At around 1700 Monday night I had a text message – contingency plans were in place to assist the ambulance service, could I crew a vehicle?

So after work, I grabbed some food and ironed my uniform before de-snowing the car and heading into Llanishen. Once I got out of our village the roads were ok – probably because there was plenty of traffic to keep them clear. Our end of the street was awful, but then we only have about 10 houses there. The trip wasn’t helped by the fact that my car has developed a hole in the exhaust from all the salt. It’s in the garage being fixed today…

So we jumped on the vehicle and completed our inspection very quickly – it’s easier when you have two people doing it, and we had three on the vehicle last night. I decided that I’d had enough time driving and wanted more experience in the back, so arranged to be the attendant for the evening.

We logged on and immediately were asked to hold on for a second while control checked what we should be sent to first. They called back and asked us to back up an RRV for transporting a patient, but when we arrived on scene, the RRV reported that the patient had already made their own way to the hospital. Clearing from that incident, we were dispatched to back up another RRV, about half a mile down the road. There we picked up a woman in her 40’s with “nonspecific abdo pain”. Once I’d coughed my way through the cigarette smoke, we prepared the carry-chair and she stood from her armchair and sat herself down. Mike and I packed her and moved her out to the vehicle with some difficulty – a scenario not covered in training was using our equipment in snow and we found it sinking through the snow and ice.

Mike had already started to attend to her so I took the keys and prepared to drive when whe woman asked for “gas and air”. We looked surprised and asked her, on a scale of 1 to… “It’s 10.” she interrupted us, sitting comfortably and not showing any signs of pain. I blinked and sighed inwardly, leaving Mike to it. Apparently, morphine didn’t touch her pain (hence why she hadn’t asked the paramedic for any), but entonox worked wonders. It was a quick drive to the hospital and we passed her over to the care of the nurses in A&E. There followed a discussion between the three of us on the ethics of witholding pain medication if you believe that there was no clinical need for it.

The next job was for a young woman who really did need us. A transfer into hospital, the GP had diagnosed “?DVT R leg”. Her medical history was long and she was currently just 2 months out of her most recent encounter with chemotherapy. From the way she held herself I could tell she was guarding herself against pain and I asked if we could help, but she politely declined analgesia in stark contrast to our previous patient.

Our last patient was a hospital transfer for another “?DVT” patient. 97 year old lady, she was a real card. I had a great time chatting to her on the long trip to hospital. She reminded me a lot of my own grandmother (who’s 92) except that she got a little repetitive at times. She confided to me that she didn’t mind what we did to her so long as we told her first. She was a little deaf and I found myself being her closest friend as I was the one who got confirmation that she’d heard me before we did anything. We got to the hospital and found that there was no bed for her – a bit shocking as this was a transfer from another hospital. We sat in the corridor for a while, chatting with her until we were given a trolley for her. Her condition needed treatment, but it wasn’t a surgical emergency (according to the Surgeon who reviewed her later as well as the nurses) so there was some confusion as to why she had been transferred at that time of night. The constant bouncing around annoyed me, though not near as much as the paramedic who bumped our stretcher out of the way just to get past us, casuing our patient to call out in pain. We may only be “Jonnies”, we may only be carrying an old lady while you’re dealing with a patient going into resus – that’s no reason to hit our trolley out of the way instead of walking around.

We said our goodbyes and headed off for a break – things seemed to be calming down. We’d not long finished our break when we got our last job of the night – back to the hospital to pick the same old lady up. We looked at each other and shook our heads – this was the second time in two days she’d been passed back and forth from one hospital to another – completely unacceptable. We picked her up again, much to her delight, though this time I drove and passed the responsibility of looking after her to a colleague – I was tired and felt a bit drained from looking after her – she really did remind me a lot of my grandmother. My colleagues said that they’d transferred her less than a week ago as well.

We dropped her off and got her settled before cleaning our kit and checking in with control. They thanked us and sent us home, which was nice since the temperature was dropping fast.

This was the busiest shift I’ve had so far. I really enjoyed it, though it left me feeling drained both physically and emotionally. Looking forward to more shifts now.

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2 Responses to “Oh, the weather outside is frightful!”

  1. Elaine says:

    That’s a real shame about the 97 year old woman being transferred back and forth.

    I wonder if she has no family to advocate for her?

  2. Aled says:

    I’m really not sure what was going on there – whether there was a problem with the facilities or support that the originating hospital could offer (a smaller hospital on the outskirts of Cardiff) so they transferred her to the main hospital for treatment; whether the doctors in each place had differences of opinions over treatment and such or what, I don’t know.

    At least we were able to make her a bit happier by making the transfer and experience a happy one for her.