Aled Treharne on September 6th, 2009

Well, we’re on holiday. Leaving was a bit of a disaster to be honest – when I left the office part of the M4 was closed. I had to work my way home through small lanes and didn’t get back to the house until 1900 – we’d hoped to be on the road by then. A few problems with the alarm were fairly quickly sorted and before 2000 the car was packed and we were off. So far, I don’t think we’ve forgotten anything critical…

We stopped off with a friend in London for the night before getting up for an early start and heading down to Folkestone for our 0950 departure on the Eurotunnel. 35 minutes of train and we were in France – it’s pretty impressive on the convenience front, even if it’s boring: you sit in your car for 35 minutes of tunnel. Still, we were in Calais.

We quickly headed onto the motorway and headed across northern France over to Belgium. Nothing particularly exciting about the drive – it was over land that was quite flat, lots of agriculture. I was munching on a piece of M&S cocktail sausage when it went down the wrong way and spent the next 10 minutes coughing, so we pulled into a service station for a break. No sooner had we stopped than a wasp flew into the car – Sean whacked it with a cloth and flung it straight at me, where it stung me on the neck.

Once I’d finished swearing and Sean had finished apologising, we got ourselves sorted. Apparently, you have to pay 30c to go to the loo in service stations around here. That was a bit of a pain since we hadn’t stopped at a cashpoint yet…

Anyway, we got to Brussels with no idea where we were going and asked TomTom to take us to a car park in the center of town. A nearby Novotel pointed us to the tourist information center in the Grande Place….whereupon we walked into the middle of a huge beer festival. Of course, we were driving, so couldn’t take part much to my disappointment. After pottering around for a bit, we had a Belgian Waffle (what else would you eat in Belgium?) and wandered around taking photos before heading back to the car. We drove around a few of the sights before heading back out on the motorway. I’d love to come back here, it’s a beautiful city with lots to see.

The drive to Luxembourg was more scenic, crossing valleys although by the time we got there we were both exhausted – we’d not had much sleep the night before. So after a bit of food, we headed straight to bed.

Miles so far: 513

Tags: ,

Aled Treharne on September 3rd, 2009

I haven’t been on a decent holiday abroad since…well, since I bought the house. That may be a coincidence…

Anyway, Sean and I have been planning a trip to Italy for a few months now and it’s almost here. Tomorrow afternoon, I leave work and drive to Cardiff to pick Sean up. The next time we’ll see the house, we’ll have drive through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, a bit of Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

I am, understandably, somewhat excited. Internet access has been sorted despite Vodafone being useless – thankfully, 3 are targetting users wanting some decent data rates at the moment, so I have a 3 SIM in my laptop’s built-in 3G card. It’s PAYG so I won’t come home to a £300 phone bill and it means that I can keep a record of the trip on my blog.

I’m just waiting for clothes to dry now and hoping the weather will last…

Update: Track my travels on Dopplr

Tags: , ,

Aled Treharne on August 21st, 2009

I can’t remember my first Mountain Rescue job. I remember a search for a missing person while I was still training, but it’s lost in a blur of memories of trying to work out how to search for a missing person. I remember my first casualty, having chased her over the mountain all night, giving her the attention she so desperately seeked.

What is etched into my memory are two ambulance jobs I did as a first responder – my first red call, and my first cardiac arrest.

The first red call I had came in the middle of the night. I’d gone to bed, my uniform next to me, the phone on the bedstand and the lava lamp left on, casting a red glow over the bedroom. I jumped out of my skin when the phone rang.

“Hiya, it’s Ambulance control, can you take a red call please?”

I get the address and jump into my clothes, heart pumping, adrenaline rushing around my body. Still half-asleep yet completely awake, I drive off. 30 year old male, difficulty in breathing. Traffic is quiet, I catch the lights on green and I’m driving down the street looking for the address when I see the ambulance. Deflated, I realise I’ve been holding my breath and start breathing normally again.

I pull up and get out, gloves on, ready to assist, just in case – but the crew is stood in the doorway talking to the patient. I walk over and hear the conversation.

