NYE Retrospective

I'm bloody knackered.

NYE was probably the hardest twelve hours I've ever worked, mostly because I was on foot for the night. Partly because I was carrying a huge bag.

My St John Colleague.jpgThis picture is of Alex, the St. John member who was assigned to me and another LAS person. Just take a look at the size of the bag on his back. I was carrying something similar. The difference being that I am an old, unfit man with newly fallen foot arches. I think they dropped sometime during the night.

Oh yes – you can read my Guardian article here.

I shall now do a retrospective on my liveblogging.

17:15 – Waiting for the briefing to start. I've never seen so many officers in one place. It makes me, who tries to avoid management whenever possible, a trifle nervous.

Well, it turns out that the 'FIT' team briefing was at 19:00, not 17:00 but no-one had told me or two of my colleagues. So we got to sit through the management briefing. There wasn't anything particularly exciting about this briefing, no secret orders or anything.

18:20 – First part of our briefing is over. Still way more chiefs than indians, oh well. We've been told that this is the biggest year ever

with 500,000 people expected over a larger area than before. The briefing started with a Primal Scream tune playing over videos of

crowds. I'm pondering running away. Seems well planned though, lots of lessons learnt from last year. We also have a fallback communication system for if/when Airwave falls over. There are 13 treatment centres dotted across the area and I'm one of

12 Forward Incident Teams. There are 17 SJA ambulances and 4 LAS ambulances. We may end up waiting for one for a while. Now I'm waiting for the FIT briefing, about what we are supposed to be doing when we hit the ground…

The 'more chiefs than indians' comment was before I realised that we were in the management briefing. I think that in the end there was a handful more people 'on the ground'. The Primal scream music was laid over CCTV footage of last years event, to give us a rough idea what the event was like. Some of the video was in 'night-vision', which just made me think of the footage from military planes blowing up bunkers…

The general plan was a good one, communications work flawlessly and the treatment centres were placed in good positions.

I didn't see an ambulance until all the celebrations were over – but then there was no way they could move through some of those crowds.

19:44 – Just been allocated my area. Trafalgar sq. I may be killed.

So the plan was to have various FIT teams allocated to different areas. We would be the one team covering the square and The Strand. As most of the people were expected along the Embankment to watch the sparkly fireworks I was hoping that we'd miss the worst of it. How wrong could I be…

19:48 – About to get free food at St Thomas' so not all bad then…

Chicken curry and rice, and lots of it. We were also given a 'packed lunch' (which turned out to be yet more weight to carry). A nice thought, but why don't I get a packed lunch when I'm expected to work twelve hours without food normally. I suppose it might be because we are on foot all night.

20:45 – We are fully kitted up. I'm working with another LAS EMT and one St. John fellow. Just getting ready to roll out.

I was placed with two chaps, the St John bloke as pictured above, and another LAS EMT. Both were superb and it was a real pleasure to work with them. There was a lot of kit to carry, but not an excess of stuff. At no part during the night would we want for kit that we didn't have.

21:37 – (I may forget what number I'm up to at some point of the night) Currently having a cup of tea from the St John 'Teapot 2' parked under Admiralty arch. Did have to lug the kit by foot from St Thomas' to here, for some reason all the roads are closed… Heading for a 'mingle'.

Yes. That was my first and last tea of the night. We thought that Embankment was a bit crowded, little knowing that it would get four times as bad before the night ended. So we decided to mingle by visiting each of the treatment centres in our area.

21:53 – Why do people bring little kids in buggies to such events? Madness!

They are potty. Do they not realise what it is like here? I wouldn't bring anyone under the age of eighteen here.

23:05 – The St. John lot I've met so far are all really nice, although they do seem to like nursing their drunks outside their ambulances.

Three jobs so far, two drunks (one who'd fell over) and a bellyache. Normal Monday night then.

Yep, while I'll lose LAS respect for saying this, but all the SJA people I spoke to were lovely. I t was a pleasure to work with them. The whole 'nurse drunks outside the ambulance' does make sense, they can't close the treatment centre while they mop out the inside of the truck, so nurse the drunks outside on stretchers and chairs, then they can make as much mess as they want.

The jobs were nice and simple and were self presenters to the treatment centres that we just gave a hand with.

