Choccy Time

It's getting to be that time of the year again, the time of Christmas parties (drunks), Work parties (drunks), grannies who hit the port a bit too much (drunks), people depressed and drinking alone (drunks) and the people who are stone cold sober and have to deal with them (us and the police).

November was the busiest month in the history of the London ambulance service. It doesn't help that there is a grotty chest infection going around at the moment that has made a lot of ambulance crews feel particularly unwell in addition to increasing the number of calls.

December seems to have continued in the same vein as November, we start the shift and seconds later hit the streets, rest-breaks aren't being given and a new computer system to aid dispatch is making us dizzy.

I'm obviously a glutton for punishment as not only am I working the nights of the 24th-28th of December*, but I'm also doing a bit of overtime on New Year's Eve night.

On foot.

In Trafalgar square.

With two St. John ambulance people to help me.

I also get a new title – 'Forward Incident Team', or FIT. I think I'll need to be as I need to carry all the kit that I need with me for twelve hours**.

But it's not all bad working over Christmas, I get to sleep through the Queens Speech and the Bond film. I might get to deal with the more humorous 'topical' injuries (“How did you get the bauble stuck up there!?”). If it goes the same way as every other year I've worked it there will also be some horrific tragedy, there normally is this time of the year, either someone dropping dead or killing themselves in front of the kids.

There is one particularly poor showing though – I work in a hugely Islamic area, but the rotten sods all close their kebab shops for Christmas, so I'll end up starving. It's not as if Muslims celebrate Christmas, do they?

There is one slight glimmer of hope – that of the patient or relative offering you a small item of food.

We aren't supposed to accept 'tips', but the odd chocolate or mincemeat pie isn't seen as a problem. And who's to know?

Of course you do need to do a rapid assessment of the situation. Accepting any food that comes from an opened packet needs you to look at the hands of the people who've been eating the other items of food. If they rub their hands against their brown-stained trousers, I wouldn't accept.

Likewise food from the crack-house you've just resuscitated someone in is probably not that clean.

Actually, food from resuscitations are a bit tricky all round, as you may feel you are being rewarded for 'polishing off' gran. Or they may just be offering you the portion that their dead relative was about to eat.

It is rather rare though, which is why a recent job surprised me. We were sent essentially as a transport service to pick up an elderly lady who needed some hospital treatment. We go there to find her daughter already present, it was obvious that this would be a job where the most we would really be doing would be having a chat with the pair of them.

So we were both pleasantly surprised when the daughter (who, again, isn't the sort of person to be celebrating Christmas) gave us a box of chocolates.

It was such a nice gesture that it put my crewmate and I into a brilliant mood for the rest of the shift.

So – like last year, please consider your local ambulance crews. If you are near a station why not send a card, or a box of chocolates as a thank you for us being there when you have the world's worst day. And we are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Except me – I'm trying to lose weight.

*Not by choice, and my regular crewmate has been lucky enough to get them as annual leave.

**For which I can only say, “You've gotta be kidding” before offloading it off onto my St. John teammates.

30 thoughts on “Choccy Time”

  1. Hi Tom,Out of interest, what's the plan for New Years Eve? Are St John backing up the LAS, or are LAS backing up St John at some public event? It's an initiative that I've not heard much about (maybe because I don't live anywhere near London)…

    It looks like I may well be supporting Shropshire AS New Years Eve instead 😉



  2. Postcards to your local ambulance station…I kind of like the idea :)Are the St Johns blokes 'normal' volunteers that are teaming up with you? I guess you will be loitering around, watching the fireworking, joining in the ooooohs and aaaahs, and AAARGH – time to get to work.

    Have a nice day 🙂

  3. I had that chest infection, it loitered for over a week off and on, so one night I got fed up with soup, tea and fruit juice, and polished off a whole bottle of Aussie red wine – hey presto, I was fit as a fiddle the next day, and no hangover either! :o)Probably not good medical advice, possibly even unrelated – but booze isn't all bad, and people who get drunk on the level you have to deal with probably end up not being able to enjoy it at all (either in a 12 step thing or dead) so they really lose out twice.

    Meanwhile, there's a list of London Ambulance Stations here:

    I'll def. send a card to my local, nice idea!!

