This post is completely egotistical – but sod it, I can blow my own trumpet sometimes…

I think I’ve just saved someone's life, but only because I’m honest.

It’s 6:20 am, and I had ten minutes to go until the end of the shift.  I’d just finished a maternataxi at the other end of my patch, so I considered sitting there for the ten minutes of my shift before ‘greening up’.  That way I wouldn’t get another job, I could get back to station near enough in time, and by extension be safe and warm in bed before 7am.

“Sod it”, I thought, “what are the chances of me getting a job in these ten minutes”.  So I ‘greened up’, and started heading back to station.

6:28am.  My computer display starts buzzing, “58 year old Male, swollen tongue”.


It’s at the other end of my area, on go the lights, on goes the siren, and I key the mike to ask Control if there is anyone nearer, or anyone who finishes at 7am who could take the job.  There isn’t.

The problem with getting a job at 6:30 is that pretty much every other ambulance and RRU in the area finishes their shift at 7am.  So if they have all been on jobs, they’ll sit out the last 20 minutes of the shift at hospital.  Or they could all be genuinely busy.

If Control are holding a job, then they’ll broadcast it over the radio, and hope that someone will take it, which to be honest, someone normally does.

So I race around there, getting there is Nine Minutes.  Damn, the job is a failure…I need to get to every job in under 8 minutes.

The patient has a swollen tongue alright, so much so it’s nearly falling out of his head.  Apparently it started swelling up from last night, and has just been getting worse.

It looks to me that he is suffering an allergic reaction, quite a serious one as well, although he has no idea what he might be allergic to

Ok, I think, if it’s taken that long, he has plenty of breathing time, we can wait for the ambulance, and the hospital can treat him with the nice drugs.  The only drug I have in this situation is adrenaline, which can have some fairly nasty side effects (nothing serious, just it’s not a pleasant drug to have injected into you).

So we wait, have a bit of a chat, and I manage to calm him down.

“It’s still getting bigger”, he says.  So I have a look, and it is indeed getting to a dangerously large size.  If it swells much more his airway will obstruct, and he won’t be able to breathe.

“Alright then”, I say, “Time for that injection I told you about”.

500mcg of Adrenaline, straight in the muscle.

4 minutes later, and he tells me that “It’s getting smaller”.

10 minutes later and it is noticeably smaller, and he is able to talk in a much more normal voice.

His mum, 86 years old, and dressed in a little checked work pinny comes down and offers a cup of tea.

50 minutes after arriving on scene and after having a good chat about the state of English rugby, the weather and the good the NHS does, an ambulance rolls up outside.

The ambulance has also ‘greened up’ with 10 minutes to go on the end of their shift.  Bless them.

I get back to station and finish my paperwork – it’s now 8am, one and a half hours overtime then.  Back in 10 hours to do the same again.

Then I start thinking…  If I hadn’t been honest (read: scared about getting caught and getting the sack), then I wouldn’t have gotten the job, the patient’s tongue would have swollen, and he could have choked to death.

All those little random decisions came together to help this patient.

And I managed to go home with a warm glow inside, rather than the sickness of fatigue, and the dejection of yet another drunk/assault/drunken assault.

22 thoughts on “Tongue”

  1. I have a 16 year old daughter who suffers anaphylaxis at least once a year and her life has been saved by paramedics on at least one occasion.If it wasn't for dedicated staff such as you then she may not be with me now.Thanks for all that you and your colleagues do!!!

  2. Don't they let you keep a hyperdermic of something to treat her with if she has the problem that often?

  3. Nice work yet again, Reynolds!It's all very exciting up here in Edinburgh – we appear to have a temporary Ambo station outside – we've opened our loos to some very needy ambo people!


    Hiding from the Anarchists and trying to get gossip from the Paramedics in Edinburgh

  4. Please tell me Edinburgh isn't too bad. I'm back up there soon :SQuick question: what is this “green up” stuff? Well done on another life saved 🙂

  5. Heartwarming stuff.However, as a local resident, I'm more than a little concerned to discover that falling ill between 6:30am and 7am could be dangerous to my health.

    Are there any other end-of-shift times it might be best for me to avoid? You know, just in case I have a choice when my next heart attack strikes…

  6. ah, I see you have yet to learn the most important part – do not reveal the meaning of the jargon!For example my GP looked most embarrassed when I asked if she ever used the abbreviation “NFN” on patients' files… she said she hadn't used it but she had seen it a few times.

  7. Apologies for the complete off topicness, but I'm moving to London from the US, and I was wondering if you knew the appropriate organization to enquire with as to whether I can get my prescriptions in the UK?

  8. Yes it was, I'm amending the posting to make this explicit – my fault for posting after only 2 hours sleep…

  9. 6:30-7:00 am and pm are normally the worst times, just because of the who shift changeover, and people not wanting to get a 'late job'. There are however a few shifts spread over that time (like mine) in order to cover that dodgy period.(I could also tell you when the best time to commit a crime is based on local police shift changeovers…but that would be a bit silly)

  10. If all else failed, could you do a tracheotomy as in the old days, or does the present litigation society preclude this?Pat

  11. Last year I discovered the hard way (many thanks to the motorcycle paramedics at Bath who got to me in the middle of the countryside miles from anywhere in only 10 mins!) that I am seriously allergic to wasp stings. I get the full swelling, unconciousness, etc etc. I now carry an Epipen self injector (300mg Adrenaline) everywhere, as well as general antihistamines (not that they will do much good other than slow my reaction down a tad, apparently). I also have a tasteful medic alert bracelet.Better safe than sorry, esp. this time of year :o(

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *