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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…



We’re at a street party. Not a lot’s happening, so you’ve come to see the ambulance car. It’s something new, something different, and most importantly has blue lights, bright colours and a siren. In short, it is exciting! You come bounding up, resigned parents in tow.

You go suddenly shy when you reach me, hiding behind your daddy and peering from the side if his legs. He looks at me and shrugs. ‘What can you do?’

I crouch down next to you, and smile, saying “Hello!”. You smile, a little, uncertain. “Do you want to see my ambulance?”

You peer up at Daddy, and he nods, and so you do.

“Come on then.” I put out a hand, flicking a look at Daddy to make sure he doesn’t mind, and you take my fingers. I can feel my partner’s eyes boring me in the back of my neck. I’m closely pushing what I am technically allowed to do under child protection regs, but I have parental permission and you can always leave if you want, so its fine.

We wander around the vehicle, having a peer at everything and anything. I put the lights on. That gets a grin. You have a look in the cab, sit in the driver’s seat. You’re having great fun, and when we’re done you go skipping over to Daddy.

Well, you try to. You get about half way when you trip over your shoe lace. Daddy, my colleague and I all lurch over to catch you, but we’re all too far away. Bump.  You look up and give us all a stunned look, not least because you’ve now got three people, two in bright yellow and green, looming over your head.  There is a bit of a lip wobble, but no tears yet.

Daddy and I crouch down and Daddy asks “Are you okay?”  You give a small nod, still a bit stunned.  He takes your hands and pull your back to your feet.  Your sleeve slips, and I spot an abrasion all along your lower arm.

“Shall I do something about that?”  I nod at the graze, and Daddy replies “Please.”

Together, we lead you back over to the car, and Daddy lifts you in the treatment area (aka the boot…).  As I rummage through my kit, digging out saline, swabs and dressings, you peer over my shoulder, and I talk you through everything I’m doing.  Daddy baulks when I mention the saline I’m going to clean your wound with. “He’ll never let you put that on it.”

Now I know saline is salt water, but the concentration is so low the most people don’t notice.  “I’m afraid I don’t have anything else.  How about we give it a go and see how we get on.”  Daddy shrugs, obviously saying ‘on your head be it’.  To you, “This may hurt a little, so I need you to be really brave.  Can you do that for me?”  You nod, gone all shy again.

Carefully, I clean your grazes.  I’m trying to get clothing fibres out of them, and I know from personal experience that this is most unpleasant.  I have my hand support your arm, and you don’t even flinch.  I see a little grimace from time to time, but otherwise you do really well.  I am definitely impressed.  I’ve had adults fidget and fuss more about this than you.

We’re done in minutes, and your up and about and dashing around as soon as you’ve hopped down from the car.  We spend a few minutes doing paperwork, and then we’re finished and you and your parents are off again.

I do love working with kids.


There’s likely to be a few more of these sort of posts in the near future.  Sorry about that, but my project (or more specifically, my project group) are seriously annoying me at the moment.  Hopefully I’ll get to go on duty soon and have something interesting to write about.)

Our supervisor has said that it would be a good idea for everyone to switch around their parts of the project, so they don’t get stuck in a rut while designing.  That’s fine, in principle, though possibly of questionable usefulness.  You’ve gone ahead with it, with everyone.

But you’ve not really thought this through.  You have forgotten that, for all of the last couple of weeks, people have made a big point of mentioning that they don’t understand half of what I’ve produced.  And I have made no secret of the fact that I’ve done no mechanical engineering for two years, and to call me rusty would be an understatement.  I am also down on the project cover as a Control Engineer.  And you want taking all of the control work away from me.

And then you act surprised when I dig my heels in.  I am not going to get very good marks if you hand me a mechanical engineering design to finalise.  If you hand my work to someone else, keeping in mind that I’m the only person in the group who had even heard of the technology I want to use before we started the project, and the only person who’s done any serious control theory, they are not going to get good marks.  You grumble because I’m being stubborn, and it can’t be that hard.  I point out that I’ve done two modules on control now, and I probably won’t find it easy.  For someone else, it’s going to be extremely hard.  You suggest that I could help.  I point out that I don’t really have the time to teach two modules worth of control theory to someone else, as well as writing my report on a subject I don’t really understand.

Thankfully, this is the point where you relent.  I have my section of the project back (and with it, my chance of getting a first), and you have to hand my bit to someone else.

