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…
- Cycle Response (walkingplasterdispenser.wordpress.com)
- Cycle Response Training – Part 2 (walkingplasterdispenser.wordpress.com)
- Cycle Response Training – Part 1 (walkingplasterdispenser.wordpress.com)
- Four new cycle paramedics trained for Great Yarmouth (bbc.co.uk)
Okay, I’m possibly a little excited. Actually, scratch that, I’m acting like a kid on Christmas morning.
The last parts of my cycle responder uniform turned up this morning. This is (and yes, I say it again) extremely exciting.
I’ve wanted to join the cycle responders for years now. The first time I tried to get on the course, it was cancelled two days before. The next time, after I’d spent some quality time with the cycle response policy, I didn’t think I had a hope of meeting the fitness requirement. That, and the high price for the uniform, I nearly gave up on it.
Somehow I persuaded myself I could do it. Somehow, we’d raise the money. Somehow, I’d pass the fitness test.
And I did it. I passed the tests. I am planning fundraising with a fellow responder.
This just left waiting for the uniform. It’s special purpose uniform, so doesn’t get ordered often, and usually has a long lead time. I fully anticipated having to miss some events because I didn’t have the right uniform.
It’s now here. All of it, in its hi-visibility yellow glory. Now I feel like a proper cycle responder.
And just in time. My first event is in just over a week and a half from now. I can’t wait!
This sounds a little sad, but it feels like a dream come true. I never thought I’d get to do this. This is so much more important to me than the upcoming ambulance aid course I’ve been invited to. True I might be able to go around in an ambulance soon, but I can go out on a bike now.
So yes. A little excited, I think.
I’ve dealt with little kids with quite serious (though not life-threatening) injuries. I’ve treated patients with chest pains and irregular heart rhythms and ones who think they’re going to die and ones that fall asleep and I think they’re going to die. I’ve had arguments with young people, nearly lost youth members in massive crowds, and had a number of other heart racing situations when they’ve been around. Every time, as soon as the adrenaline has worn off, I’ve just shrugged and got on with things. I’ve felt tired, frustrated, irritated, and even downright angry after treating, but nothing that has ever lasted after I’ve signed out and headed home (well, except the tired, but hey, I work hard on duty… well, most of the time).
This happened nearly a year ago now, and I wrote most of this post at least six months ago. It’s been sitting in my drafts box ever since, and now, I feel that it’s about time I brush it off and actually post it. Youth problems always hit me hard. I genuinely care about the young people in my charge, be they patients, members of the organisation, or just that lost boy who came up to me in the street (a story for later, perhaps). (Without trying to sound defensive, don’t take this the wrong way. I care about their welfare, nothing more. And I really dislike that society is such that I feel the need to point this out.) There is a reason I am considering training to be a Paediatric nurse. However, I don’t normally have a problem putting this aside either.
This, however, was a step beyond.
It looked like a simple patient. I was technically off duty (everyone else had gone home, and I was only there because I’d bought some snacks from the local shop) and spotted a woman, with a couple of kids, who was probably just rather drunk. At first assessment it seemed to be a simple case of sitting with the three of them, trying to keep the mother uninjured and the kids occupied, until someone came to pick them all up. Then a report to our Safeguarding Officer to flag a concern, just in case this is a regular occurrence, and I’m done.
Instead, to cut a long story short, it turned in to a walk half way across the city, following this woman as she staggered and weaved home, chucked abuse at me for following her, and a protracted conversation with a police call taker while we walked. Throughout all of this, I believe I maintained a suitably professional image to all concerned (well, everyone sober enough to make a valid judgement), even when she left her kids in the middle of the road to challenge me for following her (I hasten to add that I chose that moment to also stand in the middle of this road, so that cars would at least hit me in my bright yellow hi-vis, before it hit the kids. And before anyone says anything, I know my safety is supposed to come first. There are some things you have to do…).
Much as I would have liked to, I have no power to remove the children from parents, even for their own safety. Following this tottering woman, until the police arrived, was my only option. If the same circumstances came up again, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again, even knowing the final result.
So yes, it was a worrying incident, but it was dealt with as swiftly as possible (my goodness! What a run around trying to get me, the police and woman in the same vague location), properly reported, and throughout I was calm, controlled and confident. I even managed to make my verbal Child Protection report without a problem (as the police were involved and I had already spoken to them, an official written report would only be needed if the police needed a statement).
That is, however, until I started walking home. I was taking the long way, mainly to avoid the crowd that I’d attracted during the walk about. Nobody was being threatening (in fact, quite the opposite, they were completely understanding and a couple even a little grateful). I didn’t even get a quarter of the way up my hill before the shakes set in, shortly followed by the tears.
Any driver who happened to be paying attention to the pavement would have seen a man in a medical Hi-Viz, perched on someone’s step, looking in a right state.
Thankfully I have a good group of friends in the Organisation, many of whom are very willing to spend ages with a slightly hysterical guy immediately after a long duty. I must have sat on that step for a good 45 minutes getting everything aired, repeating myself over and over, and taking up this good friend’s precious time.
To this day, I’m still not entirely sure what about this particularly got to me. Yes it was high-stress, but so was the patient probably having a heart attack, or the one on the boat in the harbour. If I’m honest, I’ve never really closely examined the situation in order to work it out. It’s not exactly an experience I want to relive. It’s hardly a moment to be overly proud of.
So I choose not to focus on it. I got over it, eventually. And, when it mattered, I held it together. It might have been only just long enough, but it was long enough. And that I think I can be proud of.
I call it the hi-viz effect. It comes in three parts:
Font of all Knowledge
Putting on the garment instantly conveys the wearer with every bit of information known to man.
Or so the general public thinks. It seems the yellow coat makes you an instant target for questions such as: where are the toilets, where’s the exit, when does this start and where am I again. Admittedly the last one is more of a concern for me, but you get the idea.
I Thought You Worked Here
The wearer of the garment is, despite any current or previous employment, instantly an unpaid employee for whatever establishment they are currently in.
A corollary of this is that the wearer also instantly becomes a police officer, doctor and paramedic, despite current and past qualifications, convictions or career choices. The number of times I’ve been approached like this… If only getting a real job was so easy.
Cloak of Invisibility
The wearer of the garment is instantly rendered completely invisible to anyone who does not require their attention.
There is a huge crowd, and somewhere in the centre someone has gone down. It’s come in as a collapse, so it could be anything from a trip, through a simple faint, all the way to a cardiac arrest. We need to get there promptly, so we can work out what support they’ll need.
Except there’s still that huge crowd. And no matter how politely (or not) we ask, people just won’t move out of our way. It takes us fifteen minutes to get on scene, along what is normally a three-minute trip…
Here’s a hint to people in such crowds: if you see someone in green and florescent yellow heading towards you, asking everyone to make way, please MAKE WAY! At the very least, don’t stare pointed over their shoulder and stay rooted to the floor…
Testing the Effect
If you want to see this for yourself, volunteer as a first aider at the busiest event you can find, ensuring it is a large area event where it is difficult to find things. Oh, and make sure you go to a supermarket or similar to get some food first, and arrive in the city by train.
Sounds like a standard big duty for me…