The Only Time You Will See A Picture Of One Of My Patients

The Universe has a strange sense of humour – I can say this because no sooner than I ask for something a little different from the tales of doom and gloom I have been 'entertaining' you with than one drops in my lap. This post will also make my mum really happy and proud of me…

In fact it's so perfect I took some pictures so that you would know that I wasn't lying.

The call was given as 'House fire – persons reported inside', an interesting job. So at 1am in the morning we fly through the streets to find firefighters having just dowsed the fire that has wrecked a house. I spoke to their top man and he told me that they had checked the entire house and that there wasn't any people inside.

It's then that I looked down to see a firefighter on his knees giving oxygen to what I thought was a baby.

With a longer look I was extremely happy to see that it wasn't a baby.

It was a cat.

The poor little soul was covered in soot and was having real trouble breathing – it was panting like a dog, and the rate of it's breathing was incredibly fast. The firefighters were giving him oxygen and trying to keep him warm (as he'd been soaked by the firefighter's hoses).

One of the firefighters seemed a bit upset, “Don't lose him, we had a cat die on us last week”.

I let them know that we would take the cat.

'Smoky' the cat So we picked him up and took him into the back of the ambulance, the neighbours who'd all gathered to watch the show seemed bemused. Unfortunately the owners of the house couldn't be found, so the cat had suddenly become my responsibility. We dried it off and gave it oxygen – in the picture you can see a McIlroy funnel which is used to give oxygen to neonates.

This is the first (and hopefully only) time I've ever needed to use it.

The cat really didn't look well, I'm no vet and I've never kept a cat, but I could see that this was serious.

I listened to it's chest and it sounded…well…kind of normal. But I have no real idea what it should sound like.

I radioed our Control.

“Hello Control, erm… This is going to sound weird”, how best to phrase this? “We have no human casualties at this call, but I do have a very sick cat with smoke inhalation, I'd like to take it to the 24hr vet hospital at Wanstead. Mainly so that I can sleep tonight. Can you ring them and let them know that we are on our way please?”

There was a long pause, the controller was probably talking to her senior.

“Roger that ambulance – we'll show you headed to the hospital, do you know their phone number?”

I let them know that I didn't.

Then another crew who had been listening in on the conversation broke in and gave Control the number to the hospital.'Smoky' the cat

We whizzed down there and was met by a vet and veterinary nurse who did lots of clever things to it, including giving aminophylline and doing the worlds smallest venous cut-down. It's breathing became a lot better and the staff seemed hopeful for it's chances. We gave them the address of the house so that they could reunite the animal with it's owners.

Now some folk will moan that we used an ambulance to look after an animal – but this 'patient' was the only one who actually needed an ambulance that night, we'd been dealing with drunks for much of the shift. So if you want to moan, then moan away – but it was good for the mental health of my crewmate and myself.

I'd like to just say a big 'Thank You' to the Control staff who let us run to the vet hospital and also to the vet hospital staff who helped us out. Also thanks to the crew that gave Control the phone number to the hospital. Because of them I can hit send on this posting and can sleep soundly knowing that we did the best we could. Even if it did make the ambulance smell of wet smoky cat poo for the next hour.

77 thoughts on “The Only Time You Will See A Picture Of One Of My Patients”

  1. Thanks for the update! Do you know if the owners know that cat's been rescued yet? Poor people, hope they're ok.Forgot to tell you a story about a squirrel which Claire and I saw being hit by a car. A few years ago now. We stopped and Claire jumped out and caught the squirrel who did not appear to be injured. she got bitten for her trouble. We put him in a shopping bag and went to the local vet but they said squirrels were classed as vermin so they didn't treat them.They said Tiggiewinkles might so we did a 50 mile round trip, marooned poor Jenny somewhere she didn't want to be and the squirrel was hospitalised and released fit and well after a couple of days.

  2. Screw anyone who complains about this. I have happy tears runnig down my face that you, and others, took the time to help that kitty :).