“So you’ve had the sore throat for 3 days, and it’s hurting when you swallow…” He turns and glances at me, nodding, acknowledging my presence. “…and the GP says it’s tonsilitis. Does your mother have a car? Right, well she can take you down to A&E if you really want then, but it’s a Friday night, you’re looking at 4 hours of wait. We’re very busy tonight – if you can do that we can get back to helping people who are seriously ill, like heart attacks.”

I catch the undertones, the patient doesn’t. Within minutes I’m filling in my paperwork. The crew watches me, I’m obviously not familiar with the layout.

“First job?” he asks. I nod.

“That was irritating.” I nod towards the house. “Tonsilitis?” I’ve just about managed to get my hand to steady enough to write. I’m not sure anyone’s going to understand what I’ve written.

The technician rolls his eyes. “Get used to it. About one in ten jobs actually need us, five are pissed the other four are hypochondriacs or timewasters.” There’s a shout from the cab interrupting the cynical view of the world I’ve just become privy to. “We’re off. See you later.”

The ambulance rolls away and I’m left in the street dealing with the disappointment, the adrenaline, the futility, the tiredness. I turn around and head back to bed.

My first cardiac arrest came as a surprise. I’d been responding for months, now used to the dross and inability to actually help a lot of the patients – my Mountain Rescue medical training gave me skills and knowledge that I could not use with the Ambulance service – not in our protocols. I was in the kitchen when the phone rang – around 9am on a Saturday morning. I grabbed a pen as I answered the phone, looking around for a piece of paper and only finding the whiteboard on the wall.

“Hi, got a red call for you.”

I write the address down on the calendar, and write “card arrest” next to it. I blinked. I read the address again. “Er…that’s about 500 yards from where I…from my current location. Show me mobile – count to 10 and show me on scene if you want, I won’t bother calling to report that.” I’m already out the door unlocking the car.

“Oh, ok, thanks.”

Control rings off and I briefly consider running there, but with all the kit….I start the car and drive down the road, turning the corner and pulling up at the pub control had sent me to. The door is closed, I see no way in. I have my kit with me, I’ve not had a chance to calm myself down in the car, my heart is pumping and there’s no way in! I head for the side door and it’s open – I run up the steps, tripping on the top one and almost flying headlong through the door. I blink as I stumble into the gloom, the curtains drawn and I see figures by the bar – the landlord is on the phone.

“Yes, he’s here now…”

I rush over – there’s a woman on the floor, late 50’s I’d say. I rip my kit open, defib out and lid open, get it up and running. Tuffcut shears make short work of the underwire in her bra – I hadn’t intended to cut it, but it’s off now along with her blouse. My mind is racing, and the defib shouts at me in an American voice. “Tear open pads. Remove pads and place on chest.” I’ve already done that and it’s curtly announcing “Analysing rhythm” as I’m getting my Guedel airway out, oxygen fitted with the BVM.

“Start CPR.”

I swear under my breath – it’s not shockable. I don’t even consider whether I should start CPR – I’m already underway now and I have no room in my protocol for recognition of life extinct. The airway is in – easier than the dummies I’ve practiced on. I put my hands on her warm skin and start compressions. As I’m counting my only thought is that the feeling of my hands on her skin reminds me of chicken.  It’s an odd thought and I place it to one side, giving two breaths after 30 compressions. I hear a rib crack and then a second one. I have a rare moment where my brain can catch up and in that moment I get a thought – I can’t hear a siren yet, where’s my backup?

“Do not move patient, analysing rhythm.” The defib interrupts me and I sit back for a moment catching my breath. “Continue CPR.”

My hopes for a succesful rescuscitation are dropping and they hit rock bottom when the landlord opens a curtain to get me more light – I can see what looks like a bruise on part of her body – but at last! I hear a siren approaching. I tell the landlord to go out and windmill for the paramedic, probably an RRV I think.

I look up as he walks in, it’s a friend of mine. He grimaces as he sees her and recognises signs I’ve yet to learn.

