Why I wear a Remembrance Day poppy

This blog post has no ambulance anecdotes in it; this is what the symbolic meaning of the remembrance poppy is to me.

The poppy was first used in 1921 as a symbol to commemorate the fallen military in the First World War. It was inspired by the war poem ‘In Flanders Field” by Lt Col John McCrae.  Since then it has come to be a symbol of remembrance of military fallen in every conflict including and since the First World War.

Some see it as a political statement and a measure of patriotism, some as a glorification of war and others even as a racist slur.  To me it’s none of these.  I certainly don’t glorify war – I wish we as a species could at long last ‘grow up’ and accept differences, tolerate other viewpoints and all get on and love and help each other.  John Lennon summed it up for me in his masterpiece ‘imagine’.  End of rant.

I wear a poppy to remember and honour my great uncle Saville.

Saville was born in 1899 in a small Yorkshire town, Northowram.  He joined the army in 1915, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer.  Some stories have been passed down through the family and one of my favourites is about how Saville and his colleagues dealt with wounds.  If a wound was bleeding and they were struggling to stop the bleeding one trick they found to increase the pressure was to place a dressing on the wound then place a small stone, or even once a potato on the wound then strap a bandage around it – the stone would increase the pressure to stop the bleeding.  Coming back to the 21st century, one type of trauma dressing we use has a plastic pressure bar insert (with a projection shaped like a small potato!) to be strapped over a wound to increase pressure and help stop bleeding.  It always makes me smile to myself because I think that my uncle and his friends invented this gadget!

Saville was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during a particularly fierce battle making several sorties out into no-man’s land to fetch wounded soldiers back to safety.  Tragically he was killed on the first of October 1918 – just weeks before the end of the war.  A shell exploded above him while he was on his way to pick up some wounded soldiers and a fragment of shell casing struck him in the chest, killing him instantly.  His mother, my great grandmother, never got over her grief at losing her son.

This is just one tragic story out of the hundreds of millions of casualties in the 20th century wars but it is very personal to me.  I obviously never met my great uncle but I would love to talk to him and hope that he would be pleased I’m a modern day stretcher bearer.

That’s what the poppy means to me and that’s why I wear it.

My blogging journey so far.

I’ve been blogging now for 5 months.  Here is a short blog with some thoughts about my experience so far.  There are no ambulance anecdotes in this one.

The first point is that I love the process of writing. For years I have been a fan of keeping a journal.  I agree with the experts that writing things down is a great way to get things straight in your mind and help you get things in perspective. I even love daily to-do lists – I find these a good way of de-cluttering my mind and ensuring I don’t forget things.  I love the feeling when a new idea pops into my mind for a blog article – I generally do a mind-map type sketch to get down the points I want to include and get a rough idea of the order to get them in.  Then I sit down to write – often the blog takes off in its own direction and doesn’t follow the plan.  I did wonder at first if I would dry up and run out of ideas to write about, hopefully that won’t happen.

At first I was very nervous when it came to pushing the publish button.  What if people hated what I wrote or thought it was boring? Worse still, what if nobody read it?  Thankfully I have found that the WordPress community seem very friendly and supportive.

I love the stats function on WordPress.  The day I publish a blog and a couple of days after I love to see that it has been viewed.  It’s fascinating to see that people have viewed my writing from faraway places around the world.  The ‘likes’ and comments are also very exciting to receive.

It’s very interesting to read other people’s blogs – I’m getting a great insight into lots of different subjects.  Mental health is a particular interest of mine, the open and honest accounts written by WordPress bloggers are very brave and insightful.  In my daily practice as a paramedic these insights help me to help my patients more effectively and also be a better mental health advocate for my colleagues.

