Thursday, 24 December 2009

Holiday Handover

Due to an incapacitated MrsInsomniac, and an overworked and ever more underslept Insomniac, I have been extremely lax in promoting the latest Handover Carnival. It has been expertly and brilliantly hosted over at Ambulance Driver's site, and I thank him for including one of my posts along with so many other terrific pieces. In the spirit of AD's musings, I wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Prayers Answered?

Conversations with patients and their relatives often turn to the weird and wonderful whilst waiting, ever longer, on scene for an ambulance. Ambulances are scarce at the best of times, but especially at this time of the year.

There's an absurd fascination in this wintry weather with attempting to stand on that frozen stuff on the ground and see if it really is slippery, and really does make you fall over, and really makes you break your arm/leg/hip. Let me help. It is. It does. It will do. So unless you absolutely have to - don't. Enjoy the view from the window, hot chocolate in hand, heating all around. Don't get me wrong - I fully understand, appreciate and endorse the need for building snowmen. And snowwomen, if you prefer. But stay off the ice! (The publication of this blog has been delayed due to MrsInsomniac doing precisely the opposite...)

Anyway - I digress.

Marik was one of those I'd term the "Worried well". He bought himself a blood pressure machine, just in case. And he had an hour-long head-ache, so he checked his blood pressure, which was fine.

Which worried him. So he took it again. And it went up.

Which worried him more.

So he took it again, and up it went, and he panicked. A little.

He spoke to the doctor on the phone who told him he was having a CVA, or stroke. Thanks Doc.

Well, that was it. Full scale panic. The FRU (aka clock-stopper), was sent, with the promise of an ambulance as soon as one became available. It may be a while. A history was taken, observations checked and found to be in perfect order, advice was given, and a request to be taken to hospital made. For various reasons I was unhappy about taking him in the FRU, so we'd have to wait for the snow/ice/leaves-on-the-track delayed ambulance to arrive and convey.
Whilst passing the time of day, I have a good look around the room and check out all the books. I have a bad habit of doing that, as it gives me a very good clue as to who the people in front of me are. I find that you can learn a lot from books, and not necessarily just by reading them. I see books on all the sciences, especially physics and maths. Books about stars, planets, discovery, the world, and its place in the universe.
Then I see bibles. Dozens of them, in a dozen languages. Shelves of them, 3 books deep, each shelf holding one of the languages. I'm a little surprised. Not at the fact that there is a bible in the house, but at the sheer volume and variety. I'm forced into a corner. I try not to show my curiosity/nosiness or whatever you want to call it, but on the other hand, I have to ask.
"Do you sell bibles for a living?"
"Well, in a way, I guess you could call it that."
"OK. What do you mean?"
"As you ask, I have to be honest. I don't like to tell everyone, but I'm a Prophet of the Lord!"
Now, how do you respond to such a statement? I want to say "A What???" or "Are you sure???" or, probably less appropriately, I want to shout "What the hell are you on about???" I didn't say any of them. I was much more profound.
"Oh", I said. For good measure, I think I even added an "I see".
Then he went on to talk about how he uses his knowledge of science to help him spread the word of God, help him understand, help him make the world a better place. He told me how he received his information, how he knew what to teach. He told me about the messages he received. They were the equivalent of the Twitter Direct Messages. @Prophet. @God. Cool. Wish I had that sort of inside information.
I also wondered if he'd been sent to help out an old friend of mine. I wonder if his prayers have finally been answered.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Someone, Somewhere...

...has been paying attention to what the workforce on the frontline has been saying for ages. You never know, we may actually have been right!

I know, it's not all as straightforward and simple as we'd like, but there has to be talk about the system. It isn't some sort of sacred cow that can't be criticised, and should be open to debate, investigation, and change.

Here's hoping.

Shock Tactics

It's a change in behaviour that we need to aim at the younger, grass-roots members of society.

Before they start exhibiting that behaviour.

Maybe, just maybe, this is one way of doing it.

Good Luck.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Dear All,
I have been toying for some time with the idea of blocking anonymous comments on the blog. Whilst I want to encourage conversation, I find it difficult to respond when, for example on the last post, there are FIVE anonymous comments. And then debate begins between them. So, in order to not turn away those who wish to hide, I haven't blocked them. Yet. But...
I'm now starting to moderate every comment that comes in, and every comment that doesn't arrive with at least initials at the bottom of it, be they real or even fake initials, will be rejected. You can use nicknames, daft names, real names, whatever (within reason please), but you must use at least some form of identification.
In the meantime, please keep reading, commenting, and debating.
Thank you!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Sim's Card

All around, festive lights are flickering. On trees, in windows, in truck cabs and shops. Some windows have candles alight. It seems that everyone needs some extra light at such a dark time of the year. The short days bring only temporary respite from the long nights. Even then they're merely a dim glimmer of hope, the cloudy skies preventing the sun from breaking through and showering some of its warmth. For so many, this time of year, far from being a time of joy and family gatherings, is a time of loneliness, fear, and heartbreak.

