This is a timeline of a typical dayshift I worked last week. It developed into a longer blog than normal for me.
I arrived at work. My mate, Tony arrived pretty much at the same time. The station we are based at is in a pretty rough area. We are allowed to put our cars in the garage as there is a high risk of them being vandalised while we are out and about on emergencies if left out on the street. We walked into the mess room and I made straight for the kitchen to put my food in the fridge and more importantly make coffee! The night shift had already arrived back on station and were pleased to see us. They handed over the radios and Pat, the paramedic I was taking over from gave me the key to the safe in which the controlled drugs are stored. We chatted about their night shift and they started to get their belongings together to get home to bed and a well earned sleep. Tony and I drank our coffee while we contemplated the 12 hours ahead of us.
Time to sign on. We carried our personal equipment onto the ambulance. We take it in turns to drive – Tony and I usually swap half way through the shift. This morning Tony was driving first. I got into my side of the ambulance and put our staff numbers in the data pad in the cab. When I pressed ‘send’ this told our dispatcher who we were and that we had signed on for the shift. Our dispatcher called us up on the radio to say good morning and check we had all our equipment and were ready to go. While I had a brief chat Tony had started the engine, put all the lights on and was walking around the vehicle making sure that they were all working and that the tyres all looked ok. In an ideal world we would be given time to check equipment in the back of the ambulance, restock any consumable equipment we were running low on and check and sign for the drugs and the controlled drugs. However….
The first job of the day was passed. An 86 year old lady had fallen in her bedroom; her elderly husband had made the call because she was unable to get herself up. It was fairly local so we were there in minutes. I got the First Response Bag from the side door of the ambulance. This is a (heavy!) rucksack which has all the equipment we need to assess and start treating just about any emergency. Mr J was waiting at the door for us and he pointed up the stairs. “She’s up there lads, don’t think she’s hurt, but I can’t lift her.” We found Mrs J lying on the floor next to her bed; Mr J had covered her with the quilt to keep her warm while she was on the floor. After checking her, there was no sign of injury and from her baseline observations no sign of illness. She said that she had not fainted or felt unwell, just lost her balance while getting up from bed. We helped her up and she was able to walk down the stairs as normal. There was no need to take Mrs J to hospital or arrange a doctor’s appointment. I rang her son to let him know what had happened and then, with Mrs J’s permission I passed her details onto the local falls team, a multi-disciplinary team who would visit Mr and Mrs J with a view to giving advice to prevent further falls.
09:30 I cleared the job, making us available again for the next emergency.
We were passed details of a 13 year old boy who was unwell with stomach pains. We arrived and were shown into the front room where Toby was curled up on the sofa hugging a bowl. He had vomited twice while waiting for us. From the history and his presentation the most likely diagnosis was appendicitis. We needed to take him the hospital for assessment and possible operation. Appendicitis is difficult to diagnose with absolute certainty. Toby would be seen by the Emergency Department (ED) doctor and referred on to a surgical specialist. Even the surgeon would not know for certain, they operate if the “index of suspicion” is high that it is appendicitis. We dropped Toby and his mum off at the ED and took the chance to make a cheeky coffee to take out to the ambulance while we checked and signed the drugs check sheet.
10:30 I cleared the job.
The next job was passed, a 93 year old gent who had fallen in the night and his carer called us because he “wasn’t himself”. We arrived to find Albert sitting in his chair. His morning carer had visited and was about to leave as we arrived. He was annoyed that his carer had called us, he didn’t like fuss. There was no sign of injury from his fall and he was able to walk with no problem since his fall, which he said was just down to being half asleep when he got up in the night to go to the bathroom. His baseline observations were all normal. There was no need to go to the ED. Once we told him this he brightened up and started to talk. He was feeling low because he didn’t want to leave the house he had lived in for 50 years and was scared that we would take him away and that would be it. I reassured him that we were all there to help him and to keep him well so he could carry on living in his own house. He agreed that I could phone his grandson who he was close to and Tony made him a cup of tea while I did this. His grandson agreed to call round with fish and chips after he had finished at work. I suggested that Albert made an appointment with his GP (GP = General Practitioner: the doctor who looks after us in the community and co-ordinates our health care) for a general check up and review of his medication, which they agreed to do. I also passed his details to the falls team – we were keeping them busy this morning!
11:58 I cleared the job.
11:58 We were told to Return to Base (RTB) for meal.