12:21 – Just dealt with someone who would rather die than miss the firework display. He was properly I'll, yet refused our aid and instead ran off with his mates. It wouldn't surprise me if we get called to him dead in the street. Unfortunately he has the capacity to refuse treatment, even if it's really dumb.

We were just about to head down the Strand to watch the fireworks when the lad walked up to us clutching his chest. Turned out that he had a serious heart condition and that his pain wasn't going away. We commandeered the nearby British Institute building (under the watchful eyes of a bemused security guard). Our patient's heart was racing, his blood pressure was in his boots and he really needed to go to hospital. If I were in an ambulance I'd have been blue lighting him straight into resus.

But no, he wanted to watch the fireworks, and as soon as he heard the first ones go off he ran out the building with his mates. I'd already told him that there was a good chance that this might kill him, but he wouldn't be convinced and he had the capacity to refuse treatment. There was nothing we could do except watch him disappear into the night.

01:31 – Its all gone mental.

No sooner had we finished with that patient than we got a 'Cardiac arrest' call down the other end of The Strand. Grabbing our bags we ran across Trafalgar square to the sounds of 'Auld Langs Tyme', I was trying my best to keep up with my fitter colleagues but the crowds were slowing us down a lot. When we did find our patient it turned out that he was just drunk. Following two police officers carrying a girl with a twisted ankle we walked him to the Treatment Centre.

Next two off duty St John young men directed us to a man with a dislocated knee. It took us half an hour to travel 200 yards as we were struggling through the crowds trying to get to Charing Cross underground. Five people remarked that with our backpacks we looked like ghostbusters. The man had indeed dislocated his knee and with the help of the two off-duty St John and a handful of police, we carried him out of the area to the treatment centre. It was awful, but the man didn't complain.

Then we were sent to Regent street to a woman who'd apparently been sprayed with CS gas – by the time we got there she'd gone. It was about now we needed to rehydrate, so I stripped off my stab vest and we drank a bottle of water. As I looked around steam was coming off my vest.

Then three or four other calls that had us trudging to patients who had either got better on their own, or had been picked up by the police or a passing ambulance. We saw a twisted ankle, and another drunk. Sent to Covent garden we were waylaid by some police who'd arrested a drunk. We threw him in the back of a police van and took him to another Treatment centre where he was de-arrested. Thanks for the lift lads!

Back to Covent garden where the location was given as being outside a shop – no-one had heard of it so using my iPhone I called up it's location on Google maps.

The patient had already gone.

Then we made our way back to our Treatment centre, only then to be stood down.

It was a long haul back to St. Thomas' hospital to drop off our kit.

Then I hobbled home, collapsed into bed and on waking have posted this entry.

(Which might explain the grammar/spelling in the above posting).

It was certainly an experience, but not one I think I'd repeat. I quite like having an ambulance to ferry me between patients, and to have the same ambulance available to drive us to hospital. I don't think that my bones could stand doing this duty again.

Now – I need more sleep.

Happy New Year everyone! Here's hoping it's a safe one.

20 thoughts on “NYE Retrospective”

  1. Thank you for being so nice about St John Ambulance. I cannot speak for everyone, but most of us join up to do a little bit of good in the world. Lots of people are unaware that we do not get paid a penny for it. We do it for the Met Police Snack Packs, the gallons of Tea, the sore legs and feet after standing on duty at Notting Hill Carnival for 14 hours straight, and the sense that we are doing something good and selfless. We also get to meet some great 999 boys and girls and some really grateful members of the public (and some not so nice members of the public too). It's all good. So “Thank you”.

  2. Tom – wow, what a write up – I think congratulations on a job well done are in order, sounds hellish! I pity the guy with the knee, I have a problem with that myself and I can't think of anything worse than having to be carried!

  3. Poor you! I had a little worry you might have been caught up in some trouble… Hope your aching feet get better quickly and thank goodness there are people like you in the world.Mmm and Alex is a dish!!!

  4. That sort of crowd is my idea of hell, I've total respect for any one who has to work in it.I can see why you prefer a wheel at each corner

  5. Excellent work. Hopefully you're getting a few days off to recuperate before returning to the comforts of your ambulance.

  6. seconded, Alex looks very nice. Was that picture before or after running around all night? ;)Good luck for recovery. At least it's only once a year.

