Ambulance stories (18)

A rather sombre post from 2012, about my time as an EMT in London, with particular emphasis on dealing with death. Only one of you has left a comment in the past, and it has hardly ever been read. Given the content, I suppose that is understandable.


Living with the dead

This is not an anecdote about a specific job, like the other posts in this series. It is rather a reflection on death, and on dealing with it in the role of an ambulanceman. It is not meant to be depressing, though it may read that way. It is part of my reflection on those years, as I get older.

Before I joined the London Ambulance Service, I had seen one dead body. When I was young, my maternal grandfather died. He was only 65, and died suddenly. I was taken to see him in his coffin, which was in my grandparents’ front room, for a vigil before the funeral. My enduring memory of that night, was not of my first dead body, but of my uncle crying. My grand-dad just looked as if he was asleep, and I did not find it distressing.

Decades years…

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Ambulance stories (30)

I was thinking about this young man today, for some reason. I think only Eddy has ever seen this post. A sad story from my days as an EMT.


Explosion in Notting Hill

There was a young man who had come from Wiltshire, about 100 miles West of London, to work on a job, converting a former workshop into a fancy new mews house. He was in his early 20’s, lived at home with his parents, and was saving up money, so he and his girlfriend could get engaged. He didn’t really want to be away from home, staying in a depressing bed and breakfast hotel, in a seedy part of London, a city he hardly knew; but he needed the work, and wanted to earn enough to fulfil his dreams.

The job was hard work, labouring to clear an old industrial premises, and prepare the way for more skilled tradesmen to plaster walls, and add all the luxuries of modern living. The site manager obviously wanted this work done quickly, and had possibly cut corners in his surveying…

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Ambulance stories (19)

Another post from 2012, reflecting on my time as an EMT in London. I don’t think any of you have ever seen this one.


Phone calls in the night

Some jobs in the Ambulance Service do not involve rushing off on blue lights, heading for the local Casualty department, trying hard to save the life of the patient on board. They do not involve any contact with the patient at all, save for a brief confirmation that nothing can be done.

Most people who die from natural causes, do so in the early hours of the morning. They are sometimes discovered later, often much later, but the chances are, that they actually passed away after midnight, and before 6am. Of course, the Ambulance Service is a 24 hours a day operation, so if the unfortunate person is found, an ambulance will usually be summoned to the scene. The deceased person may have been found by a carer, if in an old people’s home, or possibly by a neighbour, who might have a key, and…

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Ambulance stories (4)

Another old post from 2012, about my time in London as an EMT. No horrors this time, just an example of how people could often abuse the emergency services. I think only Wilma has seen this one before.


The broken lift

One evening shift, we were called to a nearby housing estate, known for its high-rise blocks. There was a female ‘Angina Patient’, who was in the reception area of one of these blocks, and she had asked for an ambulance to attend. Angina, for those who do not know, is a narrowing of the arteries around the heart, and is potentially life-threatening. Controlled by drugs, this condition can be exacerbated by stress, undue exercise, and other factors. It presents as a sharp pain in the chest, and can be relieved by the administration of a drug, called in abbreviation, GTN. This is in the form of a spray, and will temporarily dilate blood vessels, potentially relieving the pain. So, a call to someone with this condition can be considered serious.

On arrival, we were met by a well-dressed, presentable lady, who appeared to be about 60 years…

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Ambulance stories (34)

Another example of ‘black humour’, from my time as an EMT. I think only Eddy has seen this one.


The Dutch Lady

When you spend a long time working for the emergency services, you develop a tendency to find unusual things funny. They can often be very serious things, not at all intentionally humourous, or amusing in any accepted sense. This can also happen at the most inappropriate times, and can appear to be callous, and uncaring. It is neither.

We were often called to the house of an elderly, and very pleasant lady. She suffered from a few ailments, the most serious of which was Angina, a heart disease caused by a narrowing of the arteries supplying the heart. This is often quite painful, and the symptoms are relatively easy to diagnose. Treatment is usually by administration of GTN spray, given under the tongue, or in a small tablet, taken in the same fashion. This can temporarily relieve the pain, but does cause a severe headache. It was…

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Ambulance stories (20)

There was mention of tattoos in a recent post, and that reminded me of this Ambulance Story, from 2012. A couple of you will remember it, but most readers have never seen it.


