Day 4 in a run of 12 hour shifts. Mid afternoon. It had been a busy day. I had a headache and didn’t want to play any more. I’d just arrived back on station hoping for a cuppa and a break but no such luck. The bat phone rang. “ Emergency call, Maggots Farm, Scroatsville. 40 year old female with abdo pain”
“Great!” I hopped back in the response car. You’ll have seen them about. It’s a Japanese model with hopeless heating controls and seats designed by an alien; they’re so uncomfortable. Doris, the satellite tracking and information system came on. I’ve forgotten why we call it Doris. All the crews call it Doris. Even the dispatchers call it Doris. It has a smug, condescending, disembodied female voice and is prone to episodes of unhelpfulness and bouts of petulant silence. Her usual comment on our progress to a job is to say “impossible, make a U turn” even if we’ve followed all her previous instructions to the letter. On this occasion, Doris too, must have had a headache. Four times the dispatcher attempted to transmit details of the job but Doris was having none of it. She remained silent. Not a good start. The dispatcher helpfully offered some directions, including the location of a roundabout where I’d come unstuck once before. They never miss an opportunity to bring up past misdemeanors do they?
“When you get there”’ she said, “follow the signs to Scroatsville. The farm is about a hundred yards up on the left”
I duly headed off down the road, lights blazing, sirens wailing, causing the usual mayhem with the traffic. At the infamous roundabout I took the exit sign-posted Scroatsville as instructed and instantly new I’d committed another cock-up. I was now on a dual carriageway instead of the B road I wanted. I called up Control on the bat phone. The line was busy. No change there then. I tried the number for the solo ‘help’ desk. No answer. It was obviously going to be one of those jobs. In desperation I barked down the radio to the ambulance dispatcher. She could tell by the hysterical whine in my voice that it had all gone wrong again. I often run along with this particular dispatch team and they’ve learnt that magwitch+headache+stress is not a happy combination. The dispatcher with the local knowledge was back on the phone forthwith.
“ Where are you”, she said
“ How would I know!” Stress levels rising. “You told me to follow the signs to Scroatsville and now I’m screaming down some dual carriageway without a house in sight”
“OK”. She got a grip on the situation “Head down to the next roundabout, turn right then left at the lights”
In an uncharacteristic display of helpfulness she stayed on the line while I completed this complicated series of directions. I reached the lights. “can’t go left, it’s straight on or right only” I hoped I wasn’t getting too hysterical at this point.
“ Can you see a row of shops?”
“ Yes” feeling a touch calmer.
“ There should be a Tesco up ahead”
“ No there isn’t” blood pressure going up again. “I can see a pub” maybe I should stop for a large scotch and calm down
“ That should be the King’s Head”
“ No, it’s called the Angry Boar”
“ Right” I could tell from the tone I wasn’t where she thought I’d be. Still, undeterred she carried on. “Up to the pub, turn right, then left and you should be back on the road you want.
I obliged. Sure enough I was back on the B road. Blood pressure reducing a tad. “The farm you want is at the other end of the road back near THE roundabout”.
“ That roundabout again eh? Just keep putting the knife in why don’t you”
I duly headed up the road to be confronted by three sets of roadworks, all controlled by traffic lights and all on red. On a good day a helpful worker will stop the traffic at the other end and let you through but this wasn’t a good day. Drivers just get themselves in a right old mess in these situations, they bump up the curb or knock the cones over, all in an attempt to be helpful but in reality just holding everything up. Better that they drove on through and then I can make a dash for it.
Eventually I struggled back up towards THE roundabout. Sure enough there was a farm just as expected. ‘Welcome to McDonald’s Farm and Shop’ the sign cheerful announced. “Oh great. I wanted Maggots farm”. Still, who am I to argue with those in the know. This is where ‘the system’ said the call came from so it must be here. In I screeched. No one about, not even a disinterested chicken or a rabid dog. I pulled up outside the farm shop. “Hello” I hollered.