  4. I always drop off a box of chocolates (anonymously) to my local ambu station then round the local A&E (ambu station is on the way, so it makes sense) on Chrimbo day and new years – just as a thank you to you lot who have saved my life numerous times.Monty

  5. Thank you for that suggestion. I get something for the dustmen, milkman, our fab local road sweeper, but it's never occured to me to include ambulance lads & ladies. The Whittington is round the corner, so this year I will do so. I'm going to mention it to the mums at the school gates, who are responsible for a high proportion of chocolate giving. So if the Whit mention a marked increase in sweets and cards then you can take full credit. Maybe get a chocolate commission?

  6. Best get some buns in the oven then, so to speak!You have to remember though, 'Crews are for life, not just for Christmas' I am sure a nice gooey cake would equally as welcome on a wet Wednesday in January as on 24th December

  7. Aw, reading your post, makes me think that what ambulance/firecrews REALLY need is some sexy blonde bird with great boobs, in her 30's but still hot, with stockings and sussies turning up in stilettoes to do a strip-o-gram, and maybe play “advent calendar” with her frillies and a few selected chocolates.Or maybe I'll just dwell on that as a way to keep myself sane (newly single! *sobs*) over the Xmas period!!

  8. “If it goes the same way as every other year I've worked it there will also be some horrific tragedy, there normally is this time of the year, either someone dropping dead or killing themselves in front of the kids.”Sorry, do you really think that's an appropriate comment to post on a public forum?? Have a little bit of respect.

    “It's not as if Muslims celebrate Christmas, do they?” Actually, if you weren't so ignorant you would know that Jesus was also an Iman.

    “So we were both pleasantly surprised when the daughter (who, again, isn't the sort of person to be celebrating Christmas) gave us a box of chocolates.”

    So, why wasn't she the type to celebrate xmas? Maybe you should expand on that comment!

    For god's sake “Tom” you're supposed to be a professional, it's about time that you started acting like one!

  9. Yes, the muslim belief is that Jesus was a prophet. But christmas is not regarded by most muslims as a festival, really.

  10. Re the “horrific tragedy” quote, surely that's why people read this blog – not to be gruesome but to see how a “first responder” deals with these all too human tragedies?If he was down crying with the bereaved and the orphans, even before someone died, what use exactly would he be?

    Would you prefer emergency staff sob and vomit all over the many horrors this season brings up?

    I think it is a TOTALLY appropriate comment, in the context of this blog.

    Re the rest – DO Muslims celebrate Christmas?

    I'm a pagan, I enjoy midwinter solstice but don't do the Christ thing (but respect and honour those who do).

    Anyone seeing my shrine – yes, SHRINE – may reasonably and legitimately expect me to not honour the birth of the Christ Child, and I for one am no victim needing “guest bloggers” to set people right about me, so thank you very much but please, state who you think you're defending, and where their permission to do so comes from, before you leap on a post with such eagerness.

    I think from the depth of my pagan heart you're a tosser and a troll, and I'm almost tempted to hear the Truth of Mohammed and Islam, just so I could rip your sad troll-ey arse off.

    Weak, lame, and so out of touch with reality.

  11. Oh now come on, Guest Blogger, give him a break!! If you had read any of his blog you would know that Tom is not a racist – he doesn't like anyone!! And, his comments about horrific tradgedies at Christmas or New Year is what all of us in Emergency Care think – I remember celebrating the Millennium by doing CPR. And the way we comment on such things – well, that's just us!! Tom, good on you!!

  12. Guest Blogger can F off as far as I'm concerned, he clearly doesn't know what he is talking about nor has he read any other entry in this blog. mate, stop being such a tosser and find someone else to whine at, Tom, the LAS and all associated staff do a feckin' good job under very hard circumstances, so leave off.

  13. So Guest Blogger, heart attacks, drug overdoses, strokes etc just stop over the festive period do they? And the poor Medical staff who have to, as RapidResponseDoc says, perform CPR as the bells ring 12 are just making it all up to make the rest of us feel sympathy for them are they? Tom isn't a racist – Muslims don't celebrate Christmas like Christians do, neither do the Chinese, Germans, Russians, Japanese, and so on and so on. Just cause he mentioned something just a teeny bit contentious… someone jumps on their high horse. Go and find another blogger to harrass who actually does make racist comments and is derogatory about various faiths.I know you said, “Don't feed the Troll” but this one got me narked. My sister will be spending Christmas caring for patients in an MAU and another friend will be doing 'Crisis' in London… have a heart for those missing Christmas and New Year just to keep the good (read: DRUNK) British populous ticking over for another year…

  14. “If it goes the same way as every other year I've worked it there will also be some horrific tragedy, there normally is this time of the year, either someone dropping dead or killing themselves in front of the kids.” Yes, I do think its appropriate actually, we read this blog to find out what really happens 'behind the scenes' and if thats what happens, then of course its appropriate. If you don't want to read it ALT+F4″It's not as if Muslims celebrate Christmas, do they?” Well they don't, it's only a joke as well! For goodness sake get a sense of humour why don't you.

