Tag Archive | Ambulance

Time to do Something New

Nearly three years ago now, I responded to a plea for help from Mrs BigPara to help her get the local Youth Unit back on its feet again after their last leader abruptly left. I was a unit leader, disillusioned by the constant battles to get things done at my unit, looking for something new to do, but stuck in my role until Easter.

About four months later, after stepping down from my leader role, I transferred to the Youth Unit, and took on the secretary role. I learnt how to march, how to parade, how to stand up and hold the attention of ten to twenty 10-18 year olds. I built up my confidence, going from the timid helper with no clue about teaching, to a confident (ish) leader.

A year down the line I became the Leader, and worked hard to make the unit my own. It took time and energy, perhaps more than I should have spared from my degree, but it paid off. I had a full unit with young people who always made me proud.

And then I graduated from university, and got a real job as an engineer. Out of necessity, I moved from UniTown to BigCity, and the far side at that. Suddenly the unit I could get to without a problem became an hour’s train journey from home. And the easy cycle home became the risky game of ‘catch the last train’. I never got caught out, but some nights it got mighty close. I’ve had more than one mad rush from platform to platform to make my connection.

I stuck with it. I didn’t want to let the unit down.

A couple of months of this wore me out. Too many late nights and sleepy days at work. I still didn’t want to let them down, but I couldn’t carry on.

A little over a month ago, with lots of deliberation, and more than a little upset, I put in my notice. The end of the year, I said, and then no more.

It felt like a dive off a cliff. A load of stressing and building up courage, and then nothing. Free fall.

A month passed, making plans for the future. Doing my best to keep things going till I left, then smoothing over the join. Business as usual, to a point.

Then, all of a sudden, it was our last night. Our Christmas party. An excuse to do not a lot, and to socialize. I spent a lot of time getting the next leader sorted, then went to chat to the kids. I didn’t spend as much time with them as I should have, but I got a lot done. I hope that my work will have smoothed over the transfer.

And now I have a little work left over, and then done. A youth leader no more.

And it’s a bit strange. I fully expected a lurch as it all finished, a final thud as I hit the ground. Instead it just feels, well, finished, I suppose. After all the stress of handover, I’m done, and while I’m sad, it still feels almost right. I’ve played my part, built it up, and now it’s time to let someone else take it further.

And now I need to find something else to do. I’ve still got all the clinical work I do, the service delivery as it’s now named. I’ve become increasingly active as an ambulance crew. Also, part of me itches to take on a new management role. There is the rumor that there is a cycle response leadership role coming up, which has captured my attention. It’s still only a rumour, but if it does materialise, I am definitely going to think users about applying. After all I have grumbled about our past leadership, I think it’s time I put my money where my mouth is and actually put into practice what I have been preaching over the last 18 months.

I’ve also got a hundred other things I want to do, now I’ve hopefully got a little more flexibility in my schedule. I’ve not been able to get back into my music since I started being a leader in the Organisation. I’ve got my eye on a local wind band that may take me on, but I need to get back into practice first. I’ve got a year until I can properly settle back into something like that, so plenty of time to do some work…

I’m also looking into starting at the gym. I’m not in too bad shape, but I am now doing a desk job and don’t have a twenty-minute cycle commute anymore. I want to work on my strength a bit (I can’t really avoid lifting when doing ambulance work) and my general fitness, and this seems the best way for the moment.

How long it will all last remains to be seen, but it looks like a lot of new things for the New Year. These could be interesting times…

And, for no other reason than because I’m listening to it right now, I’ll leave you with Snow Patrol:

Perspective

Now I’ve been qualified to crew an ambulance for more than a year, I’m able to go out and do shifts for the ambulance service.  I’ve been hoping to do this for quite a while, but equally been a bit nervous, as I haven’t really got that much experience working in the back of an ambulance.