The expansive tattoo

People may be forgiven for believing that having tattoos is a fairly recent thing. It seems that all young people have at least one these days, and most pop stars, and famous actors, are covered in them, to different degrees. This is not the case of course; they have been around for thousands of years.

One afternoon, we were called to a local old peoples’ home, to transport an elderly lady into hospital. She was suffering with arthritis, and needed to go for x-rays, and possible admission, due to her general lack of mobility. On arrival, we were shown to her room, where we met a very friendly and chatty old lady, with an outgoing personality, and a ready wit. We were handed a doctor’s letter, and helped her from her bed, onto our ambulance trolley, making her as comfortable as possible, in the circumstances. Once in…

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Ambulance stories (14)

More from 2012, behind the scenes at a murder. This contains some graphic details of injuries.


Is he dead?

Depending on where you work, a job in the London Ambulance Service will put you into contact with violent crime, and scenes of such crime; this may involve serious assault, rape, and murder. In a city of such size and diversity, crimes like these are sadly more common than you may suspect. Many are never reported in the media, as the culprit is quickly found, admits guilt, and only a cursory trial is deemed necessary. Despite living all my life in London, even I was surprised how frequently people are murdered, and how often I would come into contact with this crime during my time as an ambulanceman.

Unlike other incidents, people killed as a result of a crime, whether obvious, or suspected, are not removed by ambulance crews. The scene of the death will be secured by the Police, the local area canvassed for potential witnesses…

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Ambulance stories (23)

Another EMT story, from 2012. If you are going to parachute from a tall building, choose carefully…


Urban parachuting

Trellick Tower, in West London, is one of the tallest residential housing blocks in the UK. It is 31 stories high, and has 217 flats, some on two levels. It is a local landmark, a listed building, and is visible from great distances across London. Love it or hate it, this concrete monolith cannot fail to inspire opinion, one way, or another. As it was at the end of a local street market, less than a mile from the ambulance station where I was based, it was a regular venue for us to attend, and the large number of residents generated many calls to the emergency services. However, on this particular occasion, it was not a resident that we were called to.

Almost 30 years ago, I had never heard of ‘base jumping’, and I was not alone. Security in housing developments was almost unknown as well, and…

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Ambulance stories (10)

A more amusing tale from my EMT days, hopefully providing some light relief. I don’t think any of you have ever seen this one. 🙂


The enormous tit

One of the much-publicised advances in Ambulance equipment, was the advent of the Cardiac Monitor, and combined de-fibrillator. Although this two-lead machine did not give a full ECG readout, it did give some indication of heart rhythm. As a result, it became protocol to attach these leads to any patient with chest pains, or with a known heart condition. This would be done when the patient was settled in the vehicle, and before moving off, as the movement of the vehicle could cause inaccurate readings. One lead was stuck to the upper right side of the chest, and the other lower down, on the left side. In the case of a female patient, this would mean that there was a need to put this just under the left breast.

One of the first things that you are taught in training, is the maxim ‘No sex in first…

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Ambulance stories (39)

Another true-life incident, from my days as an EMT. This post is from 2013, and from current followers, only Eddy has seen it. It seems to just be about uniform, but read on…


The new green overalls.

Not long after the National Ambulance Strike, the London Ambulance Service decided to introduce a new style of uniform for all operational staff. Despite protests from most of us, they settled on a one-piece overall, in a lime green colour. To an outsider, this may have seemed a sensible idea, driven by practicality. To the staff who had to wear it, it just seemed cheap, demeaning, and uncomfortable. This dislike was not helped by the fact that in London, many dustcart operatives and street cleaners, wore the exact same item of clothing, sourced from the same manufacturer. It was also synthetic, making it exceptionally cold to wear in winter, and unbearably hot in the summer. The one piece design, with a full-length zip, made going to the toilet tricky; and for female staff, this also necessitated complete removal of the overall, which was very inconvenient.


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