I write with the pen name (should that be keyboard name in this digital age?) of RustySiren, Rusty for short.  A few but not many people know who I am.  This may come across as a bit cowardly and maybe it is but there are several reasons I decided to do it this way:

  • If I wrote with my real name it would be obvious to my colleagues who some of the colleagues mentioned in some of my anecdotes are and I want to avoid embarrassment for them.
  • My employer has a very strict view on social media and any form of publication. I always maintain patient confidentiality and always talk about patients with compassion and respect but my employer would probably disapprove of some of the anecdotes being made public and would probably want to edit and approve them before publication.
  • Although I respect my colleagues and patients I don’t always respect some of the direction and decisions of my employer and I want to feel free to express my opinions.
  • I am learning to become a mental health advocate for my colleagues (This is the excellent charity enabling me: mind.org.uk/bluelight). I would never ever blog about any colleague who is struggling with mental health but would not want to compromise my ability to help by a workmate by them fearing that they may be the subject of my blogs.
  • I find it easier to express my feelings by using a keyboard name (okay, this one is a bit cowardly I know but I’m still working on being able to talk freely about feelings). This includes me being able to talk about the job which caused me to become depressed and my journey out of depression (that job is described here – if I can get the link to work).

 

 

Lastly, did I mention that I love to write?

Letter to younger me

This is a different type of blog to the ones I usually do.  No anecdotes from the back of the ambulance.  It is a letter back in time to my younger self.  When I was younger I used to worry a lot, about everything.  A random event could set my mind racing and dwelling on all manner of future disasters.  I found a way to calm my mind by writing a journal.  Today I found an old journal and flicked through a few pages.  This letter is to the younger me who wrote that journal.

Dear younger me,

There’s no need to worry.  Every single thing you worried about worked out ok.  Either it didn’t happen at all or it did happen yet it wasn’t half as bad as you thought and you managed to cope.  In fact, some of the disasters you worried about turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.

We spent and still spend lots of time with family, and we didn’t drift apart like you worried, in fact we just get closer.  When you’re with family, in fact whatever you are doing, really focus and concentrate on what’s happening; this is how to make lots of great memories.  Some of the simplest things are the best memories.   Time has really flown and now the kids are adults. We had such a great time as they were growing and now they’re adults we are still having a great time making lots of memories.

Don’t fear being alone.  At various times I’ve been alone and nothing bad happened.  In fact I’ve learned to love time on my own.  I love the time to read, relax and be creative; I find it calming and peaceful.  Now I’m with someone it’s because I truly want to be with them and I’m not with them just because of fear of being alone.

Trust your instincts. Every choice you agonised about and just went with your instinct turned out to be the right choice.  That instinct of yours is pretty well tuned – I trust it now.

The bad times pass.  Always.  Some of the stuff you faced is painful, no denying it.  When you have done everything possible to remove the painful thing but it’s still there, well, these are the things you just have to accept.  The pain is real and can be intense.  Resisting and wishing that the pain isn’t there or that things were different or feeling resentful makes the pain feel worse. Just accept it, keep breathing and trust me, it passes.  It passes more quickly when you accept it and don’t try to resist it.  I would say don’t be afraid to let it out and cry but I still can’t do that.  I would also say talk more to the people who care for you about things on your mind but I still find that hard too, I’m working on that at the moment.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help handling things in the bad times.  You’ve handled things fine on your own and got through but it may have been easier with help and opening up about things.  I’m still working on that one too here and now!

Maybe I’ll get a letter from an older me and he’ll say I/we/you’ve finally managed it.

That’s about all I’ve got to say for now.  Things are good here and now, very good.  Stop worrying!

With love…

Mental well being

Hello.  It’s a lovely, sunny, Friday morning – just before a bank holiday weekend.  The sort of day that has us all feeling great, full of energy and excited and glad to be alive.  Right?

Unfortunately for many people, even a lovely Friday morning does not bring with it feelings of well being.  The Rusty Siren Statistics Department has researched a few unsettling facts and figures:

7.8% of the UK population satisfy the criteria for diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety.  That’s approximately 468,000,066 people in the UK who won’t be enjoying this lovely exhilarating Friday feeling.

In 2015 (most recent stats I could find) in the UK, 6188 people took the irreversible step of death by suicide.

Specifically to the UK Ambulance service, 91% of staff has admitted to experiencing stress and low mood.  91% of us. That’s such a high number it surprised me so I had to say it twice,   and that is just the ones who admit to it, the true percentage is probably even higher.

