Sunday, April 22, 2007


Oh dear - I'm hopeless. I have just realised I have missed my blog's anniversary. Along with a few other things in my life, it has fallen victim to the post nightshift haze. Here was I thinking I'd only blog this stuff for a couple of months. Then I said to myself I'll keep going til Christmas, now more than a year has gone past and I'm still tapping away, albeit somewhat sporadically!

Thanks to everyone who has been visiting, reading and posting, it has been great hearing from you. And of course lets not forget those who are occasionally spamming the comments section, your generous offers of cheap software, viagra and share market tips really make my day :)

Anyway I don't have any candles, but there is one beer in my fridge - it seems only fitting to drink it now.


We all know different cultures handle grief and loss differently. For some grief is a very quiet, private and solemn affair. Some wail, pull at their hair and make a lot of noise. Still others might dance and sing. Each person goes through a grief process, dictated by their own feelings or culture. And yes much has been written on that grief process. In my work as a paramedic I have seen grief handled in many different ways, sometimes surprising ways and sometimes wholly expected.

The other night I was asked by a family to transport a woman whose main complaint was grief. She had suddenly lost a relative in a conflict overseas and after much open and vocal grieving had now ‘shut down’. She was not talking to anybody, was lying on the couch, refusing to open her eyes, refusing eat or drink and was worrying her large family who had gathered around her. I struggled a bit on the night as to what was the best course of action for this woman, she wasn’t physically unwell and although you could argue she had experienced some kind of emotional breakdown, she was actually grieving, and grief is something that I don’t think western medicine handles very well.

Her family were adamant that she needed to go to hospital and be seen by a doctor, she appeared to be wishing we would all go away (yeah I know that’s me projecting onto her) and in the end even after we suggested that a locum doctor (home visit) might be more appropriate for her – meaning she would still be seen but could remain at home rather than waiting at hospital – the family insisted that we take her. I’m still not convinced it was the right thing to do.

Has anyone else been to something like this?

Monday, April 02, 2007


The young man was lying on his back on the footpath outside a drive-through bottle shop that had closed for the night. It was midnight on Friday night and the streets surrounding the main strip in inner-city Fitzroy were busy. There were two men crouched over the figure, one sitting on his legs holding him down as if he were about to float away. He wasn’t moving. In hindsight, the usual crowd of onlookers was absent – only a few people were standing a short distance away. That should have given us a clue that something here was out of the ordinary - but it didn’t.

We had been dispatched to the case as a Signal 2 job and the data terminal just read “Unknown problem – Is standing or talking” – these jobs are usually psychiatric issues, alcohol related or drug affected. Sometimes all three. We parked in the driveway and flicked on the spotlights to light up the scene a little better. As we got out of the ambulance a police van pulled in behind us – my partner and I exchanged looks. There had been no mention of the police being dispatched on the data terminal. Sometimes multiple people will call for help when something untoward happens in the street – some people will call the police, some will call an ambulance. Sometimes the two services don’t communicate very well and we both arrive looking surprised to see the other.

My partner headed over to talk to the police and I grabbed the Red bag and walked over to where the people were holding the young man down. I could see straight away that he had his eyes open, was clearly breathing and appeared relatively calm. Then I saw the blood on the ground around his head. I asked the two guys what had been going on and they stated this guy had been “going crazy” and had hit his head on the ground. My first thought was that perhaps there had been a fight between them and they had been holding him down until the police arrived. He looked quiet enough now. The police officers and my partner walked over so I asked the two guys to get off him. I remember one of them looking at me for an instant as if to say “are you sure?” – then they let him go and stood back. For a few seconds all was quiet… then all hell broke loose.

The guy let out a scream like a banshee, arched his back and began repeatedly smashing the back of his head into the concrete with one of the most sickening sounds I have ever heard. You could literally hear his skull cracking. For a moment I think nobody could believe what they were seeing – then we all jumped in and tried to stop him. While the others restrained his arms and legs, I tried to hold his head still. With all the blood in his hair his head was impossible to hold – I ended up grabbing a fist full of his hair with one hand and placing my other hand under his head. He violently fought against us and was arching his back, easily lifting the two police officers that were trying to hold him down. My partner ran to get the bed and restraints out of the truck. Then suddenly he relaxed, stopped fighting and was quiet again, lying there like he was looking up at the stars, blinking occasionally but not saying a word.

A few tense moments later and we had him restrained to the bed for his safety and ours. I never like doing that but this guy was clearly doing himself some major harm. We loaded him into the back of the ambulance and I set about trying to take some vital signs. My partner placed an oxygen mask on him and I passed over a pad and bandage for his head which was steadily turning the pillow red. Suddenly and without warning, he fired up again, screaming, kicking and writhing. The two police officers who had been lurking in the doorway of the ambulance piled in and we all struggled to hold him down again. He managed to dislocate his shoulder trying to sit up and get out of the restraints – he was unbelievably strong. Because my hands were somewhat full, my partner notified the hospital, which was only a few minutes away, to warn them we were coming. He went from perfectly calm to berserker mode several more times over the next few minutes until we handed him over at the hospital. A few minutes later and there were six security staff, four nurses and several doctors all struggling to manage him.

He would need to be sedated, restrained and closely monitored for many hours until the methamphetamine was out of his system and they could work out how much damage he’d done. When I finished writing my case notes, I went out to where my partner was still cleaning up the blood in the ambulance. Not long after, the two police officers walked back outside. I thanked them for their help, we bade our farewells and we all drove back out into the night. Only another six hours of nightshift to go.