I'm woken up by the phone ringing, we'd returned to station at four in the morning and had been put on a break, we had wasted no time in get our head down for some well needed sleep. So far it had been a busy nightshift.
“Morning!”, came the cheery voice of Control down the phone, “We have a car vs. car RTA for you”.
Barely functioning, let alone awake, we headed to the ambulance and started the engine – thankfully the call wasn't far away. Often with RTAs you can guess what type of call they will be depending on what road they occur. Small roads tend to be more bumps than crashes while there are a few roads on our patch which are notorious for having horrendous smashes (markedly lessened by the introduction of speed cameras it has to be said).
The road we were going to was a sliproad off of a dual carriageway – there was a high probability that this was a high speed collision.
Reaching the scene we saw that the accident had been caused by a low roof van driving into the back of a car, pushing it halfway across the junction. Two FRU's were on scene.
While my crewmate parked up in a way to protect the area we were working on, I jumped out to find out from the FRUs what was going on.
“This one's all right, just a bit shaken up”, shouted one FRU, the other looked a bit more worried so I went around to him.
Even half asleep I could see that this was going to be a serious call.
Dear reader, I would like you to consider exactly how tough windscreen glass is – it's actually a fairly strong thing and it's for this reason there are special tools used for breaking them. This is why sensible people wear seatbelts. Even when people wear these we come across people who have cracked the windscreen, 'bullseyed' it in our own particular jargon.
This person hadn't been wearing a seatbelt, she'd been going at a fair speed, then she'd come to a sudden stop. Well… her vehicle had come to a sudden stop, she'd kept going, smashing herself first into the steering wheel then into the windscreen.
There wasn't a crack in the windscreen, instead it had shattered, held together it had a huge bulge in it perfectly matching the shape of our patient's head.
So immediately I'm thinking neck injury and brain injury, let alone what it's done to her face.
“She's admitted not wearing a seatbelt”, the FRU told me as he finished putting a neck collar on her.
So if the patient is talking her airway is alright. That's one thing in her favour.
I jogged round to the back of the van and opened the door, thankfully the van was empty and I crawled in and took the patient's head in my hands. The FRU told me more about his initial assessment, but he'd only been here a little longer than us.
As I was holding the head I was free to do some thinking and start directing the people around me. I checked that the other emergency services had been called, the police to close off the road and the fire service to cut the top off the van so we could get the patient out safely. I got the FRU to do some more in depth assessment and set up monitoring – he'd do it anyway, but I'm a bossy swine sometimes. My crewmate was calling for the doctors on HEMS as I thought that we could do with a hand from them.
The patient was still alert and orientated, but I was worried that this would change.
The fire service arrived and started the preparations to cutting the roof of the van, meanwhile the FRU kept telling me his findings while I was thinking of the next step.
I don't know what it was because I couldn't see my patient, all I could do was feel her neck – but something told me that she was starting to lose consciousness…
To be continued.