  3. I will most definitely second that – I've lost pets and the grief, stress, physical side-effects and time lost from work – or just enjoying life – are immense. There's also, almost always, crippling guilt that this little furry person in your care has come to grief, and it would have been doubly so I imagine in a case like this where they left puss indoors.Thank goodness for compassionate people like you and the fire brigade! This story has made my day, so count up another addition to the nation's wellbeing there! :o)

  4. Tom, I love you utterly for doing this. You've completely restored my faith in humanity for today, and it makes me proud to share a planet with you. I would lose my mind if I lost my home and my loved ones in the same night, and you've saved those poor people at least half their grief. So much love.

  5. Actually, it could be argued that by saving the cat, you contributed to the continued mental and emotional well-being of its owners, saving them a lot of stress (which is physically bad for you anyway) and emotional hardship as they have to deal with the loss of their cat.Of course, their house has just burnt down (which I bet will cause them stress and emotional hardship). But at least they have their cat, which I suspect they would consider rather irreplaceable.

  6. That was a splendid thing to do. I can only hope that emergency services here in the States would do the same thing.

  7. i use one of those every day, and never knew they had a name – to me its always just been a face funnelif people moan, then i truley give up on society. i mostly work with frontline crews now, all give the same stories of inappropriate requests for ambulances.

    if its a slow news day, i can see you being on the front page 🙂

  8. Tom this is a fab use of ambulances – as a cat owner I am forever grateful to the poor soul who hit my cat (he has a death wish) but picked him up and took him to the vet rather than leave him to die by the road. I totally agree with epialtes that the homeowners will be very grateful to you as our little furry friends are very special to us petowners!

  9. A big hooray to your control, I have requested to take an injured bird to a vets surgery about a mile from where we were located but was refused, maybe a pet would have been a bit different. As it happened we ignored them and returned to where we had seen the bird only to find we were too late 🙁 I must admit I was giggling at the imagined sight of the firefighters begging you to do all you can for the little moggy. At least it had a happy ending.By the way I see your sense of smell is very refined, your ability to smell “wet smoky cat poo,” but not the smell of an alcohol stained member of society.

  10. You all did a wonderful thing, -yourselves and the firefighters.As a cat owner (I have five and they are my little family) it is great to hear you all cared enough to help.

    If you should ever hear any more about the cat's progress please would you post it?

  11. The Red Cross Fire Victim Support teams often end up looking after pets as well as people,who have lost their homes in fires (and their vehicles are equipped to do so, unlike Toms!) I remember reading about a rescued snake being put in a cat box, (I suppose you would have needed to splint a snake Tom) I also read about them going back the next day to help the family bury the family dog that had died in a house fire 🙁

  12. Having read your blog for quite a long time, I feel that I must post a comment for the first time.Reading your blog has made me cry on numerous occasions, and I thought this post would too, it has me feel a bit weepy, but I sit hear with a little smile and a nice warm feeling because of what you did for that cat.

    It is wonderful to read that for once you were able to help something that couldn't say thank you because it is an animal, rather than a drunk or drugged up idiot, thank you for making my world a bit nicer this morning 🙂

  13. I have two cats and I know that if they got in any distress I would apprecaite someone taking care of them. Definately a worthwhile Job Tom. Your a saint amoungst men. Just do yourself a favor and dont tell to many news papers. I can see the Headline sof the sun now: “6 People Die whilst Medics provide emergency aid for cat”…”Cat takes Priority A”…

  14. When you are here, bring back your light towards the inside.Enlighten the surroundings.Open your hands and refuse nothing.- Fuyo DokaiWhen we care for the most helpless, we reveal the best of ourselves.

  15. Aww. I don't even like cats, but you couldn't have left the poor bugger to die. I'm also glad you did what you did.

  16. Like Joeiy above I'm no cat lover, but knowing how often seemingly important jobs turn out to be a complete crock I'm glad you managed to make good use of the facilities available to you, instead of being a maternataxi or tramp-mobile. Nice work! 😉

  17. Over here in the States, we usually aren't allowed to carry animals on the ambulance. The only exception is police dogs, who we have to take, no matter what.

