All at Sea

Well, actually this was on a river, but give me some license.

I’m sitting in the First Aid Unit with NavyMan1, a couple of colleagues from my old Unit, a youth member and supervising adult from somewhere else in the county, and a local ambulance officer.

We’re all chatting about something or other, when the ambulance officer disappears to talk on his radio. He’s back in a minute and has a quick chat with my boss, who says:

“We have a job. DIB2 at ThisBar.”

My colleagues jump up, grab a kit and head off.

A minute later: “Another job. DIB again, at ThatBar.” ThatBar is just down the road from ThisBar, so they could be a duplicate call (in fact, it was), but you never know. NavyMan and I stand up, grab our gear (him a response bag, me an O2 set) and move out.

We move just that bit faster through the crowd than the first team, NavyMan forcing a way through with me following closely behind, and catch them up just as they reach ThisBar. With nobody standing outside to meet them, they head in to the building. NavyMan and I carry on to ThatBar.  Here, we find someone lounging on a table outside, who points us away from the bar, to the pontoon to our right. “They’re down there.” We turn around to see someone standing on the pontoon waving at us.

This is the point where I curse people who don’t give accurate information to call-takers. Heading back the way I’d just come, it’s my turn to force a route through the heaving throng. Few people argue with (or even notice…) a man in a hi-viz when they politely barge past (the Hi-Viz Effect for once working in my favour).

When we finally reach the patient, it’s blindingly obvious that she isn’t very well. Breathing rapidly, and clutching her chest, I ask her where the pain is. She replies that it is in her chest, jaw and arm. Oh, and the one in her chest is a crushing pain.


Without asking, NavyMan hands me the aspirin3, and a silently agree. She is displaying all the classic symptoms of a heart attack. While I instruct my patient to chew the tablet (much to her disgust4), he has a look around. There is no way we’re going to get a trolley cot down here, and a pontoon is hardly a safe place to use a carry chair. The next thing I hear is him making a priority call to Control on his radio, asking for an urgent ambulance and the boat to get her to it.

Satisfied that everything is going as well as is possible, I break out the oxygen. She suffers from COPD, so an oxygen mask is nothing new, and after a little fiddling with elastic, I have her comfortable. She starts feeling better straight away, which is gratifying, but she’s still not well by any measure.

Finally, after much to-ing and fro-ing between the sea of Hi-Viz that responded to my partner’s radio call and the harbour master, we finally get my patient on her way to the ambulance. I’m not insured to travel on the rigid-inflatable, so that’s the end of the job for me and NavyMan.

Or so I thought.

I barely get three steps from the scene before I get LittlePara (the Organisation Incident Officer of the day) debriefing me. I reel off my account of what happened, from beginning to end, and try to suppress the feeling of being second-guessed.

We finally we get back to the First Aid Unit only twenty minutes after having left. I sat down just in time, as the adrenaline chose that moment to wear off. For the next hour my hands, and my legs, wouldn’t stop shaking.


On the way home with LittlePara, I was pleased to hear that this patient was doing well in hospital. It turned out that, instead of a heart attack, the problem was an acute exacerbation of her COPD. However, LittlePara said that under the circumstances, he would have done exactly the same (had he not had his advanced paramedic skills), which made me feel better after the cross-examination early.

1 – A fellow student First Aider from another county. Who happens to be stunningly good-looking, really friendly… and straight… I sure know how to pick ’em…
2 – Oh how easily we all fall in to Death by Acronym…
3 – Standard treatment for a Heart Attack. It helps prevent the clots that cause them.
4 – Aspirin tastes disgusting, but chewing it gets it in to the bloodstream faster than swallowing it whole.


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About The WalkingPlasterDispenser

So who is the Walking Plaster Dispenser? Well, I'm a volunteer First Aider, working with a well-known First Aid charity to help out random people I've never met before (or, more usually, when) they hurt themselves. This typically involves walking briskly (never run...) around after people who are silly enough to do sports or some other suitably daft activity in their free time. In my spare time, I am a graduate engineer, working my way through a graduate scheme with a big engineering company.

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