She couldn’t breathe. She’d had a cold over Christmas and between that and her asthma, she’d done her back in. Now it was January – cold outside, and her asthma was playing up. She got her inhaler out and took a few puffs, giving it some time to work. She felt the airways tightening and took a few more puffs before heading over to her nebuliser. She snapped the top off of a small bottle of clear liquid and put it in the right place before turning the nebuliser on – a fine white mist coming out of the mask as
the compresser rumbled into life.

After a few minutes on this she was usually fine, but something was different today. The pain in her back was just making things worse. She looked at her husband and with the ease of years of marriage, the silent communication between them was flawless.

“Ambulance?” She nodded, unable to answer him. He called 999, telling the operator all their details, all of the time her breathing becoming more and more laboured. An ambulance was on its way apparently, and after a few minutes he thought he heard a siren in the distance. Everything went quiet until he suddenly noticed figures approaching the door. One in blue, two in green, and two more in blue with fluorescent jackets.

Their living room turned into a treatment room. Oxygen cylinders, masks and piping, sterile packaging torn open, syringes safely tucked away in a yellow box, little bottles containing what was left of a clear liquid. More equipment came from the ambulance, a toolbox full of small packages with odd names; a machine with lots of cables coming off it; bag full of white plastic pipes all wrapped in sealed packages. A chair unfolded, a blanket appeared and all the time, the two in green – obviously taking the
lead – talking to each other in numbers and strange words. “Oh-two sats looking good now. Bee-pee one-twenty-three over eighty. Two hundred mill, flush.” He wrapped his arms around his sobbing daughter and son, holding them close to him, keeping their faces buried in his jacket, protecting them from this scene.

She was moved to the chair. Which hospital? Oh, right. he made hurried arrangements for someone to follow him in the car as everyone moved out to the ambulance. He could see two cars nearby, both with their hazards on – looks like that’s where the guys in navy came from. One of the guys in green thanked the three in navy, and they each gave him a number before they walked off to a car, one talking on a mobile.

“Yes, hiya, it’s Aled from the Caerphilly first responders, can you show us clear from this current call please? Right….yes…two-two-oh-seven. Right. Sorry? Ok.” A pause. “Yes, certainly. Where? Trecenydd. Chest pain. Ok, show us mobile.” To his colleagues in navy: “Nigel, red call. We’re off again.”

They waved as the guy in green shut the door on the wet night and we moved off.

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