Ambulance stories (37)

Useful Ambulance equipment.

Not everyone who you meet when working on an Ambulance is nice. Many are actually horrible. Some are rude, or abusive, and on more occasions than you might imagine, they are physically violent towards the crew.

Luckily, Ambulances contain lots of useful equipment that can be adapted as defensive weapons, when the need arises. On more than one occasion, I have had cause to resort to using supposedly life-saving kit, in order to save my own life. The following examples may shock you, so I feel the need to assure you that my actions were not only necessary, they were essential to save me from injury, or much worse.

Early defibrillatorsThese were on a trial, and were part of a joint venture with the British Heart Foundation. They were the old type,  in a large case, with lots of knobs, and manual paddles, attached by curly wires. You know the sort, they have featured in many films and TV dramas. One evening, we had picked up a man who was pretending to be unconscious. He was completely uncooperative, and showed no signs of any injury, or symptoms of illness. My best guess at the time, was that he was a psychiatric patient, or someone with severe antisocial tendencies, trying to get attention. He was a large man, about 30 years old, and also quite tall. It is not difficult to be taller than me anyway, as I am less than 5′ 8″, even in shoes. We had no option but to take him into hospital for assessment. After getting him into the vehicle, I strapped him down on the trolley bed, and we started to move off. At that time, the defibrillator was mounted immediately above the head end of the trolley bed on top of a small unit, and we generally allowed it to stay weighed down by its own weight. It was slanted slightly backwards, and connected to a twin wire charger.

We had only been travelling a short time, when the man began to thrash around on the bed, making growling noises. He was trying to pull off the safety straps, and kicking his legs wildly. I told my colleague to keep driving, as we were only going slowly, in heavy traffic. In retrospect, my next move was ill-advised, to say the least. I stood up, and reached over the man, to secure the straps, to try to stop him being able to move so freely. He immediately grabbed me around the waist and shoulder, pulling me downwards, as he rained numerous kicks and knee-jerks against my right side. Despite the awkward angle, he succeeded in striking home on several occasions, and as he got free of the straps, he tried to wrap one leg around my neck. My colleague had seen the disturbance, and was looking to stop the vehicle safely, to assist me in the back. I decided that there was no time to wait for help, as the ‘patient’ had also begun to punch me violently on the side of the head, with his free hand. I got both arms free, and reached out for the nearest thing to hand, the defibrillator. Pulling it from the mounting, I crashed the flat underside full onto the man’s head, with as much force as I could muster. When he continued to punch me, I did it again, with more deliberation, and a better aim. The second blow did the job; though it did not knock him out, it dissuaded him from further attacks. By this time, Police had arrived, and they arrested the man, taking him away in their own van.

I made no further charges, as he was bound to plead that his ‘condition’ had made him unaware of his actions. The short unpleasant episode was over, and I had proof that a defibrillator can really save a life, if not always in the way it was intended.


The Lantern Torch. In those early days, we carried a large torch, with an integral handle, and a substantial plastic casing. They were always useful when working outside at night, and I rarely left the vehicle without one, whenever it was dark. Late one night, we were called to a collapsed male, who was lying in a doorway on the Harrow Road, in West London. On arrival, I shone the torch into the doorway, illuminating a young man who was slumped in a sitting position. He was very tall, probably six feet five, or even more. He was also well built, like a rugby player, or someone who attended a gym regularly. Besides this, he seemed to be very drunk. As well as the smell of alcohol, he was swearing, and mumbling incoherently. He had also vomited copious amounts of sick into the recess, as well as all over himself. When I tried to talk to him, and examine him in situ, he became aggressive, pushing me away, and swearing. We decided to call the Police to take him away, as we could get nowhere with him.

By the time the Police arrived, he had gone into a deep sleep, and none of our efforts could rouse him from his slumbers. The Police declined to arrest him, deciding that he was ‘unconscious’, therefore ill, so our responsibility. We had no alternative, but to take him off to the local hospital in Paddington. We got him onto our trolley bed, and loaded him into the vehicle, ready for the very short journey to the casualty department, that we could actually see in the distance, as it was located on the same main road. Arriving there, the man suddenly woke up, and tried to get off the bed. I allowed him to sit up, explained that he was at a hospital, and that we would get a wheelchair for him. He gazed at me quite menacingly, but said nothing. My colleague went inside, and brought back a large hospital wheelchair. We helped the man down the steps, and I realised that I was still holding the torch. I managed to push the chair anyway, and we went into the department. It was very busy that night, and the nurse in charge asked us to wait in the entrance.

After a longish wait, of almost ten minutes, the man was still sitting in the chair, apparently relaxed and compliant. I tried to chat to him, and get his details, but he was having none of it, and just ignored me. Moments later, he stretched, raising his arms up, as if about to yawn. Before I knew it, his hands were suddenly around my throat. With the reverse angle, his fingers were locked around the back of my neck, and his thumbs were biting deep into the front, crushing my windpipe. My first reaction, and that of my colleague also, was to try to pry his fingers loose, but we could not budge them. I was really scared, as I could not move at all, such was the vice-like grip he had on my neck. I then felt the torch, still clutched in my hand from earlier. I raised it as far as I could, and smashed it into the side of his face, continuing to do so until the case shattered, and the battery was hanging out by its connectors. I cannot honestly say how many times I hit him before he let go of my neck, but when it was over, there was nothing left of the torch, except the plastic handle.

The nurse came wandering up as this was going on, to tell us a bed was free. All she saw, was me pummeling an apparently defenceless man with a large torch, and she screamed at me to stop. When I told her what had happened, she looked at me with disbelief, and wheeled the man off for treatment. Later that night, she told me that she had thought about reporting me, but had decided not to, as it was her word, against two of ours. The next evening, I found out that the drunk had hit a different nurse during the early hours of the morning, and had to be removed by six police officers. She never mentioned it again, and I had found another use for a torch, other than to light my way.


3 thoughts on “Ambulance stories (37)

    1. Who knows A? Maybe one day. Previous books about life in the Ambulance Service have never done that well. I think people have issues with believing the seemingly unbelievable…X


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