supposed to cycle, and that's where the cycle lanes are. And what is wrong with cycling up the inside of
moving cars? It's perfectly lawfulassnd with London traffic being as it is, even the safest and slowest cyclists (as I class myself) find themselves cycling up the inside of notorius london-traffic 70% of the time. .

Xf said...


Fair comment. Although it's almost impossible to make one sentence mean less than one thing to so many people, I guess I should have phrased it differently... whilst cycling on the inside, it is not advisable to do so at the side of a moving vehicle that may, at any time, decide to pull in to park, or have an emergency situation in front of him, that you could not possibly see, that causes him to swerve across you.

Without furtherence and not to appear pedantic, it would seem none too clever to cycle anywhere except where the driver can see you in his mirrors. So riding alongside and close to the car is NOT smart.

If the cyclist was not too close and was not riding at the same speed on the inside of the vehicle, why then, unless he was not paying attention, did he not have time to brake and stop himself hitting the vehicle and flying over the bonnet?

Unless you disagree. I may not have thought through the mechanisms properly. But I should point out that it was a remark and nothing more... it was not a lecture, nor condemnation of a cyclist. In fact, to my mind, the driver was in the wrong... he also behaved likehe didn't care about this poor man's injury. My concern is that cyclists (and I've seen a LOT of them) put themselves in harm's way unnecessarily.