Monday, October 20, 2008


Our break had been finished for a couple of minutes when the Activation Phone rang on station.
"We've got a job for you - it's a transfer for a patient post cardiac arrest," said the dispatcher.
"Where's it going?" I asked.
"Dunno yet, the call's still in progress, but given the diagnosis I thought it best to get you running straight away."
"No problem," and we set off for the local hospital.

We were on one of the old white LDV ambulances because the nice Mercedes ambulance had developed a gearbox problem. There's not much room on LDVs at the best of times, and I knew it would be a squash in the back with me, a doctor and nurse, plus of course the patient, and all the monitors and syringe pumps that he'd be attached to.

The screen updated - he was undergoing Respiratory Weening* (initially it said respiratory whining - lol) and that he was going to a hospital about as far north-east of London as you can get - we were heading into the territory controlled by Mark on the north-east desk. My crewmate grumbled about having to drive all that way in the old truck and about having to lift the trolleybed. I couldn't blame her really - we were working in a heap of junk.

At the hospital, we had a little wait while the staff finished preparing the patient for the transfer. While we waited, I sent Mark a text telling him we were headed into his area, and would he kindly try not to use us when we greened up as we would be trying to get back to finish on time. He promised to keep an eye out for us and that he wouldn't use us unless it was absolutely necessary, like a cardiac arrest that we were right on top of.
As expected, our patient was attached to a wide variety of equipment, including a monitor, a ventilator, a couple of syringe pumps and a few other bits and pieces. Some of it would have to sit on the floor, so I knew I'd have to make sure everything I needed to do was done before we set off so that I wouldn't be falling over equipment trying to move around the ambulance whilst it was moving.

Our patient had suffered a cardiac arrest in the airport after arriving back in the UK from a holiday in the sun. He'd been successfully resuscitated and transferred to the local hospital, where they discovered he'd suffered a heart attack, where one of the arteries in the heart had become blocked. This had caused the cardiac arrest. He'd then been transferred to the hospital where we'd picked him up from, and he was now finally well enough to be transferred to the hospital closer to his home.

After a bit of a juggling act with wires, tubes and the other equipment, we loaded the patient onto the ambulance, connected the ventilator to the main oxygen supply on the ambulance, arranged the other equipment on the floor where it could be easily seen, the doctor sitting in the chair at the head end of the bed, the nurse in the side chair, and I settled in to the back seat. We set off on blue lights. Even on blues, it was going to take us about an hour. After about 50 mins, Mark sent me a text. "I can see you on the mapping screen!" he told me. It was a bit of a relief really - I had no idea where we were.

We finally reached the hospital. This is where after making our way from one end of London to the other, things started to go wrong. This is because some idiot decided to build the hospital in the middle of a shopping centre. Either that, or some idiot built a shopping centre around the hospital. Either way, we managed to get lost in the car parks, and had cars beeping at us as we floundered around trying to find the entrance to the hospital. Mark tried to help by giving directions - all of them in one text. "Go right, turn around, turn left, straight on," I read. I couldn't help but laugh. After what seemed an eternity, we found the entrance, and did the reverse juggle to get the patient off the ambulance. A porter lead us to ITU where we transferred the patient onto a bed, and the doctor did the handover.

After our long journey, we were delighted to find the staff were really friendly. A cup of tea was thrust into our hands, and we were invited to help ourselves from a packet of Wagon Wheels - I haven't eaten one of those for years!

We set off back to our own area - under advise, we returned via the M25. Just as we pulled out of the hospital however, the MDT rang with a job - a green call in Dagenham. My crewmate muttered. I waited....and sure enough, we got cancelled. "Thank you," I sent Mark.
"I couldn't resist teasing you with that," came the reply. Little sod!

We almost made it back, but as we got close to home, we were sent to a panic attack. It was a load of rubbish - the patient didn't want an ambulance - she suffers from panic attacks regularly, and knows how to get herself out of them, but a Police Community Support Officer (Plastic Police I call them, cos they have no real powers) had called us despite her begging them not to. We left her where she was to recover, and got back to station. We were only a few minutes late finishing.

Thanks Mark for ensuring we didn't get stuck in the north-east sector.

* Respiratory Weening - this is where a patient who is being ventilated is encouraged to start to breathe for himself again, with the ventilator still doing most of the breathing for him. The number of breaths per minute being delivered is gradually reduced until the patient is breathing fully for himself.

PS: Just a little tease - there's a cross-blog post with Beaker coming up soon


Blogger James said...

3 different hospitals and he was still on a vent!

11:27 pm  
Blogger James said...

3 different hospitals and still on a vent! Whats that all about.

11:30 pm  
Blogger Steve said...

I guess some people take longer to recover than others. Looks like he is going to make a full recovery though.

11:41 pm  
Anonymous Garnigal said...

Huh. I thought Wagon Wheels were a Canadian thing. I guess it's just something we've "borrowed" from Mother England. :)

10:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad that you and your new crewmate have struck up such good rapport, it makes such a difference to work with someone who respects and trusts you. When she has her grumbles and moans about stuff like long distance transfers it must cheer her up no end to think shes got you for the journey and your contacts in control to shepherd you both back to safety. Good Job!

12:57 pm  
Blogger Dr.Rutledge said...

Hi Steve,
I think your blog is great, and I would like to feature you in the Life as a Doc Community on the new
Wellsphere. We feature only the best health bloggers on our WellPages,
which are special pages that our Health Knowledge Engine crafts to give
our users answers to their health questions. We would feature you on all
the pages on topics that our knowledge engine finds are related to your
blog postings. Because we have over 2 million visitors each month (and we
are growing rapidly), you would benefit from an expanded audience for
your writings. If you would like us to feature you, send me an email to

Cheers, Geoff

10:54 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home