When I was young, I wanted to be a policeman. I had a toy police car, complete with a flashing blue light on it and I pedalled around the garden and neighbour’s houses. I got a toy policeman’s uniform for one birthday, which I was overjoyed with.
I was so convinced that I wanted to be a policeman that one day not long after I’d had the policeman’s uniform, I went missing. My mother was searching the neighbours when she had a phone call from someone who lived in the middle of our village where there’s a crossroads. I was there, in my uniform, about 8 years old, directing traffic. Yup, I wanted to be a policeman.
Skip forward some years later, I’ve not long been in the Mountain Rescue team and I’m studying to be a team medic. I visit one of my closest friends from school and tell him about my recent mountainous antics, and he replied, to utter surprise:
“Yeah, you always were interested in first aid and stuff. I was always surprised you didn’t end up in medicine.”
It was a long drive back home that night and his comment had knocked me for six. I’d never even considered a medical career and I’d long since ruled out the police having decided that I probably couldn’t handle waking a mother up at 3am to tell her that her son had died. My career in computers was taking off, so I discarded the idea of medicine – I’m not sure I fancied 6 or 7 more years of school.
I’d discarded the idea, but James’ comment obviously struck a chord. Mountain Resce helped me find out more about pre-hospital medicine and I found out that, in fact, I was interested. So, after moving to London when my employer was bought out, I decided to try something out. I wrote to the London Ambulance Service and asked if I could go out as an observer on an ambulance for a shift. A few weeks later, it was all arranged – I was to report to Oval and Kennington ambulance station at 7pm for a 12 hour shift. I arrived to a bad start – the person who was supposed to be taking me out had called in sick. I was bundled into the back of an ambulance with a Paramedic and a technician and was told to spend the night with them.
Nothing much happened that Thursday night, it was quiet and by midnight, the technician had to leave to go to headquarters, leaving the Paramedic with no crew. “Never mind,” he said, “come back tomorrow night instead – it’ll be busier on a Friday.”
Luckily the shifts I worked gave me 4 clear days off, so back I went the following evening. I met up with the Paramedic again and took a second attempt. What a night that was – in fact, I spent 3 nights out with Richard Lee, the Paramedic – who turned out to be from a village not 4 miles from where I now sit. More freaky than that was that his wife came from my village. The first night was rounded off in true Welsh colours as we picked up two lads who’d been assaulted outside the Brixton academy. Recognising their accent, Richard and I laughed when they told us they were from Penarth near Cardiff.
Those three nights that I spent learning from Richard and observing the way they work, took the little spark of interest I had and threw it unceremoniously into a huge keg full of dynamite. It ignited a passion in me that’s still going today – brning strongly enough that I’ve committed to giving up a career as a successful communications consultant and instead, to going back to school to become a Paramedic.
It’s been a long road from that innocent comment to where I am now and there are three Paramedics (all called Richard!) who’ve taught me in their own way what being a Paramedic means. For me, it still hasn’t all “come together” yet – I’ve my epiphanies along the way – sudden insights into how the body works, how to look after people and what it’s all about. Jobs that have gone so perfectly, it felt just like another exercise. But for now, the last part of the puzzle is still there, not quite yet within my grasp.
Watch this space.