“You can stop CPR mate, she’s long gone.” he says quietly, kneeling down and pointing out the purple blotches I’d seen. “Post mortem staining, she’s been down a while.” I sit back on my knees, shaking a little from the adrenaline. He takes over, he’s seen this all before. I can’t stop staring at her, the memory of those two ribs cracking under my hands still vivid.

The police arrive and talk to me and the Paramedic. He asks if I’m OK. I just nod and fill in my paperwork. I pack up my kit – I need a new set of pads and contact an Ambulance officer to get a set and he arranges to meet me that day. I stand outside, packing my car for the moment, stood in the bright sunshine as villagers wander past wondering what’s happening – why all the police and ambulance. I head back inside and take one last look before talking to the Paramedic. No, no chance of reviving her. She’d been down a while. Probably a massive heart attack, probably dead before she hit the floor. How old? 42. Yeah, she looked older. Smoked. He makes sure I’m ok and I head off to get some new defib pads, still shocked by how surreal it all feels. When I finally get back to the house, there’s still a note on the whiteboard with the address and “card arrest” next to it. I wipe it off as I phone control to tell them I’m available for calls again.

Prepared as my introductory post for The EMS Handover Carnival.

Tags: , , , , ,

Aled Treharne on August 14th, 2009

7pm and our incident controller approaches us as we’re taking kit off the Landrover.

“There’s been reports of a casualty across the road. I’m going to be staying here for better comms.”

We all nod and head off. I grab the radio I’ve got and call in to get a radio check and I’ve barely finished when we find our casualty. A 7 year old girl with breathing difficulties. We’re on it like a shot, oxygen and a nebuliser mask out, I’m on to control to get some backup, Mum is upset and panicing. No air ambulance available and the nebulised salbutamol is having little effect. There’s no county ambulance either and our vehicle has a puncture. There’s a quick conversation – I arrived at this incident in my own vehicle, we’ll transport mum and daughter in that. We’re moving, rapidly through the trees whe the radio comes to life – there’s an ambulance en route to us now…

We’re still packing up and debriefing from that job when the radio comes to life again. “We’ve had a call nearby for a young child that’s fallen, no parents, friends have raised the alarm but are not with her.” We look at each other and we’re off again, this time I’ve got the purple gloves on my hands as we head through clouds of gnats. We find her next to a few old logs which she’d been climbing on. She’s 9 years old and looks quite healthy. She’s complaining of a bump on her forehead and a painful ankle. I talk to her, practice my new skill – talking with kids. I’m not good at it and I’ve been practicing. She responds well, I’m on a winner. I check her over carefully and she reports a painful neck. She’s talking to me and I’m adding up her GCS in my head as she tells me she’s feeling sleepy. GCS of 15, she’s alert and responsive…wait what?

She’s feeling sleepy.

Despite the warm summer evening and the gnats crawling all over me, my attention is focused on her as I slip my hands onto her neck and hold her head still. I look at the stump she fell off – 2 feet? 3 feet? A colleague takes over her C-spine management as I get oxygen going – but she doesn’t like the mask on her fact. She’s content to hold it near her mouth and breathe the cold gas though. We package her up and move her down to the road to be met by a county ambulance. I’m all smiles and chatty and she’s responding well.

We haven’t even started the debrief when somone runs up to us. “Come quickly, it’s my friend – he fell off the stile, I think he’s hurt!” We head down, shaking our heads and find a gentleman lying on rocks next to a river. He’s fallen some 2m and is complaining of a lack of sensation in his legs.


I’m running this incident as my colleagues deal with first aid. I request backup from Ambulance control to be told that there’s no land ambulance available. They check on a helicopter for me as we request more people and more equipment. Our landrover pulls up, blue lights flashing and cars slow down on their way past, their occupants staring at a blue-shirted throng of rescuers arranging to move this man onto a stretcher from one of the most awkward positions I’ve ever seen. It’s not long before he’s on a stretcher and moving. We look at the fence – it’s in our way. Bolt croppers are called for and the fence is ready to become a casualty of this incident.