Having never before had the need to break into a house, I found it a difficult decision to make. It had always been the police's job to break doors down. This time they had no units to send, and the report I'd been given was one of a child, possibly a baby, crying continuously. The call had come from a concerned neighbour, who'd heard crying when they went out for the evening, and had returned hours later to still hear the same noise. There were no lights on in the house.

As we arrived (I was in the FRU (fast response unit), but had an observer -a nurse turned medical student- with me for the night), we could hear the whimpers through the letter box. We called, yelled, banged on the door, rang the bell, all to no avail. No lights came on, no curtains twitched, no movement. Throwing caution to the wind and cursing Health and Safety rules, I looked at Beth, my observer, told her she never saw a thing, and broke the door down with two swings of an oxygen cylinder. Note for future reference - they make damned good battering rams.

The first light switch clicked ominously like an empty rifle. No flash of light, just an echoing click. The second did the same. As did the third. I went back to the car and found a torch, and carried that and the newly redefined oxygen cylinder as self-defence. Just in case. I had a quick look up and saw that none of the light fittings had any bulbs in them. We searched every room, and tried to follow the sound of the cries. It was like trying to find the end of a rainbow. Every time we thought we'd pinpointed it, it seemed to move, and we started wondering if we were actually chasing a cat rather than a baby. Ominously, after a few minutes, the noise stopped.

Having found nothing downstairs, other than a framed photograph of a soldier standing proudly in dress uniform, we started up the stairs, a double flight, with a small landing half way up. The darkness seemed even heavier here, the torchlight making minimal difference. In the dull glare of the torch I checked the first set of stairs, skipped the landing, and looked directly upwards. My heart rate doubled and I could feel the sweat starting to build as the adrenaline pumped itself round my slightly terrified system. I still don't know why I kept going, rather than waiting for back up, either in the form of another ambulance or the police. Stupidity rather than bravery, I assure you. Reaching the top of the first flight, and stepping on to the landing, I tripped over a boot, and yelled in fright. The boot was attached to Sim.

Sim looked like a ghost, a pale, almost skeletal ghost, hands nothing but skin and bone, terrified, wild, bloodshot eyes sunk deep into his head. He was cowering in the corner, legs folded up into his chest. Then the tears streamed, and the all-too-familiar cry that we'd heard from outside returned. Sim was no baby, or child. He was a fully grown man, looking decades older than the mid-30s that he was, a shadow of what he probably used to be.

He wouldn't, maybe couldn't, talk for a long while. I'd informed control that we'd found him, that there was no child involved, and they in return told me that they had no ambulance to send, and that the police would be at least an hour as well. Beth and I were ready for a long stay, unsure of what to expect. We asked questions, made statements, promised help, if only he would talk to us. Beth tried to put an arm around his shoulders, a gesture that at first he repelled, horrified, but then accepted with a look of desperation. Sim cried into her shoulder for a full ten minutes, before at last regaining some composure, and whispering a barely audible "Sorry".

We talked some more, Beth and I, while Sim would only answer by nodding or shaking his head. There were intermittent sobs, long silences while we searched for the right questions to give us the answers we needed. The photo downstairs eventually registered in the recesses of my mind, and I realised that this shadow was once that same proud soldier.

"Is that you? In the photo downstairs?"

A nod of the head confirmed my suspicions.

"I was a soldier once. Miss it too! Miss the friends, the closeness, the action. Would go back tomorrow if I could." I told him a little of where I was, what I'd done, what I'd seen, and what it meant to me. Slowly, the tears dried.

For the first time, Sim looked me in the eye. I'd found it. The connection we needed. And then he talked. For the next 20 minutes, uninterrupted, he talked, and we listened. About the Army, about his life without it, about the injury he'd received that meant he could no longer serve his country. He spoke of the nightmares he has, the flashbacks, the friends he'd lost. He told us that the Army was not only his life, but his friends, his family, his support. He cried about being jealous of his friends who were still serving, how they couldn't visit him while they were away on a deployment. How he was left all alone, now that they'd been away for three months. He had no food, no electricity, no money, and not a soul in the world to turn to. He couldn't bring himself to leave the house, the thought of the outside world terrifying him. Tonight was the night he was going to end it all, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He sat on the landing and cried for hours, until we arrived.

