After my day with an ambulance crew a couple of weeks ago, I took the chance to also go out with a paramedic in his car for a day. Another early start and I arrived at the ambulance station in Maidstone just after 6.30am. I was allocated to Richard, who was to be my mentor for the day. Richard is a veteran and has been in the ambulance service for 32 years. The paramedics work together with the ambulance crews, who are mainly clinical technicians. Paramedics have more training and can carry out more procedures on patients than the technicians, in the same way that the technicians can do a great deal more than us lowly community first responders.
After a short wait our first call was to an old people’s home, where an elderly lady possibly had a stroke. I cannot remember much about the journey to the home, as it was my first experience of being in the front of a car with a blue light flashing and siren wailing. I was terrified. It had been quite different sitting in the back of an ambulance with limited vision of the road. We seemed to approach the backs of cars at breakneck speed, only for them to get out of the way at the very last minute. Richard however, assured me that the paramedic cars are fitted with very good brakes, ABS and all the latest technology. He told me that he had only three road accidents in all his years of driving both privately and in the ambulance service, although the most recent accident was only two weeks previously. I heaved a sigh of relief when we arrived at our destination. The ambulance had already arrived and we were there as a back up. A decision was made to take the lady to hospital and so we left the ambulance crew to take her there.
On the way back to base we were ordered to a case involving a heavy nosebleed. Blue lights and sirens again and this time I noticed how some motorists just froze. Our next patient was a 72-year-old male, who was sitting on the bathroom floor holding his nose. By the time we arrived the bleeding had stopped. Whilst his wife made us a drink, he was given a complete check up with blood pressure, temperature, etc. One of the first things, as with all patients, was to find out what medication he was taking and his medical history. It transpired that he was allergic to several medications and was advised to wear a medallion or bracelet with that information. Richard did not deem it necessary for him to go to hospital but told him to contact the ambulance service if the bleeding started again.
We were then given the choice of going to the Medway towns or to Ashford. Richard was adamant that he did not want to go to Medway so we set off on the M20 at normal driving speed. A few yards from the motorway exit we were ordered to return to Maidstone and position the car at the White Rabbit pub to await the next call. This was not long in coming. An elderly lady was reported to be in a state of confusion at her home. She was sitting in a chair with a duvet that she kept pulling on and off and was not responding to anyone talking to her. She had fallen and hit her head the day before but seemed to be all right when the ambulance crew saw her and so they left her at home. It was now decided to have her taken to hospital by the back-up ambulance.
At this point we were given permission to return to base for a welcome lunch break. After a short rest we were on our way again, this time to a 5 year old, who had been found in the playground having epileptic fits. We made our way to the school and arrived in six minutes (well within the eight minutes set for a red alert call), only to find that we had been directed to the junior school instead of the infant school. Luckily they were not far apart but when we arrived the fits had ceased. The mother, alerted by the school staff, was soon on the scene and said that her daughter had a history of epileptic fits but had not had a fit for nearly a year. The ambulance arrived shortly after we did and took both the child and the mother to hospital.
After another stop at the White Rabbit we were called to a pub in Maidstone, where a large group of elderly ladies were enjoying a Christmas dinner together. One of the party, a 91-year-old lady, was unconscious. She apparently often went into a state of unconsciousness for a minute or two but when she had not recovered after 10 minutes a 999 call was made. She was taken into the back-up ambulance and given oxygen and soon came around but it was decided to take her to hospital for a proper check-up. A pity as she missed some very appetising looking profiteroles.
We now had a quick visit back to base for a cup of tea/coffee before we were given instructions by control to make our way to Tunbridge Wells and wait there. I had visions of my last third manning, when we spent a long time battling our way through the rush hour traffic and eventually arrived back at base nearly two hours after the end of the shift. However, as we were making our way out of Maidstone the next call came through. The police had reported an incident in the main pedestrian shopping area in the centre of Maidstone. A lady had fallen and hurt her nose and cheek. Richard thought that she might have broken her cheek. He advised that she should go to hospital for an X-ray as a broken cheek, if left, could heal incorrectly. She had already called her husband and he soon arrived by car and agreed to take her to A&E.
The next call was to another old people’s home, where an elderly lady had fallen and cut her head. The cut head was not such a worry to Richard as her medical history. She had Alzheimer’s and was also suffering from bleeding and discharge from the vagina. She had never allowed anyone to examine her. Her main concern was that she did not want to go to hospital but after being told she would be back at the home as soon as possible she agreed to go and was taken to the waiting ambulance.
It was now about 6pm and Richard’s shift had only one hour to go. Hopefully we would not be sent on a long distance mission. However, the next call was again local. An elderly man was having heart problems. When we arrived it appeared that he had been taking his blood pressure at regular intervals and it was rising. He had called his doctor, who had in turn called for an ambulance. Although the blood pressure was going down when we arrived, he lived alone and so an ambulance took him off to hospital for further tests. A neighbour informed the son and also said he would look after the house. Our job there being finished we again made our way back to the station arriving about 6.30pm. Richard still had half an hour to wait, although with luck the person taking over from him would be arriving before then. I did not want to take the chance of another late finish and decided to make my way home.
Richard was very helpful and gave me lots of tips. As with my day on the ambulance I found the whole experience very interesting and worthwhile. Once again I have nothing but admiration for the members of the ambulance service, who do a very good job with little commendation. I certainly learned a lot and now feel a lot more confident at taking on the role of a community first responder.