Sunday, February 25, 2007


The old guy had been sitting on a seat in the airport arrivals lounge for most of the day. Eventually late in the afternoon he came to the attention of the airport staff when one of the thousands of people who walked past noticed that he had wet himself. The airport staff had then approached him and found him to be confused and unable to tell them much at all. We got called and asked to come and check him out.

We were met by an airport manager who escorted us to where the man was still sitting. He was a little Caucasian man about 70 years old who could have been anybody’s grandpa. He was sitting there with his eyes closed clutching a small leather toiletries bag. My partner spoke to the manager while I assessed the old man. He opened his eyes and tried to answer my questions but was clearly confused and disoriented. Physically he checked out fine – blood pressure, heart rate, lung sounds all normal. I then checked his temperature and blood sugar levels and found them to be normal as well. He didn’t seem to be overly dehydrated and I could find nothing amiss – other than the fact he was very confused.

My partner told me they had figured out from his boarding pass that he had come in on a flight from Indonesia early that morning on a one way ticket. But why was he still at the airport? Wasn’t someone coming to pick him up? He was clearly unable to look after himself and had no idea how he got where he was or where he was going. He was simply just sitting. Waiting.

I asked him if I could look inside his bag and he nodded. Inside I found some basic toiletries, a toothbrush, a shaver and an old bottle of prescription tablets that I didn’t recognise. There was also an old wallet. Inside there was no money, only a few scraps of paper and a photo of him taken years before with his arm around the shoulders of a smiling Indonesian woman. One of the folded bits of paper contained a name, phone number and an address way out in the eastern suburbs, all written in shaky writing as if a child had written it. I handed it to my partner and we decide the best thing to do was to call the number. We had nothing else to go on.

We walked a short distance away to the service counter and the girl there passed me a phone. I dialled the number with my blue gloves on. The call went basically like this:


Hi my name is Rob… I’m an ambulance paramedic…..


I’m here at Tullamarine Airport and we have an elderly gentleman here by the name of Norman Smith….I’m just wondering, do you know him?

….you what?

We found your number in his wallet and we were wondering if you can help us work out who he is?

He’s here ….in Melbourne?

Yeah, Are you a relative?

…He’s my… he’s… Look we don’t want nothing to do with him ok.

We’re just trying to find out where he is supposed to be staying so we can make sure he’s alright….

Look he left us a long time ago to be with her and none of the family wants anything to do with him... alright?

Is there someone that he lives with here in Melbourne we can contact?

Mate you don’t get it – he lives in Indonesia. We don’t want nothing to do with him.

The phone was left beeping in my ear. I was stunned. I looked over at the old guy sitting on the chair and told my partner what I had just heard. I could only assume that this guy for whatever reason had left his life in Australia and gone to Indonesia to live with a new partner. His family had apparently never forgiven him. Now he was old and confused, and someone had put him on a plane and sent him back to Australia.

We had no idea what to do with him, so we loaded him up and took him to hospital. I told the story to the triage nurse. They sat him on a chair in a cubicle and made some calls of their own while I wrote my case notes up. The nurse told me she had been given the same story when she called the number in his wallet. Nobody wanted anything to do with him. Whatever he had done, I looked at him sitting there alone in the chair and I felt genuinely sorry for him.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chain of events

Over the past few days here in Melbourne emergency services had some difficult, tragic and hard to believe jobs. To top all this off its been really hot and people have been behaving like idiots, some tool has been running all over the place setting fire to the northern suburbs, and people are still driving on the roads like they are invincible. The news this morning again shows that they are not with another car slamming into a tree killing a teenager and seriously injuring sever others.

One of the jobs from the last few days really got me thinking - not only for the families and people involved, but also for the poor crews who had to attend. Two days ago there was a minor reversing accident involving two cars. The driver of one of the cars got spooked and accelerated instead of hitting the brakes. The car sped across the road, over the footpath and slammed a poor young woman against a building, crushing her so badly that she lost her leg. If that wasn't tragic enough, a few hours later the glazier who had been dispatched to repair the damage to the building after the accident, was hit in the heart with a nail from a nail gun he was using. The same ambulance crew were dispatched back to the scene and got him to hospital but he died shortly after, despite emergency surgery.

I just got thinking how strange it is that a minor accident lead to several families having their lives changed forever. I'm sure these ripple effects happen all the time, it's just rarely are they so obvious.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


When I sleepily wheeled the stretcher out from the hospital early the other morning there was a little kid standing, looking somewhat quizzically at the front of the vehicle. At first I thought he was mouthing an incantation at the ambulance - perhaps back at the coven, his mother had taught him a protection spell and he was now kindly putting it on the ambulance so we could get home in one piece, without getting another job on the way back to branch.

Anyway, he appeared to be trying to pronounce the funny word written on the front of the ambulance. When I said hi, he got all self conscious and ran off towards where I noticed his mum and siblings were standing. He proudly yelled to his brothers and sisters "It says EKNALUMBA!". I checked and saw he was almost right - then while I was making the bed, I was trying to work out what his pronunciation would have looked like when it was written the right way round. My partner came out and found me standing at the front of the ambulance apparently mouthing strange incantations at the truck. Of course then I got all self conscious.

If you look really closely, you can see me reflected in the bottom right corner of the pic looking tired as the sun comes up over the Northern Hospital carpark. There is even a tiny thought bubble that is me praying we don't get pinged for a job on the way home...


If you are going to ride a motorbike - please wear shoes.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Back to it.

Well I had a little time off away from the blue and red flashing lights and it was good - I have decided holidays are very nice and there should be more of them. Its amazing how you think you are doing just fine at work until your holidays are due and then suddenly the week before annual leave, it dawns on you just how tired you really are.

I was tired - that cumulative tired that can't be fixed by one good nights sleep. I wasn't waking in the middle of the night with dreams of people chasing me down the street, waving their pension cards or anything, (although that was a reoccurring dream last year) I was just getting grumpy on nightshift and running a little low on empathy, sympathy, patience and all the good stuff.

The batteries are now recharged and I leapt* back into work feeling like new. By that I mean I felt good but I also felt like I was a new student again. I couldn't remember all my routine questions and found I was stumbling around for the first few days. It's all coming back to me slowly.

Mostly normal stuff since I got back. A few jobs stood out:

The pissed young moron on his way home from the pub who had been kicking the glass walls of each bus stop as he passed until it broke - eventually his vandalism spree was halted when he got his foot stuck in a trellis fence that he tried to Kung Fu kick as he went past. Lots of pain, a little blood and a very tired left leg from trying to hold himself upright until we got there and freed his other leg. Very very funny.

An old fella standing on the street with a beer in his hand who calmly said his heart was playing up. He was placed on our cardiac monitor only to find his heart was romping along at about 160 bpm. Add to that the fact that he had aching central chest pain and he was sweaty and pale and it was; Off to hospital for you sir. His response: "Can I Finish me beer?".

The old woman who said she hadn't left the house in 3 years - who took so long to get organised to go to hospital that I thought we were going to be there for 3 years as well.
Get me this, lock that up, no - not that one!, what are you stupid?, put the dog out, turn that light off, I want the other nightie, I'm not leaving yet, call my daughter etc etc... Oh and for those of you that think you should be able to exercise a little scene control and say don't worry about all that, let's just go to hospital - just try it with a stubborn old irish lady with a short fuse. She was leaving on her terms or not at all.

* That's for you KimtheVet :)