Thursday, September 28, 2006


I work in the city, so incidents involving livestock are pretty rare. When we got dispatched to an old man with a suspected broken leg following a fall, I thought it would be fairly straightforward. We were greeted by his wife and daughter and led to where the man was lying on the couch at home. As we walked down the hall I asked what was happening today – sometimes you can get a few quick details from family members as they take you to the patient. His daughter just said he speaks mostly Italian, but she would let him tell the story. For a moment I thought she appeared to by trying to stifle a laugh, but I dismissed it as I walked into the back room.

Our patient was a fit looking older fellow with a thick accent, but his English was substantially better than my Italian. He was smiling and greeted us warmly when we walked in. I asked what had happened and he said “well…” and the vigorous arm waving began, “well…you know that bloody cow?”. For a second I was worried he was talking about his wife who was hovering nearby. His daughter must have seen the look on my face and began explaining that her father and mother had a small farm on the outskirts of Melbourne and both had been up there today fixing a fence. I asked again what had happened and was told by our patient that he had been working on the fence when ‘that bloody cow’ had stepped sideways and bumped into him. “Ah and that’s how you hurt your leg?” “No” all three of them replied almost at once. “The cow… he hit me..and... I hit the sheeps” Lots more gesticulating. Hmmm. I needed clarification.

I turned to his daughter who by this stage was unable to contain herself and told me the full story. Her dad had been knocked sideways by a cow he owns, who it seems sort-of nuzzles up against people, and he had then fallen over one of the sheep who was also crowding round thinking it was going to get fed. Her father had gone down in a heap on the ground injuring his leg. While we assessed him, I asked a few more questions. “So your wife then drove you home and you rang an ambulance?”, “No she is no good driver, I drive”. “You drove?!”. It turned out the farm was over an hour away - a long way with a broken leg.

I enquired about his pain level, and he waved me away dismissively saying he was alright. I looked at the increased heart rate on the monitor and the beads of sweat on his forehead and decided to try and make him a bit more settled. He had a probable fractured leg that would make most of us weep and he was being stoic. Tough old bugger. When he was loaded up in the ambulance and away from his family I again offered him some pain relief – I was glad he agreed and was soon a bit more comfortable. I joked with him on the way to hospital; “So what are you having for dinner tonight – the cow or the sheep?” He just said; “Pasta, she always make pasta”.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Now I lay me down to sleep

Hey firstly thanks for all the great comments lately everyone, you have made me laugh several times!

I've just completed a Saturday nightshift. My eyes are burning and I feel slightly nauseous from lack of sleep and too much coffee. It was a flat out night, 15 hours with just a 30 minute break early in the night where I managed to grab a meal. I was lucky, I heard many of the cars still reporting they had not eaten a meal late into the night. The city hospitals were struggling and the ambulance service was running around all night, chasing all sorts of calls until the morning finally arrived and it died off a bit. There are a lot of very tired paramedics out there this morning.

My partner and I did no really major jobs of note, just an assortment of miscellaneous calls - a regular caller who is a chronic alcoholic and has taken to ringing for the most rediculous reasons, an old girl in a nursing home with a fever, a drunk young man with laceration to the leg, a man with angina, a man who had been assaulted the day before and now had two black eyes, a woman with anxiety, another woman hyperventilating, a man with abdo pain and a girl with a sore throat, oh and a kid who had fallen out of a high chair.

All in all a big night. But now I am bone tired and need to sleep. I have a few good stories to tell but they will have to wait until I'm rested. Eyes are getting heavy...

Let the snoring begin.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Give me strength

Patient: Me foot hurts

Rob: How long have you had the plaster cast on it?

Patient: Free days

Rob: You broke your ankle?

Patient: Um.. I fink so.

Rob: think so?

Patient: Mate I don’t know – I don’ remember.

Rob: Have you been taking any pain relief medication for it?

Patient: Nah.

Rob: Any reason why not?

Patient: I haven’t got the script filled yet.

Rob: er...why not?

Patient: I dunno.

Rob: Has it been hurting since you broke it?

Patient: Yeah but it’s been getting worser.

Rob: Have you been walking on it?

Patient: Nuh

Rob: The bottom of the cast is pretty black and worn out, are you sure you haven’t been walking on it?

At this point Rob’s partner holds up a cigarette butt he’s just found stuck to the base of the patient’s plaster cast

Patient: Just down to the shops an’ that.

Rob: (Sigh)

Patient: It hurts

Rob: So you broke it 3 days ago, have been walking around on it and now it’s sore?

Patient: Yeah

Rob (getting frustrated): Any reason you didn’t get your prescription filled when you went down to the shops?