  18. It so happens that I'll be up at the Wanstead Vet Hospital a bit later looking in on one of my moggies (Squadron Leader Korky Mason (RAF Retd.) late of the 1st Uxbridge Anti-Pigeon Squadron). I'll check up on your smoky ginger fella as well.

  19. Latest newsThe cat is reported to be doing well, but apparently still smells like a bonfire. He's caged in a different area to Korks so I didn't actually get a chance to see the poor little mite myself.

  20. Well done Tom, you are a beacon of humanity. I guess you could say you saved the cats life by a whisker! (Sorry, am hanging my head in shame!)

  21. Well done Tom, like many others have said it's great to see the ambulance getting some proper use even if it is for a cat.I've enjoyed the cat puns!

    Will your actions be the catalyst that changes the way we use the ambulance service?

  22. Hi tom i think it was a really nice thing to do. Some guys i know in the fire service did something similar only it was an old man's dog. They warmed him up and gave him oxygen. The old man was extremely grateful and they also tool pictures to make sure people would believe them 🙂

  23. Hi Tom / Brian,Really sorry to hear your sad news. Been there too.

    I have no right to say this really, but all the same, having been there, be sure that it is what you want. Otherwise, you could really really regret it.


  24. Thanks for helping to save the little critter's life. In some communities in the US now, firefighters are starting to carry breathing masks designed for dogs and cats, specifically for the reason that they are the first line of triage in many cases, and a little oxygen can make all the difference in smoke inhalation in an animal this small.Along a similar line, when my mother and sister-in-law were in a bad car accident, the ambulance took them and their cat (who was also riding in the car) immediately to the human hospital, where the cat was cared for until it could receive veterinary attention. Of course, the humans were seen to first.

  25. I think you did a brill job to often people call you for stupid things i think helping that por cat was great good on you by the way did you find out how the cat is nowJill

  26. Brilliant job Tom. I'm not a cat lover but this post warmed my heart. I'm sure the family puss belonged to will be more grateful for saving their pet than if you'd saved any material possessions. All credit to you, Control and the Fire Service for your humanity (if that's the right word lol) in saving the poor little thing.

  27. Maybe it's the lack of sleep (just got the redeye from Bangkok to Dubai, it's 6am and I have another hour to wait for my bus) but that post had me very close to (the right kind) of tears. I'm a soft git for animals, and as far as I'm concerned, that kittie has as much right to good care as a person.Well done to all. And I hope Smoky's doing well.

  28. A Picture Of One Of Your Patients? So patient confidentiality goes out the window with felines huh? I hope this cat doesn't sue you when it gets better!

  29. Oh dear me. I work in a cosmopolitan department where our European cousins always say the British think more of their animals than people. I've just done a quick check of the number of comments attached to the most recent posts. You've guessed it – comments following the cat exceed everything else; even the dodgy midwives.

  30. Hi,Your compassion is rare these days and commendable. Compassion for ALL LIVING THINGS is what seperates us from the Barbarians. Well doen and sod anyone who disagrees.

  31. Good job! Heartwarming tale. All things considered, if I had to be carried in an ambulance, I'd much rather it smelled of wet smoky cat poo than the excreta of a random drunk.- a non-cat-owner

  32. Bless you! I know if (god forbid) my house burnt down whilst i was out, the devastation would be doubled if my cats did not survive.Any chance of an update on Tiddles progress? Can you find out? Sounded as deserving (in some cases more deserving) than other ambulance users- it at least had a real medical need.

  33. This is the best post I have read in so long! I absolutely love cats and this really just made my day 🙂

  34. Oh, Tom. You big softy. I don't know what it is about cats, but I have seen some tough bricklayers on one of my building sites in tears over an injured cat. They took it to the vet in their lorry, then kept phoning for progress reports. When the poor thing eventually returned, slightly worse for wear, the site foreman wept for joy. It had pride of place in the site hut after that, being fed scraps from the builders' sandwiches.Cats leave paw prints on your soul.

