Monday, 6 December 2021

There is to be an inquiry into the ambulance service

and there is a call for submissions from the public.

I am tempted to write one - in support of ambulance officers. It is a lousy, rotten sort of job. It is not something I would ever have contemplated doing even if I had thought I could do it.

Think about it. You are almost constantly dealing with a negative, the injured, the sick, and the dying. You get abused by drunks and drug addicts. Angry, frightened people lash out at you. Your clothes get covered in blood, vomit, and worse.

We have called on the ambulance service more than once in this family. Middle Cat's life was almost certainly saved by the ambulance officers who broke all speed limits to get her from one hospital to another. 

In the bathroom one morning the Senior Cat fainted and fell backwards leaving a 4cm crack in his skull. What seemed like litres of blood came pouring out. There weren't of course but head injuries can seem like that.  I had pressed his emergency alarm and the ambulance arrived within minutes. We were fortunate that an empty ambulance heading back to base so that the officers could go off duty was available. They stayed on duty and we did the hair raising trip  - sometimes on the wrong side of the road - in peak hour traffic with the siren blaring. Throughout the two female officers were outwardly calm towards the Senior Cat even when they had conveyed their concern to me.  How did they do it?

They were very apologetic when, once inside the hospital, they had to leave me. "Just keep asking the same questions. Keep him awake. He will be all right."

Days later one of those ambulance officers saw me in the car park of our local shopping centre. She had been picking up some lunch but called out to me, "Hello, how's your dad doing?" - and she wanted to know. I was glad I could give her good news, good for us but also good for her. How many people had she seen in between? She could still recognise not just the patient but the anxious family member who had travelled with them. 

We called the ambulance service again in the middle of the night when he was on the floor. I couldn't lift him of course. He didn't think he had hurt himself but I was not sure. They were not sure either so it was off to hospital again. "Go and put something warm on. We'll get him into the ambulance. Don't forget your keys and your purse, " one of them told me. That time the officer in the back talked to him about the far off place that had been the location of the Senior Cat's first school - and where the officer had just taken his children camping. All this was designed to make us feel more comfortable and the Senior Cat less anxious and embarrassed. 

When I was teaching I watched more than one of the children I was working with be taken off to hospital with a serious epileptic seizure. In one school we handled many seizures ourselves in one school but it wasn't always possible. The ambulance based at the fire station down the road would be there within minutes - always outwardly calm. It was only some years later that they admitted to me they found it as distressing as we did.

The hours are lousy and the pay is too. These people really are saving lives. Sometimes it can be good of the day they were transporting an elderly man from one hospital to another and were diverted to pick me up. I was called in to do an emergency communication support task. (The elderly man was lovely, joking about having a "pretty escort". ) Once at the hospital they made sure I knew where to go  - another little bit extra.

Our ambulance service is very expensive to access. The Senior Cat has ambulance cover. I have two trips available on my health cover. If I use them then I will get ambulance cover too. In the meantime I will be writing a submission to the inquiry telling them that more staff are needed because so many of these people are doing more than their job demands - much more. 

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