Friday, May 20, 2011

Coroner kick

Warning! Ambulance related post! And possibly a bit of a rant too. Avert your eyes if you must.

Recently, I was called to a man threatening to jump off a motorway bridge, hanging precariously from the outer edge, one foot dangling and white hands grasping the rail with a shaking grip. The police asked me to talk to him as he was only willing to talk to a (neutral?) paramedic, and the police negotiators couldn't get on scene for another 45 minutes.

I called upon all my negotiating training (i.e. none) and proceeded to have a chat.

At one point, quite early on, he really looked like he was going to do it. I mean a proper 'This Is It' look of resigned defeat in his eyes. I decided that this wasn't due solely to my conversational style (although it wouldn't be the first time) and I adjusted my stance accordingly.

Once, not even that long ago, I might have stepped in at that moment and gone for a securing bear hug. There is an inherent risk in doing this as they can take you with them, and no-one will ever think less of you for not doing it. In the old days, it was a risk that I might have deemed worth taking.

Now, I'm not so sure.

My baby daughter is sitting on my lap as I type this with one hand, giggling and eloquently reminding me exactly where my priorities lie.

Instead, in this case, I braced my foot against the base of the railings, examined his jacket, identified a suitable hand-hold and resolved to grab it and it alone, should he do a very mediocre Superman impression. I reasoned that, should the worst case scenario occur, I would have a reasonable (but admittedly reduced) chance at preventing a plunge, but wouldn't succumb to being dragged over the rail and onto the carriageway below.

And to anyone who might say that this isn't enough? Well, tough titty. I'd rather have to explain to a coroner why I didn't put more effort into saving someone than have someone else tell my wife that she needs to find another sucker partner to help pay the bills and look after the kids.

Of course, this might sound like a straw man argument, because who in their right mind would suggest a rescuer put themselves at undue risk when on duty?

I wouldn't usually post a link to the Daily Fail, what with it being a right-wing homophobic, racist rag with the moral compass of a blood-hungry mosquito, but the headline is a grabber.

There is an old saying that a good rescuer is a selfish rescuer, in that they shouldn't do anything that turns them into just another casualty. Complete emotional detachment is neither possible nor desirable, but neither is getting so involved that you become of no use to the patient, and possibly just a drain on already stretched resources.

I wonder what the coroner's judgement would have been had a member of the emergency services gone in and been shot as well, especially if it subsequently turned out the original victim had been beyond help anyway.

Who would thank me for getting myself killed or injured trying to save someone else? The victim? The victim's family? My family? My employer?

We take risks all the time in this job. In the unfamiliar, dark house with the only information being "He's been cut!"; in the nightclub toilets where someone has been beaten unconscious; at the industrial accident where unfamiliar machinery is still running, or to the extremely well-known patient with a tenuous grasp of whether or not he's allowed to hit ambulance crews.

Often, with single occupant response cars being de rigeur at the moment until the media discover what a cop-out it is, we do these things alone, at night, with our hands full, and with only the briefest of information about what's been going on passed to us via the radio.

We make a decision, depending on whether or not we think the danger outweighs the response, on our familiarity with the location, on how we're currently feeling, and we hope out decision is the right one, both for ourselves and for the patient.

From a personal point of view, a victim apparently dead from a shotgun blast with the killer still possibly on scene is not something I would attend without armed police securing the area first.

If this is construed as cowardly, or health and safety gone mad, then you can colour me yellow and stick a Slippery When Wet sign on me, but at least I'll have a higher chance of going home at the end of the shift. 

It's not something I feel the need to apologise for.

And the man on the bridge?

Well persuasion, and a graphic description of what injuries I would have to treat should he quite feasibly survive the drop, led to a happy (for us) conclusion, in that he decided to let me help him off the ledge and into a warm car, for a chat with the negotiators.

I think we both made the right decision.

Rant over.
Thanks for listening.


  1. Stupid babies complicate everything. Just kidding. Smart babies do too.

    P.S. This was really good.

  2. Steamy made me come here. I do everything she tells me. Also, I'm never leaving the house again if I'm not wearing something with a "suitable handhold."

  3. Mandy_Fish - Thank you. And it doesn't matter how smart the babies are dressed, they still complicate things.

    Elly Lou - Welcome along. Steamy is the epitome of taste when it comes to blogs. And earwax. Handles on clothes do make things easier for us as well.

