Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Late Off

Our shift was 0700 - 1500. It was a busy shift, but there hadn't been anything too taxing. We managed to get back to station at 1430 - half an hour to go.

Five minutes later, the activation phone rang. "We've got an urgent for you. You can choose between two," said the dispatcher.

Now if we're into the last hour of the shift, we can turn down an urgent, and it will be held either for a vehicle to come available at hospital, or for the next shift which was to start at 1500.

"We're off in 25 minutes," I said.
"No Problem, forget I called," and she hung up.

Lovely. Still a chance we could get off on time.

No such luck.

Five minutes later, the phone goes again. My crewmate said a rude word, and I said an even ruder one. We were going to be late off. I answered the phone again.

"Sorry love," said the dispatcher, "but we've got an amber call that we can't hold. It's a bloke that's fallen downstairs." We walked out to the truck, muttering not quite under our breaths, and off we went.

Now I've had my ambulance driving described before as "driving like you stole it". Happily, I'm not the only one who drives like that - my crewmate drives in exactly the same way. But this job, I have to admit, I drove like a loony. Hopefully it would all be minor injuries, we could get him on the back, nip him into hospital and not be much later off that half an hour.

We turned up, and found the chap laying on his back on the floor in the lounge. Good. If he managed to move himself, it might only be minor.

A lady on scene (his partner I think, but I'm not sure) said he'd come out of the toilet, tripped over the vaccuum cleaner cable, and fallen down the stairs. He'd staggered into the lounge and passed out where we found him.

Five weeks earlier, he'd had an accident and suffered a "smashed dislocation" of his shoulder.

Now his left arm was numb, he had neck and back pain, and he had pins and needles down most of his body.

Not only that, he was in so much pain, he kept tensing up, causing his back muscles to spasm.

Shit. This wasn't going to be a quick job after all. Never is when you want it to be.

My crewmate rang control to get HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) out to us primarily so a doctor could give him a muscle relaxant and strong pain killer, and also to advise us on further treatment.

While he was doing that, I went and fetched the scoop stretcher (a metal stretcher that can be split in half so we can put someone on it without moving them) and head blocks (to help keep his head still), neck collars, the suction unit (in case the patient vomited), the Lifepak 12 (to monitor his blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels, and ecg). I dumped it all on the trolley bed, and wheeled it to the front door.

Once back inside, my crewmate set about getting IV access ready for the HEMS doctor to give the pain killer and muscle relaxant, while I attached the monitoring equipment to him - putting ECG leads on his chest, the blood pressure cuff on his arm, and the finger probe on his finger to tell us how much oxygen he had in his blood.

Then we cut his clothes off so we could make sure there were no other injuries that we hadn't found yet.

We put the neck collar on to help stabilise his neck. We waited until now, because the collar gives better support if it is in contact with skin rather than being put on top of clothing.

We'd virtually done everything short of putting him on the scoop, and were almost twiddling our thumbs waiting for the doctor to arrive, when he did. He gave the patient some morphine, which both acts as a muscle relaxant, and is a very strong pain killer. Paramedics in London are about to be issued with morphine, but we haven't got it just yet.

The HEMS paramedic did an ultrasound on the patient's chest to check that neither of his lungs had collapsed, which they hadn't, then we put him on the scoop, first one side, then the other.

We were about to lift him to put him on the trolley when the doctor's phone rang. Another crew were requesting them, and it sounded a serious job - two people unconscious after falling through a glass roof. We assured the doctor we'd be fine now, and he left us.

We loaded the patient onto the ambulance, with the police carrying all our equipment (apparently they always turn out whenever the helicopter is called - it's a new protocol) and my crewmate's paramedic bag - it's bloody heavy - I'm sure he carries half the ambulance in it!

We put in a "blue call" (a pre-alert call) so the hospital could get the trauma team together ready for when we arrived, and took him in on blue lights.

By now it was 4 o'clock - already an hour late off. But for once it was worth it - it was a genuine job that actually required our skills.

By the time we'd finished clearing up, and restocking my crewmate's bag, left the hospital and got back to station, we were two hours late off.

My other half was going mad with worry because I was supposed to have picked her up at 4 o'clock, but I couldn't ring her to tell her because I'd left my phone at home. My crewmate rang her and told her as we left the hospital. She was fine once she knew.

The ambulance service is a good job - but not for clock watchers. We're quite often late off work, but it's not often we're as much as two hours late off.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll never beat my record, 4.5hrs!!

12:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog post, very informative - thanks!

12:59 am  
Blogger Merys said...

YOu know what, the more I read the more I'm looking forward to my next session of observation (if all goes to plan!)

4:13 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You cant put time on saving a life! Well done for doing your job properly!

8:28 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

think youll find that thing about refusing urgents is an urban myth. I checked this out before as it comes up a lot in control. sorry.

9:12 am  
Anonymous Stan said...

How could you arrive back at station at 1430? That's just poor planning. Why not sit it out somewhere?
Bet his injuries turned out to be negligible.
And you can't refuse urgents - only whites.
Get in the swing, pal, get in the swing.

9:22 am  
Anonymous Jennie said...

*Now I've had my ambulance driving described before as "driving like you stole it"*

I love the thought of that.

10:06 am  
Blogger Steve said...

Stan - greened up at 1410 hoping to get a job to see us off, but didn't get one.

And I stand corrected on the urgents - but I must say I've never had a problem with asking them to hold it before.

10:37 am  
Anonymous Stan said...

Oh, I see, fair enough, yes, that can happen to the best of us, I suppose.

What about a bogus running call? A dirty uniform? A bout of dysentery? An urgent domestic via your mobile? A lengthy re-fuel?

Unavailable, unavailable, unavailable. Just press the purple button. Ours is fairly worn out.

So, anyway, what injuries did matey sustain in the end?

11:39 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you get overtime, or time off when you finish late?

5:03 pm  
Blogger Steve said...

he had a lumbar vertebral compression injury, what looked like a cracked rib on the x-ray, and I think he'd re-broken his shoulder.

We get paid overtime at time and a half if we're late off.

As for the 4.5 hour record - you're welcome to that one! lol

6:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stan, nice to know that our taxes go towards funding something useful. I know everyone is entitled to a quick skive every now and then but there is such a thing as taking the piss.

Steve, well done for doing the right thing.

9:19 am  
Anonymous Stan said...

Hey, they're my taxes too, y'know.

11:22 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My record 11 was a nasty shift,


11:06 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

with the police carrying all our equipment (apparently they always turn out whenever the helicopter is called - it's a new protocol)

Its to stop people nicking the bird. hehe

Its for crowd control, the bird draw a big crowd of nosey people

6:44 pm  

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