The effects fan out through the population, every ‘statistic’ above is a person.  People have families, friends and people who love and care about them (I hope!).  Obviously all these people also will experience a lowering of mood and increase of anxiety as they see the ones they love suffering.

What’s the answer?   There’s no simple, straightforward answer, I wish there was.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide then immediately go to your local hospital Emergency Department for an emergency assessment by the mental health team.

If depressed or anxious but not thinking of suicide then get an appointment with your GP as soon as possible to discuss a plan.  Meanwhile find the people you can trust and have a good talk with them about what is bothering you.  If you find it hard to talk to people (I know what that’s like, I find it nearly impossible!) then a good first step is to write it all down in a private journal.  Writing it down is an excellent way of clearing your mind and sorting your feelings out, then if you still find it hard to talk to your trusted friend you could start by getting them to read what you’ve written to start the conversation.

In an ideal world, once you’ve seen your GP you will be on a tailored plan to help you deal with your feelings and find a way to process them to get you back to a state where you can enjoy life and function once more.  Unfortunately we’re not there yet so it may be necessary to take steps yourself to get help.  Lots of resources are available on-line, two good sites to start off with are:

www.mind.org.uk

www.samaritans.org

Specifically for emergency service workers:

www.mind.org.uk/bluelight

These sites and the resources they link to suggest ways to improve mental well being and provide mental well being tips.

The most important thing is to be able to talk about mental health, and to finally obliterate the residual stigma associated with mental health.  Mental health problems are NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS!  The help is available we must all be willing to ask for it when we need it.

I wish you all a happy and safe weekend.

 

Top 10 types of work colleague.

I’ve written this about working on an emergency ambulance where two people are in close proximity, sometimes in high pressure situations, for the length of the shift.  These are not in any particular order, just the order I think of them.  I call some of them Mr…, to avoid literary clumsiness please assume this could equally be Mrs… or Ms… – No sexism on this site.  Any of my mates who think they recognize themselves here, that’s purely intentional!  I love you all.

 

  1. The regular mate. Someone you work with most of the time and possibly have for a long time.  Familiar and safe, you probably spend more time with this person than your spouse.
  2. Mr Well-Connected. This mate spends a large part of the shift telling you about meetings and conferences he goes to and drops the name of the chief executive, Head of service and various other high-up people in the service he’s been chatting with.  Be nice to this one! He’ll probably be the boss soon.
  3. Mr ‘I-did-this-job-once’. Starts most conversations with the phrase ‘I did this job once.. .’   Good for practicing the art of not listening while appearing interested – a vital skill for anyone in a long term relationship.  To achieve mastery of this skill you still have to be able to make relevant comments or answer questions at any point even though not listening.
  4. Mr Transferred-from-another-area. Starts most conversations with the phrase ‘In *________* we did it like this…’  Normally implies that we are a backward service who gets most things wrong.  Often wonder why this mate transferred here.
  5. Mr Feeder. A mate who has a large bag of sweets and is happy to share them.  One of my favourites.  Only occasionally though, I have to think of my waistline and blood sugar levels at my age.
  6. Mr Sleepy. I can identify with this mate.  Lots of coffee required to get through the shift.
  7. Mr Newly-qualified. Still coming to terms with a head full of theoretical knowledge and applying it in practice.  Even with the clinical placements that student paramedics have during their education finally being accountable and responsible in the real world is daunting.
  8. Mr Smoke-and-a-brew-after-every-job. Just to clarify by brew I mean tea/coffee and not beer!  Although a non-smoker I do sympathise with the nicotine craving, and I do enjoy a leisurely approach to life, I think it is vital for your stress levels.  These days though all our times, including the time we take to clear after each job is carefully monitored and presented to us at regular intervals.  This mate can make my times take a dip.
  9. Mr Lacking-confidence-after-something-has gone-wrong. When my regular mate is off I am sometimes given a mate who is returning from a low place.  I seem to be able to help restore confidence.  I think this is because I was not a confident young man.  I remember well my struggles when I first started.  I had got to the stage of wondering why the hell I had come into this job and was seriously considering leaving.  I was rota’d on for a shift with a trainer I’d never worked with before.  I can still remember that shift even 20 years later and the help and advice he gave me.  That one shift turned things round for me.  Now I try and help staff as much as I was helped and pass on the advice I was given.
  10. Mr Social Media. The annoying mate who spends all shift posting and chatting on various social media sites.  Probably annoying because they are so much more popular than me!!