  35. Well done to all involved. You're all my heroes!I have 3 cats and always worry when I leave them at home what would happen to them if another flat in the stair went on fire. It's nice to know that emergency services care about our pets.

    Thank you for putting my mind at rest. You're a good man and I doubt you'll ever have to buy a pint again in your life. 🙂

  36. this article was written expecting negative feedback, yet has received 62 comments so far and none of them has been negative!!! thats amazing!

  37. I know you have had lots of posts on this but I had to add mine, my biggest fear is if a fire broke out or I was burgled whilst I was out is what would happen to my cat, what a wonderful caring person you are…xx though that was never in any doubt..

  38. “In some communities in the US now, firefighters are starting to carry breathing masks designed for dogs and cats, specifically for the reason that they are the first line of triage in many cases, and a little oxygen can make all the difference in smoke inhalation in an animal this small.”That is brilliant, thank you for sharing it – it did for my poor sad old heart what Tom's main post did yesterday – made me think people in general, and life, aren't so bad after all. :o)

    I hope the practice spreads, because it's bad enough to lose your home and property and perhaps be injured yourself, but to know your furry friend died choking, when they could have been saved – euw, doesn't bear thinking about.

  39. The thanks go to *you* for your love and kindness for another of our wonderful creatures. This is such a heartwarming story. Keep up the great work. I'm sure the cat and his/her owner appreciate it more than you know!

  40. I'm just, looking at the posts left recently, and realising, anyone of y'all could have posted about how this is “The Only Time You Will See One Of My Patient's Pussy.”Yes, I'm that sad.

    Love the moggies, hope this puss cat makes it home safely.

  41. In my mind, you are a true hero:) Bless your heart. You see………last night on my way home, I hit a cat. And am still crying 14 hours later. I love animals, don't much care for people. So maybe reading your entry was a sign……….one kitty gone, another saved. Circle of life? So, from a total stranger…………thank you.

  42. Brilliant story – brought a tear to my eye! We occasionally get calls about animals to 999 and I have to refer them to the RSPCA. Often I think I'd rather send an ambulance to a cat or dog (or even a hedgehog, which we had once!) than half of our human callers!I see you've posted a picture of the cat in question — doesn't patient confidentiality apply to cats? 😉

  43. Good on you!Interestingly I found out that if you hit a wild animal, the vet may not charge! I had the misfortune to hit a large eagle. It nicely embedded itself in the car's front grill.

    After extracting it, a passing motorist drove me to the nearest vets. (A journey by CalMac ferry – who also didn't charge either!). We dropped the poor bird off and fearing the worst; The vet in this case explained that it was a protected species and they are not charging me as it was better I brought him in, rather than let him suffer.

    Then I had to get a lift back to my abandoned car!

    So if you hit an animal, don't worry about the cost, the vet may not charge!

  44. What a lovely tale! Well done to you for making was was clearly the right decision. You are a very good person.It brought a tear to my eye and I am sat at work, which is a little embarrasing.

  45. I want to say than you so much for this post. Being in Fire/EMS and actually hearing someone do this is awesome as a cat owner. One of the reasons I'm also commenting is I found your post through Google after dealing with a house fire at my parents house and have 3 cats died and 6 cats that are really stressed. I want to let you know that you did do the right thing and if anyone gave you crap for doing that you tell them to go to hell. Because they obviousally have no sense of compassion and really shouldn't be in the fire/ems business. I do know that the homeowner probally was really happy for you doing that and yes you did help with the emotional healing after dealing with the fire.

  46. You are very fortunate. I've had two of my babies left to die on the side of the road – one of whom would probably have pulled through if he had been taken to a vet, or even if they had knocked on my door and let me know!The grief of losing a pet, especially when you don't have children or a partner, is something I think a lot of people underestimate. I found a photograph the other day of Spooky, who died in 2006, and wailed like a banshee for half the afternoon!

    Anyway Tom, thank you for saving a little furry life. It will have made a great difference to have that comfort for the people who have lost their home.

    (Yes, this comment is quite behind the times – I have just found your blog via neenaw and am enjoying the archives!)

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