Something tells me I’m not going to get rated high on my level of teamwork.  However, I have discovered that when I need to be, I can be enough of a pain in the arse to make you change your mind.  Excellent.

Yes, I Know You’re Fine

It’s the Sports Association’s Winter Ball.  Everyone’s a bit drunk, but mostly well behaved.  You’re not that bad, but you’ve had just enough to stumble and knock your head.

You’re fine.  You’ve got a bit of a sore head, but all the rest of our checks are clear.  You’ve not even got a lump.  I’m just finished off the checks, and you’re a little fed up.  “I’m fine.”

“Yes, we know.  This is just routine, just in case.”

I potter about a bit more with pen torches and other gadgets.

“I’m fine.”

“I know, I’m nearly finished.”

I start writing up, and have to ask for a load of details from you.

“I’m fine.”

“Look, Jane.  We now you’re fine.”  LittlePara (my partner for this expedition in the world of the drunk) interjects.   “But if you keep saying your fine like that, we’re going to start getting worried.  Please, just shut up, let us finish the paperwork, and you can be on your way.”

I give LittlePara a look.  I don’t really approve of telling patients to shut up, but I suppose if it works, I can’t complain too much.  I finish my questions, hand her a copy of the paperwork, and her friend a copy of our head injury instructions (just in case she isn’t fine).  “You’re fine. I suggest you go home, get some sleep, and you’ll feel better in the morning.”

“I’m…”  She starts

“I know.  That’s what I just said.”  Her friend grins.

“I think they got the message, Jane.”

How to Lose Your AAA Pass

You are an important person in the University, a Sabbatical Officer in fact.  It’s Freshers’ Week, you were involved in organising it, and you are pretty used to mostly getting your own way.  You’re also drunk, and have been issued an AAA Pass (AAA stands for Access All Areas).  This already is a bad combination.

I’m trying to treat one of the Freshers’ Crew (who are responsible for looking after the freshers in a specific area of campus accommodation).  He’s drunk, needs to sleep it all off, and I’m trying to gather enough information to arrange for him to get home.  He’s in his brightly coloured Crew top, so it’s fairly obvious that he’s a crew member, and I’m in my green and yellow hi-vis, so it’s pretty obvious I’m a medic.  It’s also very obvious that I’m treating you (or should be, to anyone vaguely sober).

“Is he alright?”  You come swaggering up.  “Bob?  You okay?”  (Yes, I know Bob is a very bad fake name!)

“He’ll be fine.  Are you his friend?”  I reply.

“Mmmwwaaa?”  Adds Bob.

“Are you okay Bob?”

“He’ll be fine.  He’s just drunk.”  I try to get your attention back to me.  “Do you know him?”

“He’s one of the crew members.  [As if the big words Freshers Crew on his T-Shirt wasn’t obvious enough].  What’s wrong?”

“He’s just drunk.  Are you friends?”

“No.  No.  He’s a crew member.”

I’m definitely getting the idea that you’re drunk now.  “Okay, in that case I need you to leave us some room, please go stand over there.”  I know there’s no point telling you to go away, but I hope I can send you far enough away that you leave out of boredom.  You standing right next to me is hardly good for patient confidentiality, particularly as you strike me the type to want to take photos, and anyway, I’ve always found that drunk + crowd = trouble.

“No, no.  That’s okay.  I want to make sure he’s okay.”

“Really, he’s going to be fine.  We’re just going to get him home, and he’ll sleep it off.  All he’ll have is a hangover tomorrow morning.  Please, just give us some space.”

“No, no. I want to make sure he’s okay.”

“Look.  There’s nothing you can do here.  Please, go away, you’re now getting in my way and preventing me from treating him.”

“I’m not going away.  I want to make sure he’s okay.”

I’m getting rather irritated now.  “Please.  Go away.  You are not helping, and I will have you removed if I have to.”

“Do you know who I am?  [I’m not making this up!]  I am a Sabb!  I have a triple-A!”

I’m now seething.  “Right.  And I have two.  [I do.  One as a First Aider, one as backstage crew.]  But that makes no difference.  I need you to go.  Now, before I call for security.”

“I can go where I like.  I’m a Sabb and I have a triple-A.”

“Right.”  I’ve had enough.  You have now held me up for too many minutes.  I might have had Bob on his way home by now, if you hadn’t turned up with your triple-A.  I turn my back on you, ensuring I’m standing between you and Bob, and get out my radio.  “Control, from 444 over.”