  7. Good night's work there Tom.Mine was a bit less hectic as I had to drive between jobs and got a rest but it was still hellish as it finished with a full resus after an old dear arrested on us whilst we were taking her out to the vehicle. Not a happy new year.

  8. Wow…you are indeed a glutton for punishment, aren't you??I worked a 12 hr shift on New Year's Eve (day shift) and we didn't turn a wheel!!! (not that I am bragging, mind you) ;o)

  9. I didn't get home till 5.30 (from a supposedly 2am stand down time) – those helpful police just kept bringing us drunk people lol. That's what I get for being in Leicester Square (I'm one of those really lovely St John Members [we didn't meet, don't worry] – at least, one of those people thats lovely on the inside, while the outside remains as ugly and visually offensive as always).It's good to hear we were appreciated. Where I was, we were inundated with drunks all night and didn't properly start packing up till 4am, and between 12.30 and 3am I was almost casualty to casualty, sometimes jumping between people as we had so many. And we did this all from the back of an old style ambulance sporting the new tag of being a 'treatment centre' (which made me chuckle slightly). 'Lunch' was a self heating tin of beans and those sausages of processed meat that reminds me of fine ground spam, and the nearest tea/coffee facilities were a police vehicle at the centre of the square (they were, however, fantastic about sharing, and throughout the night were amazing in helping whenever we needed it), although I only ever saw a half cup of coffee. It rained, we missed the fireworks and were instead treated to a panoramic view of how the sky will look and sound when World War 3 breaks out, I stepped through vomit, piss and possibly nastier fluids, from which only my boots protected me, I got obscene gestures and a view that will haunt me forever (namely, a big hairy ass bared for all as he lay on our stretcher) from a guy that had crawled passed our treatment centre (literally) only to be found by police thirty minutes later sleeping in the entrance to Burger King in a pool of his (or someone else's) vomit, and all the night we had to deal with rubber neckers who insisted on watching us treat or trying to take pictures of our casualties (till I put my face between them and the stretchers – for some reason, they didn't want pictures of me telling them to piss off), and after all that I come home stinking sober on New Years Day.

    So, see you next year, yeah? 😀

  10. Not a bloody chance, unless I can get a gig at a treatment centre so that I'm not lugging that bloody bag around all night…We did drop one drunk off with you (with much aid from the police) just as you were pulling the tent down, possibly one of the last few. By then the LAS officer was brandishing a rose for some reason…

    Anyway – a pleasure to work with you folks. But no – next year I'll give a miss.

  11. D'OH! I was one of the chumps dealing with the tent! But can't you ask to be non-mobile for the night? Obviously not a reason to take on the training, but we do sometimes (Notting Hill springs to mind) have dedicated ECPs and ambulances attached to the treatment centre (this is great as we have the ability to rapidly remove people to hospital). If it's even BIGGER next year (God forbid), I imagine we may set something like this up (and I bloody well hope so – was a bit lost when a man came up and asked about his chest feeling weird and discovering hes post op of heart surgery – it was good to pass that one on to a Paramedic!).Anyway, thanks for joining the FIT this year – I'll buy you a pint if we cross paths again (assuming I'm not faffing about with a tent then, aswell)! Take it easy and good luck with the book and leveling in WOW!

    PS – I've bought myself a new copy of Blood Sweat and Tea, after borrowing someone elses for several months and finally having to give it back. I can't wait for the next one!

  12. Always glad to have the LAS on NYE! Don't think we met but I was one of the lovely SJA members on NYE! Your guy at 12.21 sounds very similar to a guy that was dragged into me and did a similar stun as soon as he regained consciousness. P.S. The other main reason we try not to get drunks in our vehicle is that not only do we have to clean it out it also wrecks when were having our tea on the mobile unit!

  13. The whole night is still a bit of a blur, my most striking memory is of being squashed into the entrance of a building near the Shell centre with 5 casualties, all unconscious, propped around a revolving door and dispatching some very friendly Police Officers from Croydon to bring the other 3 casualties reported to us back to our makeshift 'Triage Point'. On the plus side, from our position trapped behind an unmoving crowd, we did get to see at least some of the fireworks whilst keeping our casualties stable.All in all, I had a really great night, I learned a great deal from working with our assigned Paramedic and I'm looking forward to working with the LAS again soon

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