I’ve managed to get on three shifts so far, and to say they are have been eye-openers would be the understatement of the century.  Aside from the tedium of quite a large amount of time waiting for things to do (apparently everyone had q word shifts those days…), I got to see a few things I would have seen as a volunteer at events.

Two particular patients stuck in my mind.  I’ll be honest, I can’t remember their names, or their faces, but their stories, as I saw them, will remain with me for a long time.

One old lady.  She had a stroke a couple of years ago, leaving her paralysed down one side, weak on the other, unable to speak beyond ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and bed bound.  She needed round-the-clock care, had a catheter in-situ and was peg fed.  She was going into hospital because she had developed a wheeze (which was not a good sign, as it could potentially be pneumonia).

She was obviously loved and cared for.  Her daughters (not young themselves) spent a huge amount of time looking after her and making sure she was as healthy as they could manage.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this is no real quality of life.  I can’t imagine being stuck in bed for the rest of my life, never to care for myself again, never even to speak properly again.  Stuck in my head with no way of getting out.  It’s certainly not something I’d wish on anyone.

My other patient was a 90-something year old man, the last job of the day.  Living on his own, he had been highly active, right up until the last month or so.  He had been experiencing complete lethargy, loss of appetite  and a whole host of other generalised symptoms, and his doctor decided that he would need to go in to be checked over in the ward.  In the past he had been diagnosed with some cancer or another, and his children feared this was a return of that condition.

Even getting him to the ambulance wore him out, and transferring him to the ward drained him so much he was practically asleep when he hit his bed.

My crew-mate and I made him comfortable, made sure he had everything he needed, handed over to the ward’s nurses, and then walked slowly back to the ambulance.  The depression over us was almost palpable, and at almost the same moment we both said, “He’s not coming out again.”

Normally, I meet people who are generally healthy, and just need a little patching up to move on their way.  Okay, I’ve seen the odd person with a serious medical condition, and the occasionally seriously injured patient, but almost everyone I had dealt with before had very good prognoses.  On these two shifts, I saw what is likely to be the end times of their lives, something I will hopefully never have to see when delivering event cover.  I just hope I was able to make what could have been one of their final journeys as comfortable as possible.

Calling in the Cavalry

You are not well. In fact, it’s safe to say you are very unwell.

We are on both in the road, me sat, you lying, with my bike stood in a fend of position, blue lights beaming out a warning to all around. This is not a fun place to stay, but I’ve got no choice. You have just finished fitting for the second time in ten minutes, and I have no way of getting you somewhere safe without injuring one of us.

The person who flagged me down has wandered off, muttering something about leaving it to the professionals. This is a nuisance, as I could really do with another pair of hands. I have a coat under your head, a blanket draped over the rest of you (now you won’t strangle yourself with it), and my radio microphone in my hand. This is the bit I really want. Two fits in a row is not a great sign, and my instincts say your going to do it again. Somewhere on the way down you seem to have bashed your head, you have road rash on your bare legs and arms (it had been a hot day, a lovely time to go to the beach), and I haven’t even attempted to check you for anything else between fits. I really need help, and I really need it now.

The problem is, there’s nothing available. We have over half our local fleet on the road, and every one of them is busy. It’s so busy I can’t even start talking on the radio to give Control an update (and to try to get an ETA on that vehicle).

A gap forms in the radio chatter, and I draw a breath to start talking. Naturally, this is the moment you begin to fit again. Immediately the mic is dropped, the blanket is whipped away, and I check your head is still safe. Grabbing the mic on its upswing, I cut in on a pause in the current conversation.

“Priority, priority, Control 992.” I release the mic to hear someone talking over me. Blast. Keeping both eyes on my shaking patient, I try again. “Priority, priority, Control 992”

“All stations, wait. Priority call. Go ahead 992.”

“Control, upgrade my ambulance request to emergency. Patient unresponsive, actively convulsing, query status epilepticus.” I technically haven’t been on scene long enough to make that judgement, but every instinct I have says that these fits aren’t going to go away on their own.