    “So we were both pleasantly surprised when the daughter (who, again, isn't the sort of person to be celebrating Christmas) gave us a box of chocolates.” Why does he need to expand on this? We already know (thanks to your comment) that you can't say anything nowadays without being 'racist'.

    “For god's sake “Tom” ” BLASPHAME BLASPHAME!!! You were the one who was so religious, now look whos talking hey, hey???

    Leave him alone, if you don't want to read this, then don't. Simple as that.

  15. p.s. sorry about 'feeding the troll' I didn't read the rest of the posts! As soon as I read 'Guest Bloggers' comment I started off on a rant, I always do that! Sorry!So, change of subject and atmosphere; when do we find out what your new books gonna be called?

  16. More likely we'd like a nap and a nice cup of tea.Maybe that's just me though.

    (Half of my station would rather have a male strip-o-gram mind).

  17. All I know is that *I'm* in charge. they can carry my bags, feed me mints and be happy doing it.(There is a reason I'm not a manager)

    (The above is, hopefully obviously, a joke)

  18. No, I think all of that applies to a lot of male Londoners aged 20 – 45 (my prey! Mwah hah ha…) and explains:1. why I'm incredibly hot, witty, and sexy, with great legs and a number of sci-fi DVDs – and yet single;


    2. the reason there are more Starbucks on any average High Street than Ann Summers stores.

    'S okay, I shall not be single long, and in the meantime you can't beat a man in uniform for a good afternoon daydream….:o)

  19. I wish that those people who are slagging you off would take a step back and read your postings in perspective – gawd!!Love your blog – you provide a funny, human, realistic view of being on the job! Well done!

    And yeah, as name suggests, am with one of the VAS organisations – and no I won't be out on NYE – new relationship and stuff, so our first NY together. As much as I like what I do with the VAS I am associated with, they are taking a serious background role at the moment . . . .

    Oh and before any smart person starts off – when we are out doing Sector Support work – take note of the word S U P P O R T – we are not replacing or substituting for the LAS – we are supporting them and taking lower category calls, relieving the full time professional (note that word!) of some of the dross so they can get to the calls where their skills really are needed in order to save a life!

    Happy Christmas and I hope you don't get too busy over the period!

    Chris 🙂

  20. Isn't Trafalgar Square designated alcohol free for New Year? (and with Police frisking people entering to make sure?)If so you have just bagged yourself a place in the most sober place in London for NYE.

    Smart move, from having read about what you usually have to deal with with drunks etc!

  21. AIUI, NYE in London is covered by a joint SJA/LAS operation. SJA provides most of the ambulances for the event itself, along with ambulance crews, first aid posts, first aiders, doctors and nurses and the pack-horse part of the FIT teams. LAS provides techs and paramedics for the FIT teams, and ECPs for some of the first aid units.The idea with the FIT teams is that between 3 people they carry most of the contents of an ambulance to the patient on foot and assess and treat on scene, because there's generally no quick way to get an ambulance through the large crowd to the patient. The same joint SJA/LAS FIT teams are used at other large events, notably Notting Hill carnival where I they first started.

  22. Not sure if T Square is a “dry” area, but it's likely. That was the case at Pride, iirc. The Booze Bus is a good idea, and SJA will be operating a similar policy on its treatment centres on NYE night (if the managers have got their heads screwed on right) – if you have a medical problem, you will be on the treatment centre, if you are merely drunk and incapable, you will be plonked on a folding stretcher outside with a foil blanket, a sick bowl and a bottle of water. After no more than an hour, you will be woken, fed water and discharged. If you cannot walk, you should not have drunk so much!As for the FIT (Forward Incident Team) – I was crewing yesterday with one of the people you'll be working with, and he's a good guy (assuming the allocations don't change). Please let us know how you get on!

    And I expect to see you at some point – if you see LE205 haring towards/past you, I'll be the one driving it! Chopsticks will be the fat & inept one attending.

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