Never Off Duty

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As a Paramedic, when your off duty – your never off duty.

It was around midday. The heat of the sun was beating down as I drove through some country lanes on the way to meet some family for a barbecue. I was driving along enjoying the weather with the radio far too loud. It was the first day off after a run of gruelling shifts and I had just woke up from a post-nights sleep. Usually, I would be struggling through the post-nights haze. With a headache or jet lag type feeling. Today was different. I was feeling awake and alert – and looking forward to some days off.

My immediate family were already there – waiting for me to turn up, they had been picked up earlier by the in-laws and I was the lift home at the end of the night.

As I drove around the corner I got stuck behind a queue of cars. I slowed down and waited my turn to overtake whatever obstacle was ahead. As each car had its turn and we edged closer I could see what was ahead – a group of runners.

The car in front was preparing to overtake the runners. Suddenly, it swerved. I had just enough time to slam on the brakes and my car came to a sudden halt. There – on the road, laid a runner. I sat for what felt like a couple of minutes and took in the scene.

The runners had stopped and were looking down. The runners foot was in a pothole and he was sprawled out in front of it – in the same position as a crime scene chalk man.

He wasn’t moving. From where I was sitting, I wasn’t even sure he was breathing. Pressing the button for my hazards I swore under my breath. I reached down, unclipped my seatbelt and got out of my car. Walking to the boot of my car I could overhear the runners agitated tones as they were all talking amongst themselves.

“Call an ambulance” “Can we move him?” “Did anyone see what happened”

I placed on my ambulance high vis in order to identify myself and pulled a pair of gloves out of the pocket. I approached the gentlemen and introduced myself as a paramedic. I asked someone to call 999 and put it on loudspeaker for me when they got through to the ambulance service and knelt down next to the man.

I was acutely aware that we were in a dangerous area. It was a country lane – and although there was traffic the road was still live. I asked some more of the runners to stand further up and down the road to control the traffic. D is for danger – this was now sorted.

I could hear the call handler over the phone asking if the patient was conscious and breathing. The patient was breathing – and was not conscious. I quickly relayed this back and told the call handler I was a paramedic and needed P1 (Immediate) backup.

I then started my assessment. I needed to move the man but was aware that there was potentially reason to suspect an injury to his neck. I got some more of his friends to help me and we log-rolled the patient. This was a very controlled manoeuvre that allowed me to get the patient onto his back to manage him better.

As we rolled the patient we could see that he had quite a large head injury. He was also completely unconscious. His breathing was irregular and he was loudly snoring. His airway was obstructed. I relayed this back to the call taker as I placed my thumbs on his cheek bones and fingers under the back of his jaw. I pulled with my fingers and his jaw moved up – with it the patients tongue. Straight away the breathing normalised.

Once in this position I was stuck. If I let go the patients tongue could fall back. I instructed someone to pat the man down to see if they could feel any other injuries and updated the ambulance service on what was happening.

Around 10 minutes later – my hands hurt.

In the distance I could hear a siren. I looked up to see an ambulance pulling up. As the crew jumped out I recognised them. I gave a quick handover and let them take over the care of the patient – assisting them to get him into the back of the ambulance.

“Never off duty, eh” The Paramedic said.

Rubbing my hands, I agreed.

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