  4. YOU made the absolute correct decision, sugar! you assessed the situation and took the best course of action to secure the man and not harm yourself! kiss your children and your wife as soon as you wake in the morning!! xoxo

  5. One could argue that your particular train of thought here, is also part of natural selection's Big Plan. Self preservation and recognition of what is actually important and worth fighting for makes you a smarter and stronger human being. Keep breeding, we need more of you.

  6. This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday:

  7. Thats what makes you the professional Jules, years of training to do the right thing at the right time. Being young and stupid is for fools, many of whom don't live long enough to have children. Enjoy your wonderful kids and a long, long life. If others choose to throw theirs away...sad, but hard luck.

  8. Savvy - I think so! And I always kiss 'em, cos you never know if it'll be the last time. That sounds a lot more depressing than it was supposed to, but you know what I mean!

    Bridgette - Ha, thank you, although I think my breeding days are over. I've replaced myself and my selfish genes can go . . . er . . . replicate themselves.

    Schmutzie - Thank you for the mention. There's some quality blogs I'm including in there!

    Tempo - And to you and yours mate. Thank you for the kind words.

  9. I usually try and come up with some pithy remark, or a humorous comment, just because that is my delightfully odd personality.

    But today I just want to thank you for all you do, and let you know how much those of us with the safe jobs appreciate you.

  10. SkylersDad - That's very kind of you old bean, although I do try to make it as un-dangerous as possible!

  11. Good lord, TJ, I don't envy you paramedic types one bit in the stuff you have to see and deal with on a daily basis. Yet I admire everything about you. Mainly because I know it takes a certain type of person to do a job like that and I'd be terrible at it. And you are dead right - helping someone all you can is one thing, but it should only reasonably be expected that you help to the best of your abilities without endangering yourself as well. No job is worth dying for. You are spot on.

  12. Often, the people who think they'd be rubbish paramedics are among some of the best. It's so much about communication you wouldn't believe, and I reckon you've got that in spades.

    Also, not being fussed about blood helps!

  13. What an incredibly tough situation. You are a very brave individual and I have a huge amount of respect for you guys working on the "front line".

    I stare at spreadsheets for a living because I am too much of a wuss to have to deal with stuff like that on a regular basis.

    God Bless Ya (& your wee) Baby!!!!!

  14. Wow.

    I always thought I was the type of person who-if witnessing a situation where someone was in trouble-would be the first to run to the scene and help them out.

    But when I was in Nicaragua a few months ago, I was walking down the street when I saw a guy on a bike get hit by a car. It happened less than five feet away from me. I feel horrible saying this, but my first instinct was to run away.

    I didn't of course (and he ended up being okay), but every time I think about it, I can't help but feel like a total jerk.

    I can't even imagine being in a situation like this. I admire you, and I can't imagine anyone thinking that what you did wasn't enough.

  15. Cass - I don't know about that! Thank you for you kind thoughts.

    bschooled - Nothing jerky about your flight or fight impulse working. You didn't act on your first impulse though, and that counts for everything. Someone who feals no fear isn't brave, they just feel no fear. It's the person who is scared but acts anyway who's truly brave.

  16. I love stories like this. You made absolutely the right decision and it all worked out in the end. Lady Hem wanted to be an ambo for a long time but, the way ambos are treated over here (with tales of them working 36 to 48 hours without a break not uncommon and having to work those shifts solo), she kind of changed her mind. I'm guessing you're not treated with much more respect over there either.

  17. Sounds like they have it rougher over there than we do. The actual job when you're out and about is ace, but there is (and always has been) a lot of politics involved which can get a tad wearisome. Best to just ignore it I reckon.

  18. Nothing like a little mental image to put things in your favor. My friend is a paramedic and has often done this. It's the "What if it doesn't work?" thoughts that brings them down every time. Congratulations on saving him!


  19. Sara - Ta, although I think it was more his decision not to do it that saved him. Like to think I contributed to that decision though!

  20. Well I know it's not a funny article, but I giggled a little when I saw how you described his potential injuries to him try try and prevent his jump. I think as human being (regardless of profession) it is important to look out for the well-being of one another if we can help it...but that being said, I don't think we need to risk our lives to do this. Especially in your case where you have a family, you're right, who will look out for them if you're gone? It's a fine line sometimes, but I think all we can do is help each other when we can and hope for the best when we can't.



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