“All received 992. Be advised, NHS vehicle en route. Please confirm precise location.” I give a little prayer to any passing deity, thanking them for shared ambulance control rooms.

“Location unchanged. Bike in fend off location, you can’t miss me.”

“All received 992. Control out.”

The radio conversation that had been going on before continued, and I mentally switched off to the radio, listening only for my call-sign. Once more you’ve stopped fitting, and once more I cover you with my blanket, pouring reassurances over you that you are safe and that help is on its way. I don’t know if you can hear me through the chaos the fits have reigned in your brain, but if nothing else it makes me feel better to do something.

In the distance I hear a siren. I’ve heard a few going to and fro, but this one is definitely getting nearer. It is the most welcome noise I’ve heard all evening, well, after the heavy sighs coming from you when I checked your breathing. The junction down the road fills with the glow of blue lights, and an RRV comes around the corner. Getting down close to you, to check your obs one more time, I speak to both myself and you. “This one’s yours, mate. The cavalry’s here.”

Sound effect from Freesound.org, by guitarguy1985, released under the Creative Commons 0 License.


A collage of a couple of my recent patients, inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Blogging.

What the Hell!

I was cycle responding at a music festival.  It’s crowded, there are lots of jobs, and my partner and I are responding right left and centre, 999 calls, shouts for backup, the works.

So after a couple of interesting jobs (which I may or may not post about later), we’re sent on to a 999 call to a collapse.  Full emergency conditions, which for us bikes means sirens, whistles (normally get us much more attention than a siren), blue lights if we have them (for all the minimal good they do) and dodging and weaving through people as quickly as we can (without hitting anyone).  We’re making good progress, given the crowd density, and most people are fairly willing to get out of our way.

I’m trying to keep an eye on everything around me, hunting out a route that will let me progress, and so not really concentrating on what’s happening behind me.  It’s a closed road, and we’re easily the fastest moving objects on it, so I’m not expecting anything that I’ve passed to affect me.

A bunch of people wonder in my way, and I can’t swing around them, so I stop briefly (I can impress one of my friends by  briefly holding my bike at a stop without falling off), giving them a blast of my whistle (which is loud enough to make my ears ring) and my siren (which is a little pathetic) and then pulled away as they jumped aside.  Almost immediately, I felt my bike swerve out underneath me, and I jumped off, trying to give my bike a graceful landing.

Turning around to get better leverage on the bike, I saw a girl holding on to my panniers, apparently helping me stabilise the bike.  With it back upright, I thanked her, turned back around, mounted up and tried to go.  And instantly feel my bike try to go out from under me again. This time I jumped off before it went, and swung around to find that girl still holding my panniers, laughing.

“Let go!”  She just laughed again.  “I said, let go.  I’m busy.”  She let go, but went to grab it again as I pushed my bike away.  “Grab it again and I’ll call the police!”  She continued to laugh, not saying anything, until some burly guy came out of the crowd, shouting at her as well.  I took that as my cue to move on, fast.

Now I’ve heard stories of people chucking things at ambulances, and prank calls, and all the other things that waste ambulance time, and I’ve had people deliberately get in my way, but this is a new one on me.  I still managed to catch up with my partner pretty quickly, the whole incident probably only lasted about a minute or so, but seriously, what the hell…  It was fairly obvious I was in a hurry (the blue light and siren was a bit of a hint), and the markings saying ‘Ambulance’ are hardly subtle…

I just don’t understand what would possess someone to do something like that which would knock me off of my bike, particularly when I could have been going to a very unwell person.

Opportunities

I’m about (but not straight away) to say something that probably makes me appear very selfish…

As a rule, I have in the past tended to be quite self-effacing (check definition) when it comes to being given opportunities.  To be more specific, if there are not enough places to get to an event,  I tend to be the sort of person who will offer up his place to another.  I like to do things that help other people out, even if it inconveniences or harms me.  On a number of occasions, this attitude has least that I have missed out on things that I particularly wanted to do, but there weren’t enough places.