“Yeah, go ahead 444, over”

“Hi Control.  Can you send someone from security out to me.  I have a Sabb with a pass I need removing, over.”

“Err, say again 444, over.”

“I have a Sabb I need Security to remove for me please, over.”

“Err… All received 444.  They’ll be over in a minute, over.”

“Many thanks, 444 standing by.”

You haven’t heard what Control had to say, but what you get the gist from my side.  “How dare you!  I’m a Sabb!  I have a pass!  You can’t do this.”

Over your shoulder, I see the head of security (a diminutive Welsh lady best described as a force of nature), and her assistant manager (a bulky man twice her size) heading my way.  I nod at you, and they nod back.  “I already have.”  I turn back to Bob, who should have been the centre of my attention for the last few minutes.  Behind me I hear you being removed, and when I chance a look while moving around my patient, I see your AAA go in to one of their pockets.  Hopefully that’ll teach you not to but out next time when you are politely asked.

Needless to say, I had a lot of explaining to do once I got back to the First Aid post. I also got an apology from the Sabbs the next day, and even if I hadn’t, the look on your face when you had to hand over your AAA was well worth the aggro.


Beer Glass

Image by gcfairch, on Flickr (see Flickr page for license)

You’ve volunteered to look after freshers this week, and had a good night out with the house you’ve been allocated. In fact, it was such a good night that they didn’t notice that you didn’t come back from the toilets, and went home without you.

I get called to you twenty minutes after the event closes, while we’re packing up. ‘Patient, unresponsive in toilets.’  Perfect. Grabbing a kit from where it had been put away, I walk swiftly out to find you. I have a bit of confusion when I notice that the route to the toilets is far from obvious, but get to you eventually.

You’re sat on the toilet, your boxers around your ankles, body lying on your knees. When I open the toilet door, which opens towards you, it presses against your head, stopping me getting in. It also stops me lifting your head up to properly assess you.

I bend down to speak in your ear, a far from pleasant prospect considering that this is a chemical toilet block, the floor is covered with vomit, and I don’t think you’ve showered in the last couple of days. Yelling loud enough to make security jump, I try and coax a response out of you. Nothing. Hitting you firmly on the shoulders, in fact very nearly slapping you, I try to reach out to a more basic level of your consciousness.  Nope, you are indeed completely unresponsive.

You’re a big lad, and try as I might, I can’t get you sat up, not with the door in the way. With you like this, I can’t open your airway, and I can’t check that you’re breathing.  This is a problem.  I can’t even slip around the door so that I am in the cubicle with you.  I’m just grateful that the door isn’t locked.

I have only one choice.  Turning to the biggest member of security I can see, I ask him to break the door down. Indicating which way I need it to come, I stand back, and he takes great pleasure in forcing the door the wrong way.  Outside I can see campus security eyeing up the door. They’ll be getting your name, assuming you are sensible enough to give it, and I hope you get sent the bill.

The crash of the door seems enough to wake you up, though you aren’t impressed. Twice you try to swat me away, but you’re moving so slow I can easily dodge. Besides, you don’t seem to be seeing straight, and only stay upright while I hold you.  You are definitely in no fit state to go home tonight, and I’m not happy loading you on to the vomit comet for the easy ride to A&E (the vomit comet is an SU run minibus that takes all our minor injuries to hospital, saving on ambulances).

Up comes the local ambulance service, the crew not impressed that they’re having to pick up a drunk. I don’t blame them. I have no sympathy for you either, but we all know that it’s the safest thing to do. The last thing we need is for you to roll over in your sleep, vomit, and then drown in your own stomach contents.  Once we’ve got the basic details out of you, we leave you in the care of the ambulance.

You’ll probably get put on fluids, rehydrated, and have no hangover the next day. You may even go for a repeat tomorrow.  However, tonight at least you and your liver are safe from further harm.  Perhaps you’ll learn. Can’t say I’m too hopeful…


If anyone has glanced at the side bar to the right, they’ll have noticed a new icon has appeared:

NaNoWriMo 2010 Participant

This year I’m going to be taking part in the NaNoWriMo challenge.  I will be trying to write a 50000 word novel in a month (click the image for more info).

I tried last year, and ended up getting left desperately behind. Hopefully, accepting this challenge in public may encourage me to try harder this time.

