A lack of energy from these winter hours, night shifts and a feeling that no matter how hard I shout about things nothing is going to change has meant that I've been lacking the will to write. I keep thinking 'no-one listens', or at least nobody who has any power to change anything.*
What I should be writing about is the private ambulance companies that are being contracted to do our A&E emergency work, which is an incredibly bad idea. I should be writing about the utter tosh calls I've been going on of late. I could even be moaning about how our training day was 'postponed' because there is no-one to train us, and even if there was they have no idea how to train us, or what to train us in.
I'm sure it's just the season and that, come spring and a bit more energy, I will once more be waving my fist at the sky and shouting 'all Gods are bastards', albeit with the same effect that doing that always has**.
When I get angry I find myself doing two things. First I wave my arms around like an epileptic chicken. There is a simple reason why I do this, it's because I keep raising my hands to hit someone, but then realise that, while enjoyable, it probably wouldn't do much good. I also have worked far too long in emergency medicine to be doing anything stupid like punching a wall.
The second thing that I do is I vibrate. I get filled up with energy and start shaking – first on the inside and then as I get angry the shaking spreads to my limbs.
I also shout a lot. Well… not so much shout as 'talk loudly and firmly'.
I have a long fuse, but a huge explosion.
Why do I mention this? Well the other night I ended my shift an incredibly angry person.
We had picked up a young woman who was alternating between rolling around the floor and pretending to be unconscious. Her problem was apparently 'abdominal pain', but it turned out to be period pain.
Who am I to judge? Besides, it was nearing the end of the shift so if she wanted to go to hospital we were more than happy to take her.
We should have walked her out, but when dealing with someone suffering from Status Dramaticus it can sometimes be easier to just pop them on the carry chair and wheel them out – especially if they are light. So we did this and as we were about to load her into the ambulance she decided that she didn't want to go to hospital – so this poor flower, who moments earlier was 'unresponsive', undid the seat belt and started walking back towards the house.
I was just about to wave her goodbye when the FRU stepped in and convinced her to go to hospital. I can see the FRU's point, if our patient were to go back home and overdose on painkillers it'd be our fault.
So the patient agreed to come to hospital and I jumped into the driver seat while my crewmate did the things that we do in the back of ambulances.
We were halfway to hospital when the patient took off her seatbelt, threw herself on the floor and pretended to be unconscious again.
We got to the hospital and, expecting the patient to continue the dramatics, I went and got a wheelchair so that she wouldn't have to walk. She stepped down from the ambulance, looked at the wheelchair and, once more, threw herself on the floor. I say 'threw', what I actually mean to say is 'died like an extra in the original Star Trek or Dr. Who series'. You know, 'collapsing' without hurting yourself.
“Why did you do that?”, I asked.
“Fuck off”, she told me, then stood up and threw herself into the paediatric waiting room where she, once again, threw herself on the floor and acted like she were struggling with death itself.
There then followed a long ten minutes where myself and two nurses persuaded herself to sit her arse in the chair so we could take her around and put her on a trolley. This was accompanied by both swearing and drooling***.
I washed my hands while my crewmate booked the patient in onto the hospital system, and then went to leave.
One of the nurses then turned to me and asked me my name – I know the nurse's face but haven't really spoken to her.
“Why is that?”, I asked.
“Because she told me that you called her a nigger”, the nurse said – and the way she said it made me think that she believed the patient.
Oh yeah, the patient was black. Didn't really give it much thought until then. After all I can go days at work without seeing a patient that is to be recorded in the great UK ethnic coding database as 'White British', so different skin colours don't hugely register on me.
There are three points I would like to make at this moment in time.
1) I've marched against the BNP. Several times.
2) I don't hate people due to their race or colour or however you want to slice it. I hate everyone. Equally.
3) I may call you a moron, an idiot, a fuckwit, a wanker or an utter… well, you know. I would never use colour or nationality to insult someone – much as I hate hearing kids using 'gay' as an insult. You are what you are and you don't make that choice, so why would I insult you based on that? If I insult you, I'll insult you because of what you do.
What really riled me us was that the nurse seemed to believe the patient.
I think I said something in reply along the lines of, “Excellent – tell her to write a complaint, maybe I'll get suspended with pay, I could do with a holiday”. But inside I seethed with anger.
I phoned the on duty Station Officer for advice. He told me that I should go to the police, that I should have a cup of tea, and that there was nothing he could do about it.
What. The. Hell.
No, “Let me come down and see you and chat about it”. No, “Let me go and talk to the patient and see if we can sort things out”. No, “Don't worry, I'll take a statement from you while it is fresh in the memory”.
Nope – cup of tea and call the police if I feel that bothered about it. Oh, and the implied suggestion that I get back on the road within the next 15 minutes.
Thanks for that.
So there I was, stalking up and down the messroom before having to fill out the 'incident report' paperwork with my crewmate.
Knowing, full well, that this is the sort of thing that ends careers, after all remember, I was investigated for a complaint after I told a patient that he slaps like a bitch after he assaulted me.
Racism is, quite rightly, not tolerated in the ambulance service – but is the proof on me to prove my innocence in a 'my word against hers' complaint'? I just don't know.
As I write this I don't know if a complaint has gone in. Has this malicious liar decided to put pen to paper and complain? Or pick up a phone and ring our 'patient experience' line? I just don't know.
What I do know is that I found it very hard to sleep for the next two nights – not so much because of a fear of losing my job, but because I've put a lot into this job and the people who live where I work. My health is shot to shit because of the rota I work and the patient lifting I have to do. My social life is pretty much non-existant because of those shifts.
And yet – one of the people who I serve, and yes, it is serve, called me one of the things that I hate the most – a racist.
And she did it without thinking, as an easy way to try and get me into trouble.
My thanks are due to my station mates who were there that morning, firstly for giving me advice about what to do next, and secondly for making fun of me by suggesting that it was obvious that I'd soon be wearing a white hood while erecting burning crosses across East London…
I almost forgot – the lovely Kal writes a very insightful piece on 'Race Relations' in medicine. Go and read it.
*Brought about, in part by the testimony that Tony Blair gave at the Chilcott inquiry and how he seems to avoid arrest for war crimes. That and if I performed as poorly in my job as many of the people I come into contact with there would be a lot more dead people in London.
**i.e. none whatsoever.
*** Not attractive, and a reason to be wearing gloves.