Part of our job involves using a radio to talk to Control, so part of our training is in the use of the radio. The training is about three hours long, and you spend it pretending to talk on a radio passing jobs back and forth (this is before the computer terminals were introduced).
One of the things we are taught is the Phonetic alphabet, which I am sure you have all seen in film and TV. Normally it sounds something like “Foxtrot Alpha Sierra Tango Charlie Alpha Romeo”, and is designed to make the spelling out of words over an unreliable radio transmission clearer, and less likely to have errors.
One other thing that you should be aware of, is that our radio has an open broadcast – this means that everyone in the sector can hear you talking on it. You can recognise your friend's voices, and this radio chatter gives you a general idea at what they are doing. Of course, this means that should you make a mistake – everyone knows about it.
Why was it, when spelling out a name I suddenly forgot the phonetic for 'M' (Mike), and instead, in a moment of panic, decided that the new phonetic for 'M' would be…
It's not as if I have mangoes on the mind – I can't remember the last time I ate one, but for some reason it was the first thing that came into my mind.
I bless the radio operator for not bursting into laughter and calling me a twit.
Work was fairly light today, I had one blue call, which was an eight year old who was having an asthma attack. When we got on scene, the child was having real trouble breathing, his lips had a worryingly purple tinge and he was using the whole of his chest to suck air into his lungs. I don't think the mother realised quite how serious her child's condition was.
We gave him a dose of a Salbutamol nebulizer (a medicine for opening the airways of the lungs, making it easier for the child to breath), and 'blued' him into hospital. I carried him into the resuscitation room to be met by a couple of doctors and nurses. By now the child was looking a lot better, and the consultant didn't look too impressed with my bluing the child in. The consultant didn't say anything, but I sensed a definite 'vibe', that he thought we were overreacting. However, once I explained how the child looked when we first saw him, the consultant was more understanding of my decision. The child stayed in the resuscitation room for some time, so they can't have been that unconcerned.
I have a rule at work – if I'm considering bluing in a patient, then I should just blue them in and have done with it. It's more embarrassing to turn up with a dead patient after driving slowly, than to have a live patient turn up quickly. No-one ever lost their job for bluing in a patient.
Sometimes you just know that a patient is seriously ill, even if everything else says otherwise. It's good to listen to your intuition.
I suppose that it can be hard to understand why the ambulance crew has blued a patient in if they look quite healthy when we roll them in through the door. Sometimes it's because the patient has improved, sometimes it's because the patient has a medical history that explains symptoms that would be otherwise frightening and that the patient hasn't told us about them.
And of course, sometimes, just sometimes, patients fake serious illness.