We talked some more about how we could get him some help, and reluctantly he'd agreed to try. He'd come to the hospital, talk to the doctors, the crisis team, the social workers. He made no promises about succeeding, but at least he'd give it a go. "At least I'll try to get to see one more Christmas."

Weeks later, and after a few days off, I returned to station for my next shift to find a card and an almost empty box of chocolates, just sat on the table. I looked in the card, expecting to see another "Merry Christmas" or "Happy New Year" message from a grateful member of the public, or maybe even from our management. Happens sometimes. Instead, it had two sentences inside.

"Thank You for understanding and saving my life. From one ex-soldier to another".

Sim's chocolates were gone.

Sim's card is still safe.

Hopefully, Sim is too.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


Smashed glass.
Fuel all over the place.
Unconscious, probably drunk driver.
Lots and lots of bystanders who all come rushing out.
I'm always amused by the fact that when attending the scene of a serious RTA, as this one was, there are people who still insist on waving frantically to show the ambulance where to go. I mean, do you really think I can't see the upside down car with the steam pouring out of it? I know, I know they're only trying to help, so I shouldn't really complain, but still. It's weird.
One of the bystanders, we'll call him GD (the reasons will become clear shortly), comes over to tell me proudly that he and one other person dragged / assisted the driver out of the upside-down car, and after a few seconds of drunken yelling and thrashing about, he collapsed into an unconscious heap, where I found him.
GD then stands watching me and talking to me as if I'm his best friend. I complete an initial assessment, sort out a collar, some oxygen, do some basic obs, and assess for any immediately life-threatening injuries. None are apparent. Had he not have been drunk, this would never have happened, but the fact that he was, probably saved his life. Ironic really.
The whole of the local fire department turn up, and look sorely disappointed when the car wasn't on fire as had been originally reported. Apparently. They're closely followed by the ambulance. We package our drunk friend, who's starting to come round a little. Frankly, it was easier when he was unconscious and wasn't claiming to be one of several Hollywood heroes whilst fighting everybody off.
The ambulance leaves, and as I start my paperwork, I'm left watching the fire brigade turn the car back onto its wheels and then sweep up the mess. A voice behind me startles me a little, and I turn round to see GD standing there, proud as a peacock. "You don't remember me, do you?," he says. "You were at my house six weeks ago!"
I search the recesses of my brain but in the chaos can't place him at all. He must have seen the blank look on my face. "You were at my house", he adds, "for something completely different. Just as messy, though. Don't you remember? You delivered my... "
"Grandson!" we both said, simultaneously.
I'd delivered his grandson not two months previous, in the house right by the scene of the crash. I knew the house looked familiar.
"Don't you remember? I floated round the house yelling to everyone on the street: I'm a GrandDad! I'm a GrandDad!"
Cue huge grin.
Oh yes, GD. I do remember.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Ever Before

She holds her eldest child close.

Closer than ever before.

Her sobs are pained and silent.

Quieter than ever before.

She needs him as he needs her.

More than ever before.

They've said goodbye to the baby.

They'd not said it ever before.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Used and Abused

With apologies to, well, everyone. You really probably shouldn't read this either on a full stomach or an empty one. It's 3 in the morning, and I can't sleep. Again. And I can't use work as my excuse this time. The news is showing endless loops of drunks in public places, private parties, and excruciatingly humiliating themselves. It's led to some sort of worrying muse. However - I have to say, hats off to the boys and girls who man (sorry) the Booze Bus. I don't know how you do it.

The Season has begun.
You know what must be done.
You must go to the office do,
And start off at a run.

To drink all that you can,
Will show you're such a man.
It's just the greatest thing to do,
From pint, to glass to can.

You'll vomit like a tap,
Wake up and feel crap.
Won't remember a single thing,
Was it worth it, dear chap?

No connection - brain to feet,
You'll fall down in the street.
They'll call for you an ambulance,
That has someone else to treat.

You really couldn't care,
Whether it should be there.
The ambulance is there for you,
So your vomit you can share.

We'll cart you in the back,
You'll shower us with flack.
Both words and stomach contents,
A hurtling attack.

You'll wake in A&E,
Desperate for a wee,
And do it in the cubicle,
"The bog's too far for me!"

That's how you'll end your night,
In bright fluorescent light.
A black mark on your record,
And your friends nowhere in sight.

And the crew that you abused?
They're feeling somewhat bruised.
We really have much better things,
For which we should be used.

Thursday, 3 December 2009


I like swings.

And roundabouts.

And slides.

But I don't like swings.

So please don't take one at me. I won't take to it kindly.

Thank you.