One great tip to boost confidence

Most of my early life I suffered with low self confidence. What does self confidence mean? To me it is the same thing as self doubt, doubting my own judgments and ability.  Not in all areas, mainly social situations where I had to interact with people I didn’t know.  Why, you might wonder, did I contemplate changing career into probably one of the most people oriented jobs there is: paramedic.  I couldn’t have told you at the time, it just ‘felt right’.  I was in a dead end job I hated and just had to get out.  The more I researched the role of paramedic, the more it appealed.  I didn’t get too stressed through the application process because the numbers were stacked so heavily against me I didn’t seriously expect to get through; 2000 applicants for 12 places.  Amazingly I did.

Back in the day all training was in-house.  I had a six week clinical course and a two week driving course.  Then I was unleashed on the public as a trainee technician.  The plan was to work as a crew with a designated Work Based Trainer and Assessor (WBTA) paramedic for a few weeks then just work with any paramedic as required as a reserve technician.  Throughout the first year, I was rota’d on with my WBTA at regular intervals to assess my progress and identify any training needs.  Then after that first year I was a fully qualified Ambulance Technician.

That first year did not go particularly well for me.  On a good day the jobs went well enough, I generally knew what was happening with my patients and knew the correct care plans and treatments and how to assist the paramedic I was working with.  The trouble was when the patient showed any ‘challenging behaviour’, which in a big city with the accompanying social problems, was most days.  When confronted or challenged I often didn’t have the confidence to deal with it.  Some of the staff I worked with were great and very supportive and helpful, some weren’t, they made it clear from the start of the shift they did not like ‘babysitting’ a new technician.

The day came for my third quarterly assessment and my WBTA was on leave.  I was rota’d on with one of the other WBTA’s, I’ll call him Alan in this blog, it seems right to change his name.  I’d never worked with Alan up to now, I’d seen him around station and he always seemed quite brusque and impatient.  I was a little apprehensive, more than normal.  We did our first job and he asked me how I felt it went.  Before I could answer he said that I was less confident and assured than I should be at 9 months into the job.  I should be more assertive with the patients.  My heart sank.  I had given up a steady job in engineering to do this.  My family had supported me through the changes and never complained once about the dip in money coming in.  Was I about to be told I was not fit for this job and it would be best if I resigned?  This must have shown on my face because Alan suddenly smiled and said:

“Don’t panic, this is easy to put right.  You know your stuff clinically, no worries there at all, just a couple of tweaks and we’ll sort you right out”

Glad you think it’s easy I thought, I’ve been struggling with my confidence all my life.  Suddenly though I felt optimistic and good. We went back to station, back then we were much less busy and Alan asked our controller if we could go back to sort out some admin for my assessment.  Back on station, cups of tea in hand, he gave me the simple advice which has made such a huge difference to my life:

“When you walk in to a room, you’re very hunched up and your shoulders are rounded.  Without realising it you’re trying to make yourself look small.  Then with your quiet voice you start talking.  Is it any wonder some of our ‘characters’ don’t take you seriously?  You show with your body that you don’t have confidence in yourself so why should they have confidence in you?”

He showed me how I approached the patient in an exaggerated (I hope!) way and then showed me how to do it with shoulders back, head high and a projected talking voice.  Then he had me practicing coming into the room.  First he said to do it like I always did.  Next he had me practice taking a deep breath; shoulders back and head up before I entered.  Then I had to talk to him by projecting my voice as he had shown me.  I really did feel a difference.  The rest of the shift flew by with me practicing my new skill.  At the end he said he could see an improvement and he hoped I would keep practicing.  He told me:

“When you don’t feel confident you can at least act confident.  That way you even fool yourself and after practicing long enough you will become confident.”

