We have a huge amount of equipment on the back of our ambulances, from the complicated hydraulic trolley, through various splints, oxygen delivery systems, a defibrillator and ventilator to the machine that can measure the carbon dioxide that a patient breathes out.
But it's often the simple bits of kit that are most useful.
We were called as a second crew in order to help them with a 'difficult removal'. It wasn't a good sign when we arrived on scene and had to make our way up four flights of narrow communal stairs to get to the front door of the house. Then we had to negotiate another narrow stairwell to get to the bedroom that the patient, and the other ambulance crew, were.
The patient was one of those 'generally unwell' people – nothing specific and he would need further tests in hospital. The problem was that he was too weak to move – that and his blood pressure was incredibly low. Dangerously so.
The original crew had given him a load of fluid into a vein in an attempt to raise his blood pressure enough to get him out of the house – for some reason this wasn't happening. The crew were concerned that if they sat him up to put him into the usual carrychair the blood would drain out of his brain. This would be a bad thing.
So we put our minds together and decided to use one of the simplest bits of kit on our ambulance. A carry sheet.
A carry sheet is, at it's simplest, a canvas sheet with handles attached. You put the patient on the sheet, all grab a handle and use it like a very soft stretcher. I believe that it is going 'out of favour' because health and safety gurus think that it is bad for our backs. The thing is, out in the real world, you sometimes need to use equipment in an 'unapproved' way in order to get the job done. The need to improvise is just one of the reasons why I love my job.
We dutifully explained to the patient and his wife what we were going to do, then rolled him onto the carry sheet and prepared to carry him out the bedroom, down the stairs, across the walkway, down four flights of stairs and out to the waiting ambulance.
I would imagine that it didn't feel very safe, four sweating, puffing and groaning ambulance workers carrying you down all those stairs. Narrow stairwells are a complete nightmare when you are moving at three abreast. Then you have to bend the patient around corners. All headfirst in order to keep the blood flowing to his brain by keeping his head lower than his body.
By the time we huffed and puffed him into the ambulance his blood pressure had raised a little.
Fear of being dropped will do that to you.
I'm busy creating a presentation on 'citizen journalism' at the moment for Birmingham on Friday – the problem is that I don't know what my target audience will be, so I'm maybe aiming it a little too low. Stressed. Not good. But at least my knee is much better.