We have a major duty coming up, the first of the season. As always, I said that I would prefer to cycle, but would do anything. Others have been less open-minded ( almost demanding that they be allowed to do whatever…)

As is probably to be expected from an organisation like this, we’re short-staffed. This means that people ( myself included) have been given roles that are less than ideal. Admittedly, I’m on a vehicle, which isn’t terrible, but I probably wont get anything, as is normal when I crew an ambulance… Nevertheless, I’m pretty nonplussed. I’ll do whatever is needed. I figure that at some point this might earn me brownie points, and besides, in my opinion it is the right thing to do…

Now it is possible that, at the last-minute, I’ll get reassigned to a bike. Its happened before, and rumor has it that it has been considered. Naturally, this hasn’t gone down well with some of the others. One person has even gone so far as to encourage me not to take my cycle uniform, so someone else can do it instead ( read: him).

Now I’m sorry. I appreciate that people are disappointed with their roles on the day. However, if I am given the opportunity to cycle, I’m jumping at it…  I don’t often get to ride a bike, and I am usually very willing to go wherever I am needed.  I see no reason to go against this, just because I’ve been offered a better position and someone else hasn’t.

Of cause, I’m far too tactful (read: timid) to actually challenge that other member on this.  I just let it lie, and of cause this probably means he’s assumed I’ve agreed with him.  It could be interesting if the situation actually comes up (though I doubt it).

Don’t Make Me Angry

It’s a schools rugby game.  Not a small one either, the final in the local schools league, which means everyone is taking it that much more seriously.

We’re over by the side, well out-of-the-way, but close enough that we can see and hear what’s happening on the pitch. The windows are all rolled down, and we’re just lounging in the cab of the ambulance, enjoying the sun and chatting about everything and anything.  In short, it’s shaping up as another Q word duty.

A loud yell.  A thud, two bodies against the floor, and a groan from the crowd.  Silence.  Must have been a nasty tackle.  We watch, waiting for the players to get up.  One does.  He’s a little scraped up, but nothing that’ll stop him playing.  He looks down at his dazed  competitor, offering a hand.  And freezing, his face dropping.  The crowd goes silent again, and then, through the breeze, “Medic!”

I slip through into the back of the truck while my crewmate jogs out to the pitch.  Grabbing the gases and the response bag, I scoot out of the back of the vehicle and walk over.  I’ve got all the kit, but there’s no need to rush.  My crewmate is in charge of this one, and he doesn’t look that flustered.  He certainly has yelled anything at me yet.

I can see from two meters off that our rugby player is in pain.  A lot of pain.  From a meter off I can see why.  His shoulder is most definitely out-of-place.  I look to my crewmate as I drop the kit down.  “What do you need?”

“We’re not going to get anything done here.  I think shuffle to the back of the vehicle and check things out in the peace and quiet.”

“Spinal?”

We both look at him craning around, looking at everything that is going on and the crowd forming around him.

“Probably not.”  We say together, and grin awkwardly.  We’ve been working together a while now, we know each other too well.

“Right, so entonox, scoop, cot?  Nah, scratch that, we can scoop him straight into the back, will be better on his shoulder.”  I eye up the terrain, nothing particularly challenging.  “So straps, anything else?”

“Sounds good.  Though, perhaps some crowd control?”  The last bit is quiet, for my ears only.

I look around at what looks like  both entire teams craning to see what is going on. “I’ll see what I can do.”  I stand up and start in a reasonable tone: “Alright guys, let’s have some space to work please.”  A couple of people shuffle back, but it appears that a dislocation is just too interesting to leave.  “Seriously guys, you aren’t helping.  Give us some room.”

Slowly everyone backs off, far enough at least to let me get out and bring the kit back.

Someone who looks distinctly like a coach steps in front of me, deliberately blocking my path.  “What’s going on?”