Twenty some years later and I still clearly remember that shift and still follow Alan’s advice.  Paramedic education is very different now, university based with clinical placements throughout the course.  I’m a mentor which means each year I ‘m allocated a student and for the weeks they are on placement they work with me and my crewmate and I guide them in the practical aspects of the job.  I always pass on Alan’s advice to the less confident students.

Top 10 things people say to me at work

This is a top ten list of the things people say to us at work. No particular order, just as I thought of them.  In brackets are my normal replies (often unspoken or I’d soon be an ex-paramedic).   A short, light blog as funny top ten lists seem to be the in thing on social media right now.

  1. I couldn’t do your job. (On a good day: awww thanks.  On a bad day: I don’t think I can do my job either any longer)!
  2. How long have you been an ambulance driver? (Driver?? We do a bit more than just drive…).
  3. You must see some sights. (Yeeeeees you could say that!).
  4. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen? (My alarm clock flashing at silly o’clock in the morning).
  5. When do you finish your shift? (As soon as possible, normally 12½-13 hours after we started it).
  6. Is it quiet for you today/tonight? (Have to resist the urge to strangle anyone who says this, we don’t say the ‘Q’ word, even if it is. We’re a superstitious lot and believe saying the ‘Q’ word will jinx any nice shift immediately).
  7. Bet you get a good sleep at work on nightshifts. (I wish we did).
  8. Bet you get fed up of the drunken idiots (often said by someone who is drunk and doesn’t realise that they are being an idiot).
  9. It’s like a mini hospital in here. (Yes, a hospital in the midst of an earth quake with some of my colleague’s driving).
  10. Are we there yet? (OK, so this is mainly my kids in my car, not patients at work).

Are we valued?

This is a question that is coming up a lot now in hospital corridors where ambulance staff gather and meet.  It used to be the mess rooms where we met and got things off our chests but we spend very little time on station now so hospital corridors are the new mess rooms.

A particularly disgusting clip of MPs cheering as a motion to end the public sector pay cap of 1% was voted against is currently circulating on social media.  Cheering??!!  I can accept that as part of the democratic process some decisions in parliament will not go the way I would like.  I would have been angry about the defeat of the motion if it had been carried out in a mature, professional way as a logical economical decision.  But to cheer?? That smacks of contempt for everyone in the public sector.

The hypocrisy is overwhelming; some of these politicians were the loudest voices to praise the ‘invaluable work’ of the emergency services and hospitals in the aftermath of the recent terrorist incidents in London and Manchester and the horrific flat fire in London.  The same MPs no doubt cheered equally loudly as they accepted their 11% rise last year.

It’s no surprise that public sector workers feel undervalued.  Should we though?

In the aftermath of the recent events many of the public expressed their appreciation of the work we do; food deliveries to the stations in our group from a local supermarket, offers of cups of coffee and cakes, free chips, cards and messages posted through the station door.  I know that these grateful people also appreciate the other emergency services and public sector workers also.  On a day to day basis working with the public working to uphold the nhs values I feel generally valued.  Most of the people we get to appreciate and are grateful to us.  There are obviously the exceptions, the drunks and drug fueled street warriors and certain people who are very aware of their ‘rights’ (don’t seem to be as aware of their responsibilities however) and are not satisfied that they are being adequately met.  This has always been the case though and I can’t see it changing.

I am happy to say that in my area, support for staff affected by the terror incident is ongoing.  Frankly I have never seen support offered at this level before and I sincerely hope it continues and helps.

Are we valued by our managers?  Controversial question I know.  I can only speak from my own experience and say a definitive yes and no.  I personally have decided that paramedic is the level I want to stay at.  I’ve never had the desire for bars or pips.  A brief flirtation with the idea of getting into training was thankfully beaten out of me several years ago and I came to my senses.  I have very little contact with any managers other than the team leaders immediately above me.  I do feel valued by them most of the time.  I’m lucky though, I enjoy good health.  I have seen colleagues falling on hard times with periods of sickness not treated so well.  The current sickness policy or perhaps the way it’s implemented can seem punitive and at times harsh.  Again this starts to trigger my hypocrisy alarm.  The Emergency services are pushing various initiatives aimed at maintaining and supporting the good mental health of staff and yet the thought of the disciplinary policy triggered by spells of absence from work are hardly the way to sooth anxiety or help lift the depressed out of a low mood so they can resume the challenges of emergency work.