We set off back to station but two minutes later…
We were passed another job (dinner would just have to wait!). This was in the next town, a 27 year old female who was 30 weeks pregnant and was passing blood with abdominal pain. We arrived and the family met us at the door. They had phoned the local maternity unit (MU) and they had said to come in. We helped Safira onto the ambulance and her mum then after quickly assessing her baseline observations set off to the MU. They were obviously subdued on the journey in and didn’t want to chat so after getting the essential details I needed I let them have peace. We cleared at the MU and this time we would have to be allowed back for a break because we had been out more than 6 hours. Sometimes ‘Health and Safety’ works in our favor.
13:20 RTB for meal.
13:35 Arrived on station and demolished our packed lunches. Sometimes I pick up a take away but generally prefer to bring a packed meal. Meal break is 30 minutes long and when we have been out longer than 6 hours cannot be disturbed by control.
Right on cue, the next job was passed to us. It was my turn to drive. We were given a 55 year old man who was in severe abdominal pain. We walked into his flat to meet Joe. Joe admitted he was alcohol dependant (we guessed by the empty cider bottles next to the sofa). He suffered with chronic pancreatitis as a result, and the pain had flared up this morning. This is a long term condition where the pancreas is damaged, in Joe’s case by many years of daily drinking cider. Joe had taken his usual amount of cider this morning (it can be dangerous for an alcohol dependant to suddenly stop drinking) but the pain was not subsiding. We helped him onto the ambulance, checked his observations and I cannulated him and gave some morphine. This dulled his pain and we took him to the local ED. We raided the ED staffroom for a cheeky coffee and a few biscuits.
15:20 Tony cleared the job.
The next job was waiting for us, the jobs were stacking up in control now and this had waited 50 minutes before an ambulance was available to allocate. It was a 25 year old male who had cerebral palsy, development problems and epilepsy. He lived in an adapted house with 24 hour care support to enable him to live as independently as possible. Jamey had had a seizure. The care staff were concerned that the seizure had been triggered because Jamie had an underlying chest infection and had contacted Jamie’s GP to arrange a check up. The GP had insisted an ambulance was needed. We checked Jamie’s observations. We worked slowly and got the carer to help keep Jamie calm as we explained each test as we did it. Jamie had fully recovered from his seizure by now and was back to his normal self. There was no need to take Jamie from his secure, familiar house to a noisy, busy ED, so Tony convinced the GP service that Jamie was safe to stay home and wait for a doctor to start treatment for a chest infection. (This sounds straightforward but actually is frustratingly time consuming: we make a phone call to one of the GP services we use and give the basic details to a call taker. We then wait for A GP to ring us back to discuss the case. This can be up to an hour later. Then, during the daytime office hours the GP will often ring the patient’s own GP (we’re not supposed to do this directly ourselves – don’t ask!) Then our GP will ring us back with a decision).
17:10 We cleared the job. We were over due our second rest break of the shift, 20 minutes this time, but control asked if we would take a look at a child involved in an RTC they had no ambulances available to cover.
We were passed the job, a 14 year old girl who had been struck by a car. The girl’s friends had made the call and were hysterical so our call taker had no idea of any injuries. We arrived at the scene and were relieved to see everyone was on their feet – no one was lying on the road – a good start to the job! Chelsea had been checking Facebook on her phone and had stepped out into the road. A car had managed to almost stop in time but had connected at low speed with Chelsea’s right leg, knocking her to the ground. She had managed to avoid banging her head and jumped up immediately. She was more upset that she had dropped her phone and the screen was smashed. We got her onto the ambulance and checked her over. We were happy from the mechanism and from the examination that there was no spinal injury. She had some bruising to her right thigh and bruising and a cut to her left elbow where it had hit the road. As we were checking Chelsea we heard raised, worried voices approaching – mum was here. Chelsea’s friends had rung her mum as well as phoning for the ambulance. With a loud hammering on the ambulance door mum arrived. I opened the door to let her in and calm her down as Tony was getting some details from Chelsea. When mum saw that Chelsea was basically ok she burst into tears of relief then started shouting at her and threatened to kill her for the worry she had caused. I asked her to wait until after 7 o’clock before she killed her because that was when we went off duty. That lightened the mood. We took Chelsea and her mum to the ED to get her elbow x-rayed and the cut closed.
18:35 We cleared the job and were RTB’d for our belated rest break. At least it meant we would finish on time.
18:45 We arrived back on station, for the second time since we left at 07:04 this morning. We took our gear off and I grabbed a mop to give the floor a clean as Tony got a few things from stores that needed restocking.
The night crew arrived and we handed the vehicle, radios and controlled drugs keys over to them.
1900 Time to go home. Quite rare to finish on time, normally we are still on a job when finish time comes around and we obviously have to finish the job before we can go home.
Time now to relax until 07:00 tomorrow when we get to do it all again.