“Ok, hold it there folks.” A voice calls from behind me and the ‘casualty’ pulls his collar and spinal management kit off.

“That collar’s really uncomfortable.” He says, rubbing his neck. I turn around and find ‘mum’ and our two previous casualties grinning behind me. The exercise is over and we’re talking amongst ourselves about how it went. There’s lessons to be learned – there are always lessons to be learned. But we have three people who are alive and kicking (in the scenarios) because of the care we gave them.

As we head back to base I’m thinking that I’m glad I got to practice on children tonight. I’m rusty in dealing with children, but I seem to be getting the hang of it. I shudder as I think of the moment when my casualty told me she was feeling sleepy and know that I’m better prepared for the next one. Chances are, the next one won’t be practice.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Aled Treharne on August 13th, 2009

So I’ve had my Go 740 for a few weeks, how’s it going?

Pretty good. It’s re-routed me a few times because of traffic on the M4 – this morning for example, with an accident closing one eastbound lane at J29, it took me an alternate route. Given that my journey is nominally 40 minutes, it was reporting a 30 minute delay and when I passed the traffic on the M4 it was stood still. I got into work 7 minutes late.

It does have limitations though – the M4 Severn Bridge is a bottleneck and if that was closed there’s not much it can do to re-route me. It’s managed to get me to callouts sucessfully, to find locations via Google search results and take me there….all in all, I’m very happy with it. I do think it’s worth paying the £8 per month for the extra services, it turns it from just another navigation tool into somethign quite exceptional.

It has had a few problems though – random crashes from time to time, though it recovers within about 30 seconds and jumps straight back into the thick of it. The latest software won’t let me run the unit from TomTom Home – that’s really frustrating because there was no warning of that on the download and that’s how I add my route corrections. Still, no show-stoppers, a cracking navigation unit.

Aled Treharne on July 24th, 2009

I had to do something today that was very difficult for me. I deleted user-contributed content from a site I admin.

I feel very strongly for freedom of speech. I believe everyone has the right to an opinion* and that they also have the right to voice that opinion. Free speech is what a functional society must be based on, the open and frank discussion of ideas, of faults and of mistakes. If one person makes a mistake that harms someone, then everyone should learn from it. I commented on this on Mark Reeves‘ blog this week and I’ve made my position clear before numerous times.

Most importantly, this doesn’t absolve the individual from their responsibility to keep private information that should not be made public. For example, when I attend an incident and want to blog about it, I have to weigh up free speech against an individual’s right to privacy as well as my own professionalism in the approach that I take to whatever topic it is I’m writing about.

This week, a controversial topic has arisen on a website that I’m an admin on. There have been some comments made in public on what is essentially a private matter between two management groups. Although I don’t believe that such comments should be made public since the issue is an internal one and it’s not in the public interest to air it. What’s worse is that the comments that were made were immature, inflammatory and unprofessional. They managed to serve no purpose than to bring their own organisation into disrepute. After a brief conversation with the appropriate managers, a decision was taken to remove them – a decision I did not take lightly.

At the moment I’m furious. Removing those comments left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I cannot condone their behaviour and the comments were harmful to the entire organisation. What disgusts me most is that some of these are people that should know better. They are professionals and they have achieved nothing other than to inflame an already difficult situation and make themselves look like fools.

People should stop and think before putting fingers to keys. As someone once said to me “Don’t ever say anything on the internet that you wouldn’t say in an interview on TV.”

* When I say opinion, I mean just that. Opinions should not be presented as fact, and if you present rumour as fact you should be prepared to stand up and apologise as loudly as you shouted your fact in the first place when you’re proven wrong.


Aled Treharne on July 22nd, 2009

This time last week, I thought I would be writing a very different post to this one, but TomTom have, after the initial problems, really come through. Not only does the device et a resounding recommendation from me, but their support does as well. So, what happened?