Personally I feel I’m more than just a paramedic.  I’m a dad, a son, a brother, a partner, a neighbour.  In all these roles I definitely feel valued.  Even when my kids were teenagers I still felt valued as their dad.

To sum up:

A feeling of value is best when not dependant on external factors such as money.  Frustrating to hear I know but bear with me here.  If money were a measure of value then among the most valued professions in the country would be premier league footballers, financial brokers and politicians. Really?  From chatting with patients over the years maybe footballers are valued (with our younger football fans) but financial brokers?  Not many patients class them as valuable, most see them as the cause of the austerity requirements.  Politicians?  Maybe the 650 MPs and their families value them but would but I’ve never met anyone else who does.

Everyone in the public sector should hold their heads high and value their self.  Politicians come and go but the emergency services will always be here responding thanks to the high value of our staff.

Emergency Driving (Blue lights and sirens)

Here are a few thoughts on driving an ambulance under emergency conditions (using the blue lights and sirens) and a few myths dispelled.

  • Nobody round here ever says ‘blues and twos’, most of us cringe when we hear that. It’s more than 20 years since we had the two tone horns (nee naw) which this is slang for, now we have the familiar American style siren. If we have to refer to this type of driving it’s: ‘emergency driving’, ‘using the lights’ or ‘hot response’.
  • We have several exemptions from the road traffic act (1988); we can only claim them when on an emergency and ‘visible and audible warnings must be deployed’ (blue lights and sirens must be on). When claiming an exemption, the emphasis is that it can only be done ‘when safe to do so’.
  • Whenever the blue lights are on, the siren should also be on. Most drivers use a little discretion and don’t use the sirens at, say, three o’clock in the morning in a residential area.  If we do have a crash and the sirens are not on then in the following investigation we can be subject to a disciplinary.
  • All ambulances and response cars have a ‘black box’ and video recording cameras. Data can be downloaded from these after an incident.  As well as the obvious video feed from the cameras, the ‘black box’ displays speed, acceleration, braking and which lights/indicators are on including the blue lights and sirens.  Data can also be reviewed from the GPS trackers showing the exact route taken.  Big brother well and truly watches us.  This protects the public by ensuring our standards of driving are kept high and protects us drivers too from some of the wilder claims made by members of the public if involved in an incident with an emergency vehicle.  Rumour has it there is also a recorded audio feed from the cab but this has to be mainly bleeped out to spare the blushes of the investigators.
  • The most obvious exemption we claim is: Red traffic lights junctions can be treated as a stop and give way junction. We don’t have right of way through a red traffic light but if other drivers stop for us we can pass through.  When a queue of traffic is waiting at a red light and there is no space for us to pass then we never expect drivers to put themselves at risk by entering the junction against the red light.  We will sit back from the junction with the siren turned off and wait until it is safe.  PLEASE NEVER ENTER A JUNCTION AGAINST A RED LIGHT AND RISK A CRASH.  If you can safely move to the side to make space for us to pass then that’s great.  If you did cross the stop line to make room for us and it triggered a junction camera, you would be prosecuted for breaking the road traffic act, even with the best of intentions.
  • Another exemption we claim is related to speed limits. At our level of training we can travel at up to 20mph above the speed limit, WHEN SAFE TO DO SO.  Other types of emergency drivers (police) have more flexibility with regards to speed, but again, only when safe to do so.  If we trigger a speed camera, an ‘intention to prosecute notice’ is sent to ambulance headquarters which has to be investigated and a reply sent justifying the exemption.  This involves checking the ambulance is responding to an emergency at the time, audible and visible warnings (lights and sirens) were being displayed at the time.  This must be a full time job for some poor person in HQ!  If the speeding is not justified then the driver’s details are passed on and the driver is personally liable and gets the prosecution.  So when you see us jumping the rush hour queues, we really will be responding to an emergency and not trying to get back to base before our chips get cold.
  • When I’m driving on an emergency and speeding or going through a red light and I see a police car my immediate reaction is still to feel guilty!
  • When we park at an emergency, we always try to park considerately and make sure the road is passable. The response cars are obviously smaller and can be squeezed into a space but the ambulances have to be near the property so when we come to load the patient we are not outside for too long.  This means sometimes we will block the road.  Our priority is dealing with and treating the patient and we will always be as quick as possible.  Sitting bibbing a car horn will not make us move any quicker and knocking on the patient’s door to tell us to ‘shift it!’ will also not speed us up.  Luckily most of the public are very understanding and patient with us.
  • Any member of staff who says they don’t get a bit of a buzz out of driving with the lights and sirens is lying to try and be cool and complacent I think. Even after all these years, at the start of the shift I get a buzz out of emergency driving though admittedly at the end of the shift I get more of a headache than a buzz.