I ignore the obvious answer of we’re treating someone, going instead for “I’m just getting some equipment, then we’ll get our friend back there moved into our vehicle.”

“How long’s this going to take?”

“As long as it takes.  We need to be sure we don’t do any more damage.”

“Can’t you just put it back in and walk him off?  We have a game to finish here.”

“Only if you fancy explaining to his parents why he will never use his arm again.  Besides, you have three other pitches you can use, if you’re in a hurry.”  I know that I’m skating the edge of being rude, but you’re annoying me and I have a patient to look after.  He looks grumpy.  “Look, the sooner you let me get this kit, the sooner we’ll be out of your way.”  I don’t think that’s an appreciated comment, but at least he does move.

A brisk walk to the ambulance, a brief argument with the scoop stretcher, and then I’m on my way back with magic pain killing gas in one hand and jack of all trades lifting equipment in the other.  And yet again I’m facing a crowd, and this time I’ve got minimal patience left.  “GUYS!”  A single syllable projected across the entire field.  Even I’m a little stunned by the silence that rolls back.  “Move OUT of my way.  Give us room so that we can do our job.”  Youth Leader training kicks in.  Act assuming compliance.  I step forward purposefully and the crowd spreads out, dispersing before my eyes.  Recognise good behaviour.  “Thank you guys.”

My crewmate looks at me, eyes wide and jaw lowered.

“Close your mouth, you’ll catch something.”  The residual annoyance makes it a little more of a snap than I intended, but I soften it with a grin.

Our patient manages a strained laugh through the pain as my crewmates’ mouth snaps shut with a click.  He takes the entonox from me, apparently grateful for something to do to cover the confusion, and I start explaining the lift and shift process to our patient.  Once his pain has gone away a little (and he’s high enough not to care about what’s left), we scoop and scoot, and the rest of the job is a fairly routine transport.

As we’re packing up at the hospital, my crewmate looks at me over the cot we’re re-making.  “Are you okay?  You sounded pretty annoyed back there with the crowd.”

I shrug.  “That was just lack of patience.  You’ll know when I’m angry.”  He looks at me questioningly, and I just smile.

Ambulance Frustration

You’ve broken your arm, and you have my sympathy.  You were in quite a bit of pain, but the paramedic gave you a lot of nice drugs and you’re not feeling too shabby now.  You now need a trip to the local children’s hospital, not a short journey.

Because the paramedic has given you some drugs, the paramedic needs to come along.  Fair enough, one of the side effects of morphine is respiratory arrest, and so we need to have something like naloxone available just in case.  This isn’t a drug I can give, so the paramedic is needed.  Not a problem, we can take two in the back along with a patient.

Except, because you’re under 16, your mother also really needs to come along.  Again, this wouldn’t be a particular issue, if it was just you, and about a year ago it wouldn’t have been an issue even with the paramedic along (at least, not officially).

Unfortunately, someone cocked up the weighing of the vehicle, and we’re not really sure if the weight limit can take three people plus a patient in the back.  Counting a crew of two (driver and attendant), a patient, a parent and a paramedic, we’re over our limit, and only one person on the crew is expendable: the attendant.  Me.

Off my truck goes, and I’m left stood in the primary treatment centre, and I’m in a bit of a fix.  I can’t commit myself to a patient in the treatment centre, because I don’t know when my truck will be back and I’ll need to be available for that straight away.  I can’t transfer to another vehicle, this will leave someone else without a ride.  This leaves me unable to treat, unable to transport, and unable to really do anything.

My crew-mate eventually gets back, but it’s someone else’s turn to get a patient, and nothing else needs transporting.  We get a 999 call, which I could respond to, but it gets given to another crew (who’ve already dealt with and transported a patient) and they ignore us when my crew-mate and I ask them to swap.

Now I know this was just bad luck.  There wasn’t anything done that was unreasonable (though that last crew did annoy me), but that didn’t leave me any less frustrated.  I hadn’t seen a patient all weekend, and still haven’t seen any patient on an ambulance that has needed me to use my advanced skills, and given my continuing track record it’s going to be a long time before I do.  Combined with not being able to do NHS shifts any more, this leaves me wondering whether qualifying was actually worth the stress.