Last week I bought myself a toy that I’d been waiting for some time for – a TomTom Go 740 Live from I’ve been keeping an eye on the SatNav market for a while, and though the TomTom has a major limitation for me in that you can’t navigate to an OS Grid Reference, the quality of the software, the user interface and the navigation itself have always placed it ahead of its competitors in my book. I will say that I have had a TomTom before – this was TomTom Navigator version 2 on a PDA which I’ve had some 8 years. By now, it’s mostly useless, with major problems with maps and the PDA is obviously creaking at the hinges a bit.

So, when it arrived I was immediately impressed with its size – it’s a lot thinner than the 910 I played with a while ago, much lighter as well. I plugged it in and got the TomTom Home software installed – available for Mac as well as PC – and downloaded all my updates. I used the “Latest map guarantee” to get all the latest map updates, and with the x40 series, you now get 3 months free subscription, so I downloaded all of those updates as well. I was also very impressed with the windscreen mount – it’s rock solid, far better than the old one.

Off I went…and that’s where the problems started. The device simply refused to connect to the mobile network – it has a built-in SIM and ‘mobile data’ connection. Not good, the menu wouldn’t even give me the serial number of the hardware. I raised the issue on Friday with TomTom on their website, and they acknowledged that they were seeing a temporary problem with their servers and suggested a reset process for me to try out once they’d fixed their servers.

Now, being a bit of a geek, I spent a few hours researching this problem (Error 1001). A number of forum users have had the problem – some noted that the excuse given out by TomTom of “server problems” appears to be bogus. I had nothing to compare it against in this case, and those reports were typically US-based, so I gave TomTom the benefit of the doubt.

So roll on Monday morning and lo and behold – the process completes but I still can’t connect. I replied via their online problem system and by mid-morning, I was to impatient so I called them. A very friendly lady led me through a number of procedures, none of which worked and gave me one last one to try at home (I’d forgotten the cradle behind). That also failed, so that night I raised it with Amazon who shipped a new unit out to me.

This morning the replacement arrived. I plugged it in and immediately had some trouble – you can only register one new TomTom device per account every 6 months. This is to stop you from buying one for your friend as well and both having updates – fair enough. So a quick call to TomTom confirmed this and the lovely lady solved that problem within half an hour (Thanks Brandy!).

The new TomTom replaced the old one fine (TomTom gives you several options including backing out of the change – very handy) and off it went to grab updates. Once that completed I immediately checked signal – and yes, it was connecting. Great! But wait, it refused to download my “HD Traffic” updates. Apparently my subscription had expired…and a quick phone call to TomTom (thanks Jade this time!) revealed that with the account reset they’d performed that morning, the 3 month free subscription that had been added was gone. That was quickly resolved and I now have a fully working TomTom.

What about the device itself? Well, navigation is as good as I expected – I have yet to use it in rush hour on a busy route, so I’ve not really used the IQ routes nor the HD traffic functions in anger. But the navigation is good – it takes the routes I know are fastest around here; it updates quickly when I go my own way; the announcements are clear; pronounciation of street and place names is pretty damn impressive, especially for some of the places around here and it even recognises “Senghenydd” when I told it when I was testing the voice recognition.

So, TomTom the device – 9 out of 10. Sorry, but you lose a point for not going OS Grid Reference. TomTom the company – 9 out of 10 – you had some mistakes but you corrected them promptly and politely. Very impressed. Well done, folks.

Tags: , , ,

Aled Treharne on June 27th, 2009

I am fairly seriously pissed off at the moment.

Every organisation has its own internal politics – it’s just how life is. Some play power games, some want money, some build empires, and some just want to get on with the job. Politics in voluntary organisations can be particularly bad – it’s not that surprising when you get a bunch of people together who all believe passionately enough in a cause to donate that amount of time and effort. It’s the main reason I stopped my work with the First Responders – between the voluntary side and the involvement with the ambulance service, there was just too much politics. Mountain Rescue in this area has traditionally had some interesting politics, but never let it get in the way of the job.

