Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Service interruption

Guys and girls, sorry no posts for a while - I've been off work and off the air looking after a close relative who is unwell. Normal programming will resume ASAHP. Please bear with me.



Monday, August 21, 2006


Quite some time ago "they" (those people who do stuff when I'm on days off) took away our music, by this I mean they disabled and disconnected the CD players in all the ambulances. For a while there we were able to go screaming through the streets with Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries (from the Apocalypse Now soundtrack) blasting from the stereo as we made our approach. Occasionally in our haste to get out of the truck at a job, we'd leave the volume turned up. When we had just got grandpa settled on the bed in the back, and we've helped nanna finally get her seatbelt on in the front, we'd start up the truck and scare the absolute crap out of everybody. I can't imagine why did they took them away.

Now we just have the radio which is wired through the data terminal (MDT) in the truck and has atrocious reception - if you like your Britney Spears with a lot of hiss and crackle (which I actually do) then its fine, but if you really want to hear the cricket score or the traffic report - Tough. A few of us now bring in iPods and transmit through the radio - it still sounds crappy but it does give us a way to listen to something other than moronic talkback at 4 am.

Today I've been making up a playlist to play in the ambulance. I figure I need a good mix of tunes from a variety of artists. I hope I have something for everybody :)

Kanje West - Breathe in Breathe out
Audiovent - I cant breathe
The Police - Every breath you take
Yes - Saving my Heart
NOFX - You're Bleeding
The Replacements - Take me down to the hospital
Bob Dylan - It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Boy George - Do You Really Want To Hurt Me
Urge Overkill - Positive Bleeding
Metallica - Kill em all
The Flaming Lips - Mr. Ambulance Driver
Bon Jovi's - Bad medicine
Tori Amos - Taxi Ride
Lynyrd Skynyrd - That Smell
Pearl Jam - Let Me Sleep
The Prodigy - Crazy man
Queens Of The Stone Age - Everybody Knows That You Are Insane
Madness - House of Fun
Mark Knopfler - Don't Crash The Ambulance
Madness - Cardiac Arrest
Golden Boy - Rippin' Kitten ( I feel like takin' a life)
Nat King Cole - Pick Yourself Up
Led Zeppelin - Sick Again
Pink - You Make Me Sick
Blur - Ambulance
Eskimo Joe - I'm So Tired
Alkaline Trio - My Little Needle
Guttermouth - This Won't Hurt A Bit
and lastly..
Frank Zappa - Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?

Well, That oughtta just about do it. Anybody have any others I can add?

Monday, August 14, 2006


I've hung onto this story for about a week, not sure if I would post it - but I'll relate it here because it highlights how vulnerable our elderly can be. I think its just about the worst ambulance story I have ever heard. By that I mean the most tragic, horrible and ultimately sad.

I got this story directly from the crew who attended this case last week, so I hope I can keep to the basic facts.

An elderly woman spills something from her stove (probably oil) onto her legs and is engulfed in flames from the thighs down. She attempts to put the flames out with her hands but is unable to. She knows that she is supposed to push the button on the medi-alert pendant round her neck if "something happens", so she pushes it and sits down in a chair. The alert company contacts her on speaker phone and hear her desperately crying out for help. They call for an ambulance. Another nearby person (who I think was a council worker, but I may be wrong) is also notified. He arrives at the house after about 5 minutes, gains entry and finds the woman still on fire. He extinguishes the flames and shortly after this the first ambulance arrives. The crew apply burns dressings to her legs, but there is little point. The woman has effectively burned all the soft tissue away from her legs from the thigh to the ankles. Not much more than bone remains. She is still conscious. A MICA unit is soon on scene and the woman is conveyed to hospital.

The crew later told me they believed she would die in the few days after arriving at hospital.

Many elderly people will stubbornly (and quite understandably) fight to stay living at home, preferring their independence, often long after it is safe for them to do so. Please if you have elderly neighbours, keep an eye on them and maybe drop in and make sure they are ok every now and then.

