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.
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.