So when Mountain Rescue politics did kick up last week, it caught me by surprise and annoyed me. More than that, it blindsided Sean. As a result he’s now announced that he’s no longer interested in joining the team, which is a shame – I was really looking forward to working with him on jobs and seeing him do well on the team.

Thing is, it’s got me thinking and has got me pretty angry right now. Do I really want to be part of a wider organisation who can treat people like that? I love the job that we do, I love getting in there and doing the job, and I know that 99% of the people in the organisation are there to do the same as I am – get on with rescuing people. But I find myself questioning my membership over the event. I’m sat here at the moment while there’s a rescue going on a few valleys away thinking about my membership and my commitment and other things – my hayfever, my contribution. Hayfever’s stopped me halway out the door today because I realised that if I wandered up a hill with the pollen this thick, I’d be collapsing in a heap of mucus, sneezes and wheezes before I reached the casualty. No drugs can stop that amount of pollen from affecting me.

So my head’s in a mess with a million different thoughts going through it right now. I’m damn well sure however, that I’m not going to let politics or the team come between Sean and I.

Postscript: I toyed with the thought of posting this for a while. I’m aware that several people will read it and feel like I’m airing the organisations dirty laundry in public. However, I feel strongly that since I started this blog that I would comment on the things that I came across that mattered to me, whether positive or not.

Tags: , , , ,

Aled Treharne on May 21st, 2009

Part of being in Mountain Rescue is the commitment. The commitment to carry a pager with you and respond when you can, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, every single day of the year. Even Christmas day.

Wherever I go, the pager goes. It goes on vibrate sometimes, other times it even goes on silent. But it stays on, ready to receive its little message.

At night, it sits next to the front door, where it has reception. It’s piercing tone set to beep continuously until I get to it and hit a button – it’s the only way it will wake me up. It’s very loud, especially in the early hours of the morning.

Three nights ago, it went off and interrupted my sleep. Meh, it happens. I can’t respond during nights this week – I’ve got a big project to finish off at work and sadly, Mountain Rescue doesn’t pay the bills. So, when the pager woke me at 0631 on Tuesday morning, I wordlessly padded downstairs, turned it off, set it to silent – because I knew there’d be more messages – and went back to sleep. It was a search in Carmarthenshire – no way I was going to get there and do anything useful before work.

Wednesday morning, it was about 0145 when it went off. This time, it was followed rapidly by a “555” message – stand down. Fine, back to sleep, grumbling lightly.

This morning it was 0146 when the initial alert came through. Frustrated and tired, I shut it up and went back to sleep. 0200 the message came through – missing person in Caerphilly, all of a 3 minute drive away. Ten minutes later – stand down.

Can I get a decent night’s sleep tonight please?

Tags: , , ,

Aled Treharne on May 20th, 2009

On Saturday, Sean is moving in.

Well, OK, he’s lived here over the various University holidays over the past three years, but as of this Saturday, he’s finished his degree. He’s packing up the last of his things and throwing them in the back of his still-new-to-him car and bringing them here.

Am I excited? Am I fuck. I’m bouncing.

There is, however, the small logistical matter of where the hell we’re going to put his crap. Because folks, I have a lot of crap. The office has recently been semi-emptied – that is, we’ve gone through all of the tat in there, put up some shelves, filled the shelves with tat we can’t bear to throw out, thrown out shitloads of tat and shoved the rest in the corner or into the spare room. The other day, you know, that day. The Day Mal Got Married*. Well, he was staying in the spare room given that his bride to be was staying in their place. So, I had to reorganise and it turns out it’s not quite so much of a Tardis as I’ve been treating it.

So, I have a feeling that some general reorganising is going to have to be done in the house when he comes home. But that’s just logistics.

Right now, I’m just looking forward to spending evenings snuggling on the sofa watching Gray’s Anatomy. Or Casualty. Or the Bill. Or something.

* Oh God but this deserves a post of its own, just as soon as I’ve nicked some pictures to illustrate because I, like the idiot best man I was, did not take a single picture all night. Seriously.

Tags: , , , ,