Patient: Um…I didn’t think about that...

Rob’s partner (getting frustrated): …but wasn’t your foot hurting?

Patient (getting frustrated): Yeah. Look mate, I wanna go to hospital.

Patient then walked out to the ambulance

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


It’s funny the conversations you have in the wee small hours of the morning. Driving back from hospital along the freeway with my work partner we’ll sometimes find ourselves talking about the most bizarre things. Last night we discussed wind farms, the mighty Pavlova, roof guttering, ….oh and the guy who’d just tried to chop his man bits off with a knife because his previous attempt at dropping a television on it hadn’t quite achieved what he was after.

If you are confused by that, you are not alone. When the crew who just brought him to hospital told me the story, I had nothing but questions. Lots and lots of questions. The main one was why? But I have no answers for you, sorry.

Like me you will just have to settle for the Mount Everest explanation: Because it’s there.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Shakes on a plane

We went to the airport again and got to go on a very big shiny plane. I love it. We drive out onto the tarmac and the planes seem so much larger when you park beneath them. It’s windy, cold and very loud. The unmistakeable smell of jet fuel is carried on the wind. We head inside and up some stairs to the gate lounge. It’s so much quieter inside. A pack of us stand there silently waiting for the plane to taxi to the gate. The airport people, the airline staff, the customs people, the quarantine officers and a couple of paramedics with their bags – all with their jobs to do, all looking pale and sickly under the fluoro lights of the gangway.

The plane door eventually opens up. The well-tanned flight attendants say good evening and still manage to smile even though I know they have probably been doing it through gritted teeth since they left LA, Singapore or Dubai or wherever it is they have come from. The flight staff tell us they will wait for our all clear before moving people off. We walk on past business class, into the cabin and 200 faces look up. The quarantine people are anxiously waiting for us to tell them that we don’t think its something nasty like SARS or Bird Flu. Who knows what they’d do if we thought it was – perhaps tow us back out to the middle of the runway and leave us there to fend for ourselves…

I work my way down the rows towards row 26, bumping my bags into chairs, people and fittings. Sorry…excuse me…Row 22, 23, 24…..its going to be a window seat. It always is. People are standing in the gaps between the rows, cabin luggage in hand, anxious to get off. A young girl is curled up against the window with her knees drawn up. She peers out from under her hair and I can see she’s been crying. I ask the person holding her hand to move out and talk to my partner while I slide in to the seat next to her. At least I can say I sat on a plane even if I didn’t actually get to fly anywhere. For a brief moment I realise how much I’d like to be flying back from somewhere warm.

The girl’s English is poor and I take a second to understand her accent and sentence structure. It’s weird like that, I find you sort-of ‘tune in’ to the way people talk. I can overhear my partner talking to the crew and she’s being told; “…the girl was shaking violently during the flight…they though it was a seizure….is she going to be ok?...we gave her some oxygen”. I do a bit more of an assessment and see that the girl is still trembling. I can see she seems in no immediate danger and I give the flight attendant the go ahead to move everyone off the plane. We don’t need to get off in a hurry and in a few minutes it will be a lot calmer and quieter in the cabin. The quarantine person taps me on the shoulder anxious for my opinion. I quietly relay to him that I think it might be an anxiety issue. He seems happy with that and goes away writing something on a clipboard. The people begin to file off the plane and I notice with some amusement that the same rubbernecking behaviour we see with car crashes happens as the passengers shuffle past us down the aisles.

The girl turns out to be older than she looks and is travelling with her parents who speak no English at all – we struggle to find out much information from them. I turn back to the girl and she has begun to violently shake again. I can see why the flight attendants were a bit freaked out. She’s shaking, but it is clearly not a seizure. I hold her hand and get right in her face while we talk. She calms down a bit. The plane empties and we walk her a few steps to where my partner has a wheelchair waiting. I watch the parents as we walk out and see that they are not looking quite as concerned as I would expect – I figure they have seen this before. I give them a reassuring smile but it seems to have little effect.

We head down in the lift to ambulance and all climb in. I start my assessment again from the top. I want to be sure I haven’t missed anything. She starts breathing heavily and the shakes begin again. I catch my partner’s gaze in the rear-view mirror. She looks puzzled – so am I. It looks like an anxiety type episode, but with very little dialogue between any of us, it’s hard to tell. We follow the escort car as it leads us out to the airport gate. The driver waves us on and I hear my partner call out “thankyou” even though the escort guy can’t hear us.

Soon we are on the freeway heading for hospital, me holding the hand of a distressed girl, her mother staring at me expressionless, her dad up front sitting silently as my partner guides us towards the city. I can’t help but wonder what they are all thinking.