In my last post I mentioned that the blanket is one of our more important and versatile bits of ‘kit’ that the modern ambulance can have. In the ‘good old days’ of horse-drawn ambulances the proto-EMT would refer to his equipment as “one and one”, meaning one carry chair and one blanket.
Even today, with our increasingly technologically based health care system, the humble blanket has a multitude of uses. For those of a ‘hitchhiker’ mindset – think of a blanket as a towel writ large.
- Primarily it is used to stop little old ladies (LOL’s) from getting cold when you drag them out of their nice warm house into the often freezing conditions of the ambulance.
- Said little old ladies don’t like being wheeled around in our carry chair – it has no handrests and feels very unsafe. LOLs will often try to grab out at things to steady themselves – this is dangerous, especially if we are carrying them down stairs. So we wrap the patient in a blanket, and make sure that their hands are gently restrained.
- You can use the blanket as a sliding/carry sheet when transferring a patient from a bed to a stretcher, or from the ambulance stretcher to the hospital trolley. The ambulance blanket is thick and strong with a close weave. While I wouldn’t like to try using it to lift someone off the floor – I would imagine that it is strong enough to do so.
- When in the ambulance we can use the blanket to protect modesty. Some of the things we do to people requires them to bare their chest, for females this can be troubling. We can use the blanket to cover the patient as much as possible.
- If the patient has been incontinent while wrapped in the blanket, we can ‘gift’ the blanket to the hospital – it’s what nurses are for (and we don’t carry warm soapy water and wipes in the back of our ambulances). Nurses soon learn to ‘unwrap’ carefully the patient who has been left in the ambulance blanket.
- Because of the thickness of the blanket, and the difficulty of carrying vomit bowls into houses, the blanket can catch any vomitus the patient may produce while leaving the house. Reassuring the patient that it is fine to vomit on the blanket is important in case they become embarrassed.
- When moving a dead body from a location, two blankets in the ‘T-wrap’ will disguise the lack of life from bystanders. It’s also good for wrapping up very frail LOLs when it is freezing outside.
- With the addition of two triangular bandages the ambulance blanket can be converted into a pelvic splint. This helps stabilise pelvic fractures which can become life-threatening if allowed to ‘wobble’. As and aside, the next time I see a ‘trauma surgeon’ flex the pelvis in a suspected fracture, I’m going to find their car and let down their tyres.
- If you don’t have the head blocks that go either side of the head to protect a possibly broken neck, then by the correct folding of the blanket you can form a snug-fitting c-spine restraint. I prefer the use of blankets to the ‘specialist’ kit here because the blanket is better able to form itself to the patient’s head and neck.
- Our blankets are red – this makes them idea for hiding blood.
- If you have a nasty trauma in a public place the blankets are large enough to be used as screens. This requires the use of two fire-fighters to hold each end. Don’t worry, they were probably standing around doing nothing anyway…
- The blanket also works well as an ‘NHS special’ pillow. We don’t carry pillows on our ambulances and many hospitals are short of pillows. So roll up your blanket and place between the patient’s head. LOLs with a curvature of the spine will be especially grateful, as without a pillow their heads tend to roll around like a nodding dog’s.
- If folded correctly, you can put it on your trolley bed and have ‘AMBULANCE’ written down each side. This not only looks good but also makes it really easy to wrap patients up in it.
- If you have a patient who might become aggressive, then the blanket – if tucked in tightly can provide a mild restraint.
- Doing CPR on the floor for an extended period of time can be wearing on your knees – a folded blanket makes a nice cushion to rest on while pounding away on some dead person’s chest.
- If someone decides to have an epileptic fit in the back of your ambulance, the blanket can be used to protect the head (or other part of the body) from hitting on the wall of the ambulance, or other hard surface.
- Have you had a huge spillage of some noxious fluid? Are you worried that as you return to your station to mop out the back of the ambulance the fluid will run through the door into the driver’s cab and thus contaminate your packed lunch? Simply mop it up with a blanket.
- If someone tries to attack you, throw it at them like a net – it may distract them long enough for you to run away.
There are probably a hundred more uses for the ambulance blanket – and no doubt as soon as I publish this I’ll think of another twenty. Still I think that you will see that the humble blanket has many more uses than our defibrilators and ECG machines.