Nil by mouth

Normally I bring in my meals on nightshift, that way when I do finally get a break I am not scrounging around the kebab joints and taxi cafes at 3 am looking for something edible, something that will not kill me before the end of the shift. Yesterday we could not get a feed to save ourselves. In the end it became comical. We would walk into a place and before we had even settled on something on the menu - the pager would go off and we would be walking back to the truck...cursing.

Each time we walked in to place serving food we would get a SelCall for a job. The sandwich place was bringing in its tables as we pulled up. The pasta place was flat out and after queuing for whileI gave up. Later I ordered a pizza and cancelled it before it had been put in the oven. Later still I ordered a kebab and then suffered a vicious scowl from the guy behind the counter, despite cheerily saying we'll be back soon. We wouldn't and we weren't. I started looking around to see if we were being filmed for some kind of Candid Camera show - ha ha really funny guys - its midnight and I'm about ready to eat a box of rubber gloves from the truck.

We finally pulled into a service station and I stood there for a bit almost tempted to go one of those pre-packaged bacteria-filled certain-death chicken sandwiches. Normally I wouldn't even consider eating something like this, but my Blood Sugar Level had dropped to well below my mental age and these little guys had the crusts cut off them and all. Fortunately the little voice in my ear that was telling me not to buy them, won out. I guess that's why we work in pairs after all. A bag of peanuts, a fruit juice and a deranged psych patient later we got back to branch. I ate about seven pieces of toast with every different topping I could find in the cupboard. Bless the social club for keeping us well stocked. Exhausted but finally sated, I fell asleep on the couch watching infomercials.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The disappearing patient

Dispatched to a shooting in the suburbs late in the afternoon. A dual car response with a MICA unit backing us. We were told to exercise due caution and not approach the scene until it was declared safe by the police. Fair call - I am no hero and I am more than happy to wait til things have settled down a bit - specially if there are high velocity weapons involved. The police gave us a location in the next street where thay wanted us to wait. Our patient had apprently been shot at home and the caller was stating the whereabouts of the offender was unknown. We waited and listened intently to the radio, knowing full well lots of other ambulance crews would be doing the same - everyone listens to events like this when they happen - and it can be very compelling listening.

Shortly after we arrived at our staging area, we got an update through saying that police had entered the scene and someone had indeed been shot. Then a minute later another update stating the patient was now no-longer breathing. However the area was still not secure and we were instructed to wait where we were. Oooh, we thought, this was for real. We were discussing that with the delay in accessing the patient and a gunshot wound that stops you breathing, the victim was probably "very irreversibly unwell".

The next few minutes seemed to take for ever as we waited for news. Finally the dispatcher came up on the radio and said we could cancel(!). The police had just advised that there was no patient. What the...?! I'm still at a loss as to how a job goes from confirmed gunshot wounds and not breathing to 'move along thanks, nothing to see here'. Abducted by aliens? Witness protection? You tell me.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dame Edna

Many of us who work in the northern suburbs have met Dame Edna. Now I should immediately point out that despite appearences, this is not the real Dame Edna. She/he is a familiar sight at a certain hospital and many of us have picked her/him up. Edna is a colourful character both literally and figuratively speaking who doesn't seem to mind ambos, but really doesn't like hospital staff. So he/she can be nice as pie on the way to hospital and then drives the ED staff mad for the rest of the day. I might have him for twenty minutes. They can have him for their whole shift.

The first time I picked up Dame Edna I was a little shocked. Here was a six foot hairy man (woman?) wearing a dress, the purple wig, stylin' glasses, waving a glowing plastic flower in one hand and a fag in the other. Rumor also has it that he tried several other personas, including a certain superhero before finding "the One". Edna has a nasty tendency to take a lot of a close relatives medication resulting in the need to go to hospital for observation.

Last time we picked her up, she (yeah, I'll just say she, it's easier) ... she had absconded from hospital before they could monitor her blood levels. My partner was a little stunned when she charged out of the house towards us. Fortunately the Dame was in a reasonable mood. We dropped her off, they took blood samples and she had stormed out in a rage, waving her flower and scaring the entire waiting room to death long before I had finished my case notes.