Under The Plastic

All I can hear is the sound of traffic passing beneath me but I know that will soon change.

I've parked the ambulance on the raised slipway where the accident has taken place. Two cars trying to take the same space space at the same time means that we have been called to help the driver of one of the cars.

I park the ambulance so that the drivers going past have no option but to slow down, lights making that familiar blue pattern in the night.

My crewmate is the one looking after the patients today and her quick assessment and a nod to me makes me realise that it's going to get noisy.

I call for the fire service, we need them to cut the roof off the car.

It's my job to sit on the back seat and hold the head of the driver so that he doesn't move it around thereby possibly aggravating any neck injury.

I have to hold it tight as he keeps wanting to turn around and tell me to make sure that his papers are retrieved from the boot of the car. And that we don't forget to collect the GPS holder on the windscreen.

It's quiet, just the traffic driving beneath me and the cars driving slowly past my ambulance.

Then the fire engines turn up and it gets noisy.

Hydraulic machinery is pulled from the back of the appliances, firefighters chock the car so that it is a stable platform to work on and they start to break all the windows – covers placed to avoid the glass going on me or the patient.

My arms are getting tired, it can take a long time to remove the roof of the car.

The cutters start snipping at the car, first the doors come off then the rear pillars. They wrap a big bit of plastic sheeting over me and the patient, its like being in a tent.

I can imagine what is going happening on the other side of the sheet even if I can't see it. The cutters snip away at the other pillars and the roof is peeled back. From my side I'm in an opaque white cocoon with weird bangs and shakes coming from outside. Not for the first time I'm glad I'm not claustrophobic, instead I concentrate on my arms – the burning sensation of holding the patient's head is starting to turn into a painful numbness.

I wish I was on the other side of the plastic with my crewmate, she's getting the trolley out of the ambulance and is preparing the back board and head blocks.

Because of the helmet I'm wearing all the noises are muffled, I've taken my glasses off to stop the helmet pressing on them so my vision is blurred – not that there is much to see, just the back of the driver's seat and the plastic sheet.

And my arms, that now feel like they are falling off.

Then the sheet is thrown back and I can raise my head into the air again. Lovely.

It is then a simple task to get the patient out and tucked up in the ambulance, the fire service have, once more, done their job with expert professionalism and have made our job much simpler. They slide him up the back board while I try to rub some life back into my arms.

We wave goodbye to the firefighters who are sweeping the debris off the street and then speed our patient through the night to the hospital.

13 thoughts on “Under The Plastic”

  1. Tom- “My arms are getting tired,” A similar problem – in arms and legs- for long-distance drivers, Military & Police on parades &c.Have you tried doing some isometric exercises?

  2. Haven't had an extraction where the fire service take the roof off yet. Its noisey enough when their just securing a vehicle I can imagine what its like when they get their toys out!Just out of interest do you have an opinion on the Grampian Fire Service man who was sacked for his fitness level? I did a blog post on it recently and would be interested to hear what you think. Also your view on the ambulance fitness test and lack on any re-testing.

    Thank you!

  3. Reminds me of good times! (Glad I work event medicine now, as I usually don't end up in a car holding c-spine anymore… usually I am holding c-spine in fields of poison oak now!). Good times!

  4. A year or so ago I was getting a lift to work and we witnessed a horrendous crash involving the car in front of us. First aid training kicked in-there were 2 cars involved, the girl was crying, but there was no noise from the other car. I sent another motorist to sit with the girl-to keep her head still and to reassure and calm her while I rushed to the other car. He was out cold, blood dripping down his face, and with legs that were twisted and bent beyond recognition. I managed to rouse him, and the sounds of grown man sobbing in pain was heartbreaking. I placed a hand on his shoulder, tried to reassure him that help was coming and that would be ok, he was understandably quite aggressively telling me that it wasn't f***ing ok-I told him that the fact that he was swearing at me proved that he was 'ok', and I got a little chuckle. When the paramedics arrived one climbed into the car with him, and I went to leave, to give everyone the room they needed, but he grabbed my hand and told me to stay. So I did. I acted as a drip stand, and held his hand as the fire crew started to cut the car away from around him. The sound was horrendous, and I have no idea how it must have sounded to him. After what seemed like an eternity he was finally free of the car, and on his way into the back of the ambulance to make the very short trip to hospital. I called the hospital later that morning, not expecting them to tell me anything, but they told me that he had some nasty leg injuries (which I already new) and some cuts and bruises, but that he would be fine. That experience, and reading this and a few other blogs have pushed me into deciding to go for it and train to be a paramedic-and for that, I thank you

  5. I had a call like that recently where a diabetic became hypoglycemic and rammed into a guard rail at the bottom of a hill on the opposite side of the road…slurring like a drunk he managed to tell me he was a diabetic I luckily had a candy in my pocket (I was off duty but saw it happen) and shoved it in his cheek while I held c-spine and had a girlfriend call fire and a crewI'll never forget how much of a headache it was trying to keep him still…especally after having to break his back window in to help him =/

  6. upon reading the patients' repeated request to get papers out of his boot i wonder 'what does he think your job description is?' exactly how are you, or anyone one attendant to the scene, supposed to unlock the boot? & what does he expect you to do with papers, anyway? drop them off to the hospital?

  7. As part of my training I had to do a car extraction and I ended up as the patient. I was really glad I did it as it so odd the first time you have that sheet put over you and they start cutting the car apart. Made me hope I never have to be cut out for real!

  8. I think is easier to fixate on something to take your mind off the present. You can feel that it will be ok if in the in this case papers are taken care of. They are more important than you are when life is crumbling around you. Focus outside of yourself to get a link to normality.

  9. BTDT.Being just something more than five feet meant that I was the designated “smashed car intruder” of my crew…

    Andrea MD formerly EMT from Italy

  10. Tom: “My arms got tired holding a patient and preventing serious/more serious injury.”Me: “I had to squeeze a flash drive for 5 minutes to recover data for a grade school teacher.”

    (Do not put them in your back pocket and sit on them.)

  11. A job well done. This was a fortunate outcome of a possible serious accident. The professionalism of both your team and the fire fighter's made it possible. Sadly, this is not the case for every car accident and people get seriously injured.Car rentals manager

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