I’ll have to wait and see.

Unhelpful Friend

I’ve been responded to a man collapsed in the street, and spot you staggering away. A helpful bystander points at you and tells me that you are the person I’m looking for. You continue your weaving way down the pavement, effing and blinding as you hunt for the person who knocked you down.

Before I can even say a word, you’re friend spots me and my partner approaching. He forcibly grabs and leads you to me. I quickly look you up and down. You’ve obviously been knocked about, have a lovely black eye developing, abrasions on your knuckles, a bad attitude and an electronic tag to match.

In an instant I decide that you aren’t particularly child friendly, and while your friend and I lead you to the First Aid unit, I have my partner call ahead to advise the youth member supervisor on the Unit that she and her charge may wish to go on a patrol. Right now. (The young man must have been at least 14, but that’s not the point. Our officer in charge of youth members on duty would have strung me up if I hadn’t done this. Sorry mate.)

So we get you in to the now empty post, and take a proper look at you. You are still arguing with your friend, because you don’t want to be here. In fact, all you want to do is start another fight. In the confined space, I can now smell the alcohol on your breath, and a quick light shine in your eyes shows the slow reacting pupils of the drunk.

You tell my colleague you’ve drunk two litres of cider. He miss-hears you and starts to right two pints. I point this out to him, and he takes a double-take. Two litres is a stupid amount alcohol, about 11 units. Binge drinking in the UK is defined at about 8 units tops for a male. Oh, and it must only be about 11:00.

I do your pupil response again, because something’s bugging me. I might be imagining it, and it might be because your response is so slow, but they don’t look quite equal to me.

I’ve made my decision. I want you to go in to hospital to get checked out. My partner agrees, and so does the ambulance officer who has just poked his head around the corner. There is no way we can rule out a major head injury in this post.

But you don’t want to know. You just want to go, and the only thing keeping you here is your friend’s hand on your arm. I try to calm you both down, and explain what I want to do. You aren’t listening. Your friend is telling me to ignore you. I’m not allowed to do that, so I keep trying to persuade you. You and your friend are getting louder and louder, and eventually security come in and remove your friend.

In the new peace and quiet, we three medics try to persuade you that you really want to go to hospital. We think we’re getting somewhere, until your friend bursts back in. You immediately continue start protesting about being there, and demanding where the person who hit you is.

Eventually, we give up, get you to sign the decline part of the paperwork, allow security to help you out.

Personally, I think we would have got somewhere, if your friend, who thought he was helping, hadn’t got in the way. I just hope you weren’t seriously injured.

Punched Chat Up

“Hello. My name’s ****, one of ****’s colleagues. I’m just going to shine this light in to your eyes, is that okay?”

“Umm… Sure.”

“Okay. Just hold still for a moment.” … “No, keep your eyes open for me.” … “Just look straight ahead, that’s it.”

“****, you have very beautiful eyes.”

*Blink* *Blink* *Blink*

“Uh… Thank you.”

It takes a second for me to realise that I’m being chatted up by some bloke, who has not only been hit around the head so hard that he can’t remember the incident, but is also so drunk the alcohol is practically crystallising out of his breath.

I turn to my colleague. His face is carefully blank, but I can see his chest twitching as he tries not to laugh. Over his shoulder I notice the rest of our teams conspicuous absence.

It’s going to be a while before I’m allowed to forget this.

Stand Clear!


“No. Keep trying.”

“It’s charging.”

“There’s no output.”

“It’ll work. Keep going.”

“Okay, stand clear.”

<Clunk clunk clunk>

“Okay, it’s charging again.”

“There’s still no output.”

“Are those contacts on properly?”

“I’ll do them again, two secs.”



“How’s that?”

“We have something! Try again.”

“Okay, charging… Stand clear.”

<Clunk clunk clunk>

“Again. Stand clear.”

<Clunk clunk… Brrrrrrrrrrrrr>

“It’s alive!”

When we got to our vehicle, it was dead, the battery completely flat. Cue much fiddling with a boost starter, trying to jump-start this huge truck, and many attempts to start the engine.  After about six goes we noticed there was a load of rubbish around the battery contacts, and so I had a play, trying to get a decent contact. It started straight away the next time.

We joked about having to defibrillate the bus for the rest of the night, to the general amusement of the first aid post staff.

Yes, we’re sad…

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