Eventually a head appeared around a door at the back.
“ Is this Maggots farm?” I inquired, feeling like I should have had STUPID tattooed across my forehead.
“No you dope head, that’s why it says McDonald’s Farm on the sign”. Thankfully he was too bemused to be sarcastic.
“ Nah” was the reply.
“ Do you know where it is?” I persisted
“ Nah. Heard of it though but don’t know where it is”
“ Great, thanks a bunch”. “Thanks then” I smiled, and headed back to the car. Stress levels well up. Blood pressure going through the roof. This time the line wasn’t busy. Exasperation was firmly rooted in my voice “I’m where you told me to go but it’s the wrong farm”.
“ Hold on. We’ll ring the caller back and see if we can get a better location”
“ Never mind a better location, how about the right one”
I sat and waited while all the cars I had passed earlier through the road works drove on by. You could feel them pointing and their stares said it all. “There’s that lunatic again and now he’s just sitting around doing bugger all”
The dispatcher came back on the bat phone. “You’re on the right road just the wrong end of town. You need to go all the way down to the Three Oaks roundabout and it’s just off there”
“ Brilliant. So I can go back up to THE roundabout and take that wretched dual carriageway after all. I’m only about 5 miles off the mark. How did ‘the system’ manage to get this one so wrong?”
Off I screeched again. I reached the Three Oaks. I know it well. It’s at the bottom of the road to the hospital, about 2 minutes drive away. The patient could have walked there in the time it’s taken me. As I shot back onto the B road I spotted a frantic female jumping up and down at the bottom of the drive getting in a right two-and-eight (Cockney rhyming slang for ‘state’).
“ She all the way up the drive” she panted.
“ Want to hop in then” I said. Thinking that ‘all the way up’ meant a fair distance – it was about a 100 yards.
“ She’s in that car in the drive and can’t get out”
“ Who? The patient?” Sometimes I catch on really quickly.
Occasionally I feel like I’ve fallen into Alice’s looking glass world. Usually the patient’s in the house and in too much pain to get to a car. This time she was in the car and in too much pain to get into the house.
“ Yes” she panted. Obviously not the fittest person in the world then.
I pulled up and approached the car. There was a woman seated in the passenger seat with the door open.
“ Hello.” trying to be as polite as possible, even with a pounding head. “How can I help?”.
She droned on with a long speech concerning all her medical history; with dates, times and places, helpfully interrupted by frantic female every now and again.
In essence we had a female with post-operative abdominal pain unresponsive to her own pain-killers.
My curiosity often gets the better of me. “Why are you in the car?”
“ My husband was going to take me up to the hospital” excellent idea “but we got down the end of the drive and the pain got really bad so he brought me back so we could phone for an ambulance” not the brightest move then.
At this point a rather disheveled man appeared out of the house. I could tell by the blank expression that it wasn’t his turn to use the family brain cell at the moment. He started to repeat the story again.
I cut him short, “So I understand. As she’s already in the car, why don’t you just drive her up to the A&E. It’s only over there”
“ Do you think I can?”
“ Assuming you’re actually capable of driving a car” but I held my tongue “Why not. The lady’s not in any great distress and, besides, there are no ambulances available” “That’s why you’ve got this moron in a green uniform standing in your drive”. “Any pain relief I can give you is going to take longer to work than it will for you to drive up the hill to the hospital. When you get there you could get her a wheel chair”. I started to explain where he could find said wheel chairs but it was obvious he’d reached information overload, so I shut up.
“ OK. If you think it’ll be all right then” It’ll be fine. Just go!
And with that he hopped into the driver’s seat, she shut the passenger door, and off they tootled to the hospital.
Thank goodness. No paper work to fill in
I reported back to the dispatcher. “Not required. Patient’s made her own way to hospital”
I turned on the ignition. Doris switched on. “You have arrived” she gleeful announced from the dashboard.
Aaarrrggghhh!!!! You bitch!!
Sometimes I just wanna cry.