Off-job . . . this means your last job of the shift. It can mean, “happy days, its nearly home time” or it can mean “at last, I’m bloody knackered”. Whatever it means you hope you’ll be off on time. That’s what you hope anyway . . . but it doesn’t always go that way.
Off-jobs always have a habit of saving the ‘special prize job’ till last. The off-job can sometimes mean driving miles to a cardiac arrest. It can also mean spending hours with a patient threatening suicide or it can mean helping a poor old lady who’s been stuck on the floor for hours suffering with a broken neck of femur (really sad ones). No matter what it is, it seems its always saved for the off-job.
This was our off-job. I stood, blinking, at the man lying near the platform edge, attempting what looked like the breast stroke, in a large puddle of his own vomit and urine. He shifted his position to reveal his back – which was smothered in a long brown streak that made its way to his backside. His trousers were halfway down his legs and fresh faeces protruded from his cheeks. It also lay smeared down his legs and some seemed to be trying to escape drowning in the vast vomit-wee.
Two police officers stood at a safe distance from the man, hands tucked into their stab vests, their expressions insouciant and placid. As the patient attempted to smear his bodily fluids across his face and hair the officers both sighed deeply.
I looked across at my crew mate with a sense of panic. He shrugged his shoulders and glanced at his watch.
“Well?” I said
“We’re meant to be off in five” he said trying to work out the maths. I looked at the patient. Who looked at me. He smiled. There were several brown lumpy things stuck in his teeth.
I turned to the underground staff who’d led us down here, “Are there any lifts back to the top?”
“Nope – sorry” He then pretended to fix his radio. We’d been led down several flights of stairs and without a lift . . . we’d have to carry the patient out. Desperately, I looked at my crew mate again, searching for an answer. Looking back at me with resigned defeat he shrugged his shoulders again and started readying the carry chair.
“I think, we’re gonna be off late”
He wasn’t wrong.
Someone asked me the other day whether ambulance crews are allowed to “dress up” during certain holiday periods such as Christmas.
“Dress up?” I asked.
“Yeh, you know, like a bit of a hat, or tinsel or something – you know, bring a bit of festive cheer into peoples’ lives . . .”
“hmmmmm” my mind drifted to the possibilities . . .
. . . I could picture the scene – called to a crowded flat on Christmas day. Someone’s nan has just suspended (gone into cardiac arrest) due to choking on a piece of chicken. As my crew mate is getting the defib ready his santa’s hat keeps falling forward over his face allowing the bell to continuously get caught in his false beard. Whilst my crew mate is struggling with that I would be performing CPR on the patient and with each chest compression the Jester bells of my hat would tinkle causing my clown’s nose to flash.
Other than the rhythmic tinkling of my jester bells – there is complete silence. I look up and around at the horrified family, their eyes wide and jaws dropped. I look away toward the curtains and notice the dark crimson paisley effect of the material. I feel I must say something . . .
“. . . I like what you’ve done with the curtains, heh – “
There is the sudden unmistakeable sound of a rib cracking, followed by the sound of someone dropping a plate behind me.
I drift back to reality and answer my friend, “you know – its probably best that we don’t wear fancy dress”
One of the perks of this job is amusing yourself with the attempt to bring humour to peoples’ lives. I am not very good at this. And most of the time I think the only humour I bring is to myself.
I have found that sometimes this job doesn’t bring the satisfaction of success that you might see in films – be it the “non entity” type jobs we frequently go to, or the full-on jobs that some how rarely see a happy ending (don’t get me wrong, its not always like this). We are therefore left to fill in the gaps by amusing ourselves in whatever way possible. My personal favourite at the moment, is to get in as many cheesy clichés as possible after a job. This can manifest in many ways but a classic might go a little something like this . . . .
Coming to the end of my hand over at Hospital I finish with . . .
“. . . . and I think the patient needs seeing to, stat! Over to you guys – you’re the experts” The tinge of ‘Americanism’ to the accent is lost in the moment. Theatrically I rip the copy of the PRF (paperwork) out and thrust it toward the triage nurse. Touching my finger to my forehead and then point it at them, winking, I spin around on my heels to leave.
The nurse starts scribbling notes and without looking up says, “Thank you guys”
I spin back and freeze, pointing ridiculously at the nurse,
“Hey – ” I say, pausing for effect.
The nurse stops writing and looks up.
“Just doing my job ma’am.” I click the side of my mouth as my fingers point like guns toward her.
The triage nurse blinks for a few seconds, cringes and slowly turns away.
Cue sunset – and I walk off into it.
I think, this is how my mind works most of the time. And as I say, it keeps me amused at the very least.
So this was it . . . 12 weeks in training school and I was behind the wheel of Ambulance about to set off on my first blue call as a driver. The job was a 30 year old with chest pain. My mind raced. Chest pain?!! This could be my first Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)!!!
We are given three weeks of driver training covering some advanced techniques but sadly we are not allowed to practice driving in London on blue lights. Your only practice time is when you do it for real. Very scary. Continue reading