Pets and Paramedics

I’m not forgetting technicians and responders too; I just like the alliteration of the title.  It’s a fact that a large proportion of the British public live with pets of various types, we are after all a nation of animal lovers.  I too am an animal lover, although I don’t have a pet of my own because of the long shifts I work. I am looking forward to my retirement and long walks with a Labrador friend.  Probably a cat too as I am both a cat person and a dog person.

Whenever anyone rings 999 and an ambulance or response car is dispatched, one of the questions asked is if the patient has any animals in the house, if they have they are asked to lock them away somewhere.  This is really meant for dogs which may attack us as we go into the house, a dog does not know that our intentions are to help, to the dog we are invaders of their home and possibly a threat to the family.  Some people take this literally and I remember one puzzled elderly lady asking why she had to lock her 2 month old kitten in the kitchen; she wondered if we were all afraid of cats.

Some people I’ve worked with aren’t scared of cats but have a severe allergy to them and can’t stop sneezing all the time the family cat is in the room.  The cats seem to know this and always delight in rubbing up against the afflicted human – cats obviously have an evil sense of humour.

I’ve thankfully never been bitten by a dog, a few close escapes though.  We were called to one elderly gentleman who had not answered his phone several times when his daughter rang.  She lived 200 miles away so could not just call in; she was concerned for his welfare. As we arrived the door was unlocked so we knocked and went in.  As we opened the hall door to the living room we saw the patient slumped on the floor, a scared border collie standing guard over him.  We needed to get to the patient to assess him but the dog had his head down, ears back and was quietly growling with bared teeth.  I eventually managed to shepherd the dog into the kitchen and close the door.  Unfortunately the patient had died and was beyond resuscitation.  We processed the paper work and waited in the house until the police arrived to arrange for the funeral directors to transport the gentleman to the local chapel of rest  – we made sure that they knew they had a dog to re-house.  This made a sad job even sadder somehow.

Over the years I’ve handled various dog bites.  One bad one was caused by a police dog.  A suspect had decided to try and out run the German Shepherd.  Big mistake.  The dog’s strong jaws locked on the lad’s arm and as well as an impressive range of puncture wounds the lad’s resistance resulted in a fractured radius bone.  The dog was fine.

The worst dog bite was caused by one of the smallest breeds.  One man was playing with and teasing his girlfriend’s Chihuahua.  The dog had obviously had enough and sank his teeth into his tormentor’s face.  This caused a large tear in the patient’s upper lip and nose – he had to be referred on to a plastic surgery team for a series of operations to repair the damage.  I never got to see the end result but to this day of all dog breeds I am still wary of Chihuahuas.

Budgies and parrots have never caused a problem, other than trying to escape.  The only other animal that has generated business for me is the horse.  Several riders have lost their seat and ended up on the ground.  One unfortunate lady ended up with the horse on top of her.  Thankfully all my equine adventures have always had someone who could handle and look after the horse.

Animals on the whole seem kinder than humans.  At least when they turn to violence it is due to a perceived threat and in self defence, not fuelled by alcohol or drugs or just for fun.