Of cause, this was then compounded by everyone else asking if I enjoyed my transport, and then overly lamenting when I tell them that I didn’t actually get to go on it.  Oh, and a Control officer going ‘had we known (which they did), we could have sorted something for you’, which irritated me, a lot.  Not to mention my friend going on and on and on about the people he’d treated that day, and not getting the hint that I had had a shit day and didn’t want to talk about it.

Still, I’ll probably be crewing during major duty season next year, so I might get something.

Or I might just get sat somewhere, bored out of my skull with an irritating crew mate.  Listening to everyone else being kept busy, and wishing I was out on a bike, getting to do something…

Hitting the Speed Bumps

English: Scottish Ambulance Service: mercedes ...

Image via Wikipedia

As an organisation (or, at least, in my part of the organisation), we are very keen at helping out the local ambulance service. By this I mean we will send out crews on ambulances (and occasionally on bikes) to help the service respond to 999 calls. Understandably, this could only be done by experienced members, and one of the criteria for the ambulance work was a certain number of hours third crewing on those shifts. This means working with two experienced members to build up some experience dealing with patients potentially more serious than anything I’ve ever dealt with before, which I’m strongly in favour of.  I don’t think I’d be happy going out on a shift without doing this first.

Unfortunately, since I qualified, it is no longer possible to third crew on any of our vehicles. Something to do with weight limits on the vehicles (which, given many of them are  transit vans modified into ambulances, not necessarily their original design role). This is very frustrating for me, as it means I can’t gain the experience needed to do NHS support.

To make matters worse, there are very few of us in this position (probably about 3 or 4), and so nobody at county level cares enough to do something about it. As far as they’re concerned, there are enough people to cover the shifts, and so there isn’t a problem.  This leaves me, and those few others, in a catch-22 situation: without having the needed experience, we aren’t able to gain the experience.

Needless to say, this is very frustrating.

A little while back, there was a possible solution. Our CRU lead sent us an email looking for interest in doing NHS cover on the bikes over Christmas. The roads get very busy in BigCity when everyone is doing their Christmas shopping, and the bikes can get around a lot easier than road ambulances. A load of us (apparently) applied, and it looked like it would go ahead. I even delayed heading home for Christmas around this.  A couple of us entertained the thought that this might count towards us getting some experience towards the ambulance work.

Of cause, it never happened. And we only found that out for certain a couple of days before the period was due to end. The reasons given was lack of  interest (yeah right), other duty commitments (*looks at depressingly empty duties book*) and lack of funding (*sigh*). Some of the more cynical amongst us suspect our useless County CRU lead is also to blame, but ho-hum.

All I’ve got to hope, in the nicest possible way to my patients, is that I get something interesting to do on the normal shift. Which, given my track record on a vehicle (nine or ten shifts, one patient transported for a minor injury) seems rather unlikely.  The only time I might have had an interesting job, someone kicked me off my truck (story to follow).

I think, as far as possible, I’ll try to stick with the bikes. At least on them I get something to do (and some useful exercise), giving me some experience treating, even if it’s not transporting someone…

My friend and I are already planning what out of county events we want to do.  Hopefully we’ll have a good yeah helping out our colleagues in the big city. At least there they know how well a bike unit can work…

Ambulance Excitement

An East of England Emergency Ambulance at West...

Image via Wikipedia

Okay, I’m really rather excited again.

First things first, it looks like I’ve passed the last bit of my ambulance crew training.  This means I’m now fully qualified to crew an ambulance (eep!) and transport an emergency patient (ahh!).  I have a year’s probation to complete, but that only limits who I can crew with (which doesn’t change anything, because I can’t drive).  Given the number of sleepless nights the course caused me, as well as how long I spent training, this is really good news.  It might mean I can’t cycle as much as I’d like to (which is sad 😦 ) but it will definitely open up a few new opportunities of events I can get to.

