Last Night

I recently had my last ever night shift, I would have written abut it earlier but the effects of the shift work had basically knocked me on my arse and made me incapable of doing anything except sleeping and dozing on the sofa.

It was, ultimately, a not unusual shift – no jobs that leapt out as being anything out of the ordinary.

My first job was to a woman who was intensely isolated because of her being unable to speak English, the only person she knew was her daughter who has a full time job. We were called because the woman was 'behaving strangely'. We arrived with the police to find her crying on the floor. We did the only thing that we could do, take her to hospital to see a psychiatrist.

It was handy to have the police there, because initially the woman wanted to refuse to come, but as she was distraught and had threatened suicide it was important that she see a professional.

The next job was to someone who'd been minding their own business and then been punched in the face with a knuckleduster. Often you can tell when someone is hiding something (because, let's face it, a lot of assaults in my area have a reason behind them. Not a good reason mind you, but there is normally a reason). In this case he didn't seem the type to be in a gang, he didn't appear to be a drug dealer and I don't think that he was secretly sleeping with someone else's girlfriend.

We took him to hospital in order to rule out a fracture of his facial bones.

The next patient had been indulging in some cocaine, some cannabis and a lot or alcohol. So had his friend. We had been called because he was 'off his legs', or as it was described to us 'he had been on his hands and knees like a dog'. I may have resisted the urge to ask if he had taken to barking.

As he got to the doors of the ambulance he let forth a huge spew of vomit, simultaneously passing flatulence. 'Better out that in' goes the old saying, and truly it is better out than in, as in outside the ambulance and not inside it where I need to mop it up.

During this he had developed a bellyache, so we assessed him and took him to hospital where, a few hours later, he was feeling much better.

(Seriously, is Red Bull and whiskey a sensible drink?)

Our next patient. Oh dear, our next patient…

The short version is that she was faking a panic attack in a pub. Once more I'm left wondering why people think that they can fake medical conditions in front of people who've seen them all before. This patient was very trying as she refused to get onto the ambulance (until she realised that her audience were bored and going home), then she alternated between not telling me anything and telling me about everything.

At the hospital she refused to get out of the ambulance until I had sweet talked her, then she refused to enter the hospital, then she refused to go to the toilet while crying that she needed to pass urine.

She was put into the waiting room (eventually) where she then argued with one of the nicest nurses in the unit…

I'll be the first to admit that it was very hard for me to remain the consummate professional that I am.

The last I saw of her she started by telling her new audience that her four year old child had called the ambulance (rather than the bar manager who'd actually called us), and that everyone was against her. She then went on to try and damage a police car before drunkenly disappearing off to the local bus stop.

I think it's called 'personality disorder'.

A much simpler job followed – a man who was stuck in the bath. The FRU had got there before us and had already solved the problem. We didn't even see the patient, as he'd gone to bed, so we caught up on some gossip with the FRU responder and made ready for our next job.

A nightmare job. Not because of the patient (who was confusingly suffering from a mish-mash of symptoms that had us blue-lighting her into hospital). No, the nightmare was the spider on the wall of the staircase that was the size of my hand. Garden spider or escaped tarantula in disguise, who knows what it was?

One of the elderly relatives saw the look on my face and managed to dispose of the creature in a piece of kitchen roll – as he walked into the kitchen with the ferocious monster I listened out for any screaming as the spider broke free of the paper and tore the old man's throat out…

An interesting job as there was a mix of heart problems, probable sepsis and undiagnosed diabetes – the best thing for the patient was for us to treat her symptoms as best we could and get her into hospital as quickly as possible so that the doctors could sort things out.

And a nice family, adept at dealing with the sorts of giant spiders only seen in horror movies.

Then I had a nap for twenty minutes in the passenger seat of the ambulance as, for a few minutes at 5 a.m, it seemed that people were getting some sleep and not filling their time calling ambulances.

Our final job was a transfer of a patient from our local hospital to the heart specialist unit. A nice patient, a nice family member and an uneventful journey finished the night off lovely.


And that was it, my last night shift. I drove home with a huge smile on my face – no more would I need to feel sick in the stomach after a long night shift, nor would I need to batter my body clock into submission any more.

No more night shifts means that I will be able to rejoin the human race, no longer will I have the constant feeling of jetlag dragging me back.

As I write this I have another stupidly big grin on my face and an urge to dance a little jig around the room.

12 thoughts on “Last Night”

  1. Those grins are yet more proof that you have made the right decision. Things will feel even more right once your body clock gets used to a more normal schedule.

  2. Hi 'Tom', just finished your book Blood Sweat and Tea, but this is the first time I have checked out your blog. Just wanted to say thanks and good luck with the future, with your attitude I know you will do well wherever you end up! I have been traveling for roughly 16 months now and its nice to know there are 'good' people back home. All the best. Elliot.

  3. What is normal? I've done shift work all my working life (12 years) and last week I started my new job of mon-fri and I hate it. With a passion. Suppose it's what u want.Good luck in the new job Bryan.

  4. Dance away!A great post to end that part of your life with (Love the spider ones 😀 )

    Roll on the new.

  5. Yay, and indeed Woo!Hope the next steps get you to a place you want to be.

    If not, don't worry, it'll give you something to blog about, eh? (also, something to talk about at next London blogmeet thingy (which seems to be whenever I make it to big bright lights of Londonium))

  6. All of the horrible things you've seen that I can imaginebut don't want to type and you're spooked by a SPIDER???

    Al least you survied the 'I retire this week' TV/Movie trope.

  7. 3 of my jobs the other night:1) 3/7 h/o shoulder pain 1/2 mile from hospital

    2) 4/7 h/o stomach pains 1/4 mile from hospital

    3) panic attack 1/4 mile from hospital

    total time for all 3 jobs= 57 minutes!!

    all the best for your future

    makes you wonder really!

  8. I apologise for my unthinking and uncalled for use of the word “normal.” I in no way intended to denigrate anyone's life or preferred sleep or work schedule. I was responding to Brian's indications that the irregular hours messed with his sleep patterns. I hope that your circumstances allow you to return to your preferred schedule soon.

  9. Hey, I also have just finished your 1st book & currently half way through the 2nd. Can I just say what a hugely positive influence and inspirational person you come across as. I only discovered your blogs about 2 weeks ago & bought both your books as a consequence. May I wish you all the best in your future career, and when I go to spend some time with the paramedics as part of my training, I am hugely looking forward to experiencing some of the things you have described!Keep writing!

  10. I have just retirered after 40 plus years in the job,I enjoyed it until the last couple of months. I do NOT miss the job, but I do miss the wonderful friends in all the different services and departments.Ambulance Services through out the UK seem to be pretty dire, morale in my ex- service is at an all time low.senior (mis)management all appear to be lacking skill in manageing the services. They do not have any respect ( OK,so tell me of some really good senior managers) .The golden age is never the present,but I have served under a couple of great Chiefs. A good CO looked after his staff, if a complaint came in it would be sorted out ,normally with a quiet word and sometimes an almighty bollicking that would leave you quaking. Now it's all suspensions and tribunals, so every one is always “protecting your arse” You are better off out of it , take care.

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