It's never a good sign when your patient has her knickers around her knees.
'Woman in Labour – outside newsagent shop'.
So far, so boring – another maternataxi job, walk on walk off, baby arrives a few hours after the end of our shift. No sweat.
My crewmate is driving, blue lights to do a job of a taxi, when a minicab swerves across the road and pulls in front of us.
“Oi! Can't you see the lights!?”, shouts my crewmate – we are used to the crazy drivers of Newham (especially the minicab drivers) but this one really takes the biscuit.
“Erm… That's our patient”, I say.
In the rear of the minicab that is parked across our nose is our patient, her husband and her two other children, both under the age of six.
I hop out of the ambulance and walk to the back of the cab. Inside our patient is stretched out and screaming, the husband is on the phone to our Control (and seems a bit upset that they don't understand that he is on some road in some part of town – he isn't sure where he is and is annoyed that the calltaker isn't psychic).
Her knickers are down around her knees – this is not a good sign.
I quickly peer between her legs – and can see nothing out of the ordinary.
I'm aware that we are blocking one of the main roads on my patch – behind our ambulance is a bus, and behind that I row of cars.
Our woman stops screaming and I suggest that we change vehicles to our ambulance. She agrees and, exposed to the world and before I can cover her, waddles into our ambulance giving the bus passengers a sight they never expected to see today.
My crewmate gives the husband a hand with the luggage and the children while I put my patient on the trolleybed.
For some reason people seem to want to bring the entire kitchen sink with them to hospital when they are having a baby – this woman has four bags, along with two children she made earlier.
I take another better look between my patient's legs – again nothing unusual, and I'm certainly not going to stick my hands anywhere they don't belong to see how far along we are – besides it's outside our training.
We get the other children buckled in and I tell my crewmate to start heading for the hospital. I let the patient know that I'm glad that she tried getting a cab rather than just calling for an ambulance like many of our 'service users' – but that maybe she should have called a little bit earlier…
Then my patient lets out an awful cry and I realise that this isn't the normal wimping out about early labour pains.
I take another look and see a bulge…
“On second thoughts my beloved”, I shout to my crewmate, “We're are going to be having the baby here – grab us the spare maternity pack from the side cupboard”.
And so I find myself hemmed in by luggage, with two small children undoing their seatbelts to come and have a look at what is appearing from between mummy's front bottom, all while trying to deliver a child who seems to be in two minds about coming out or not.
The head delivers, and then stops. My patient is convinced that she can't push any more and I suddenly turn into a midwife and start being… rather firm… with her.
A bit of pulling, a bit of pushing, and the baby boy pops loose. The cord is not so much 'cut' as chewed through by the, apparently rather blunt, scissors in the maternity pack, and dad gets to hold the newborn as mum is too tired.
I look at my audience – two gape mouthed, but excited, children and I tell them that they now know where they came from when they were babies.
Turning my attention to the dad I tell him that it is his job to tell them how they got up there in the first place.
Smiles all round, not least from me, because I'm fully aware that if there were a serious problem with the delivery, my training would be sorely lacking.
We arrive at the maternity department after pre-warning them that we were coming in with a 'BBA' – 'Born Before Arrival (at hospital)'. The midwives ignore us until finally one slopes off to make a bed up for the patient. They aren't massively interested in hearing my handover either – but I give it anyway, I'm far too used to dealing with this particular group of midwives to worry too much about their attitude towards a lowly 'taxi-driver'.
Outside, with the luggage and the other children, the father shakes my hand and thanks me – his face a big grin.
And it's all fine – and I'm happy, and it keeps me happy through the shift even though my next patient is a drunk who tries to hit me.