Second, I have just heard when I am getting my first duty on an ambulance: at the end of the week…  I qualified on Sunday…  In the upcoming three-day event, I am on an ambulance for two days (during which I’m almost certain to get something…) and am in charge of people on the remaining one.  This is even more scary.  I have never had actual responsibility at a major event. Well nothing more than “Keep an ear on the radio, I’m just going to the loo.”  Being in charge of about one-third of the foot patrols present is not something I’d expected to do, not least because I’d expected to spend most of the days as a foot patrol myself, or in a treatment centre at best.

So yes, life is getting interesting in the Organisation at the moment.

Oh, and try not to get injured if you’re attending a three-day event this weekend.  It might just be me taking you to A&E.

Well, try not to get injured anyway…

Cycle Response Run

We’re standing by outside the recruitment post.  Our bikes are attracting a lot of attention: a push bike with Ambulance blazoned across it is an unusual sight.

“992, 992 from Control.”

I turn away from the kids I’ve been explaining the bikes to.  “Go ahead Control.”

“Respond under emergency conditions to romeo-one-five.  Collapsed child.”

I peer at my map, matching up R15 to where I currently am.  Bloody hell, we’re the other side the city.  I turn to see my partner already mounting up.  To the kids: “Sorry guys, got to go.”  I jump on to my bike, kick the stand away, and push off.

My partner pulls off ahead, and I slip in behind him.  I was good, and left my bike in a low gear when I pulled up.  We accelerate away, shifting up the gears until we’re racing along the road at a respectable rate.

It’s dusk, the perfect time for visibility.  What’s left of the sunlight makes our fluorescent jackets glow, while it’s dark enough for the reflective strips shine in every light.  Nobody should fail to see us as we race past.

We’re in luck.  Most of the route is a closed road. We have the tarmac to ourselves.  We make good time, getting half way to the far side of the event to the other before we know it.

We’re getting to the busy part now.  Slowing down a little, we weave between clumps of people, earning a few glares as we take a turn faster than perhaps people would like.  We shift down, cutting out speed to safely navigate around the dawdling obstacles.

The crowd thickens.  The spaces between the groups narrow.  We start to lose speed, stuck behind people wandering along, not expecting two cyclists to try to barge their way through.

On goes my siren.  They sound a bit weird, too high-pitched, but they certainly grab people’s attention.  People turn and stare.  A path opens up in the crowd, and we regain a little of our lost momentum.

One group turn and stare.  We approach, weaving left and right, trying to find a way past.  My siren is still going full blast, and it’s joined by my partner’s electronic buzzer.  The harsh sound cuts across the sounds of the crowd, making people wince, but still they stand, staring at us like rabbits in our headlights.

We’ve slowed to a crawl, nowhere to go.  Frantically we wave at them. “Make a path!”

Comprehension dawns.  They dawdle out of our way, and we pull off again.  Finally, a clear path opens, the crowd finally getting the hint that the loud, horrible noise means ‘we’re in a hurry, get out of the way’, not ‘everyone stop and stare’.

We career around the last few corners, the road finally clear again. We almost reach a sprint as we close in on our destination. I’ve been listening in to the radio as much as I can, in the hope that we get stood down, or someone got their first. No such luck.

We skid to a halt at the mouth of the road, screeching disc brakes announcing our presence better than any siren. The road is short.  If anyone was collapsed there, we’d be able to see them.

My partner circles up and down the road, scouting the area, while I hold a slightly breathless conversation on the radio, confirming the location of the call. Control tries to call back the original caller, while we lean up against our bikes, catching our breath.

Eventually they stand us down. Apparently our ‘collapse’ had got back up again when his parent’s didn’t give him all the fuss he wanted.  Of cause, they hadn’t thought to stand us down.

We took the slow route back to the first aid post…

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