It was about ten minutes before the start of our shift and my crewmate and I were checking the ambulance, making sure that it had all (or at least most) of the equipment that it should have. Before you ask, this is unpaid 'work', but it just makes life easier as it's almost certain these days that as soon as that clock ticks on the hour we'll be sent out on a job.
I was just noting down the mileage of the vehicle on my paperwork when the dispatcher on the other end of the radio asked if there were any ambulances available to deal with a cardiac arrest in the area. No-one answered so, after asking my crewmate if she minded, I told dispatch that we'd be happy to do an 'early job'.
Well, it's fifteen minutes of overtime (around £2.50 after tax) and we'd only get the call once our shift started in ten minutes anyway. This way the FRU wouldn't be stuck on scene dealing with it on his own.
So we raced around there as best we could in the busy evening traffic and got there fairly quickly. Entering the front living room we saw the elderly patient lying on his back on the floor while the FRU worked on him. There were some family members also in the room, one of which would turn out to be the patient's son.
We were told by the FRU that the patient had collapsed after an hour or two of chest pain and that his son had been doing CPR while waiting for the FRU to arrive. He'd already been 'shocked' once. So while the FRU secured a breathing tube and my crewmate placed a cannula in the patient's arm I would do the CPR.
I knelt down, put my hands on the patient's chest and pushed.
Immediately the muscles of my lower back went into spasm. Utter agony. I suppose this is what happens when you spend hours sitting in an ambulance cab, and then have to do exercise without being able to 'warm up' first. I knew I would have to do CPR for at least the next three minutes.
Yep, pure bloody agony. And the longest three minutes I've ever had to do CPR for.
But that wasn't all.
While doing CPR I could feel something sticking into my hand. I thought that it was the edge of the defibrillator pad, but when I looked down I noticed a small wound on the patient's chest.
It turns out that the son, who'd been given excellent instructions on CPR by our calltaker, had pushed a little too hard, cracking the patient's ribs. Couple that with the patient's history of a coronary bypass operation and what was sticking me in the hand was one of the wires that is used to wire the breastbone together. It had gone through his skin, torn through my glove and was scraping against my hand.
I looked at my blood covered hand and had an instant PEP flashback. A wave of nausea hit me, and it wouldn't go away for the next hour, even after discovering that the wire hadn't actually breached my skin.
While we checked the rhythm of the heart on the cardiac monitor I folded up a bit of card, a discarded wrapper from our defibrillator, and placed it over his chest. I warned the others about the wire and then had to do another three minutes of CPR while my crewmate secured the cannula.
My back was in agony and all I wanted to do was curl up on the floor in agony while trying to get rid of the feelings of nausea.
Luckily it was only those (long) six minutes before my crewmate was able to take over the CPR from me. She later told me that she thought I may have been in pain. It might have been the muttered, “arghbuggerit” every time I pushed down on his chest that clued her in.
I was freed up to get the trolleybed ready as we were going to 'scoop and run' and by the time I'd arranged it all the patient's pulse had returned. He still wasn't breathing for himself, but it was at least a step in the right direction.
So we loaded him up and 'blued' him into hospital. Throughout the transport I kept telling the son that he had given his elderly father the best chance possible by doing CPR and, that no matter what happened, he'd done everything right and that it was no fault of his own.
It's unlikely that the patient will ever be discharged from hospital, but you have to try in those circumstances.
Luckily for my back, our next patient was heavy but also used a motorised wheelchair, so was an reasonably easy transfer (and I may tell you about that job tomorrow). The job after that was our fatal car crash, so the pain in my back was soon forgotten.
Luckily I now have a week off to relax.
Well, I say 'relax' – what I'm actually doing this week is seeing if I have the discipline and ability to 'work from home' on my various writing projects and other little side jobs. I'm working from nine until five all week with no World of Warcraft (or Tabula Rasa beta) until after 5pm. Just in case I seriously have to start looking at getting a different job.