Ambulance memoir: Happy bloody Christmas!
- I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I’ve changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
- Swearing happens. I have used, and will use, some words that some people may find offensive.
Christmas in the ambulance service is just another day. If you are working, that is.
For my first Christmas I was on a late shift – three to eleven – all over the festive period.
Christmas Eve was meant to be a fun time, full of expectation and goodwill to all men type of thing, with Christmas spirit supposedly overflowing. Well, spirit definitely came into the equation, but not of the type normally associated with it. When you sit in the high street and watch Santa Claus beating the proverbial out of an Elf while Tinkerbell is trying to scratch the eyes out of a nun, you tend to have a different perspective. We were waiting for the police to turn up, so we were a little way down the street, watching, trying to blend into the background, which is difficult when you’re sitting in a big white van with blue lights and AMBULANCE written all over it.
The ruck continued. Another fairy was attacking Santa now and was doing her best to corkscrew his head off while he was on the floor being kicked by what appeared to be a very large lady with extremely large breasts; it was the tattoos and shaved head along with the large muscles which indicated that perhaps this lady was a man. He didn’t have very good legs.
The police eventually arrived, piled out of the van and set to with the appropriate amount of vigour. Truncheons were flying, but after a brief couple of minutes some sort of order was restored. We were beckoned forward and after a brief check decided that two of the combatants needed to go to hospital. The difficulty was that they were on opposing sides. Ambulances were tied up everywhere so we had no option but to take both. My colleague nabbed a copper and virtually ordered him to come with us, just in case the two decided to carry on their disagreement in the back of our motor. So there was I, stuck in the back with Santa handcuffed to the stretcher and a roman in a toga, both with cuts and bruises and virtually unconscious through drink.
The policeman and I passed the time chatting while trying not to inhale the alcoholic fumes which were engulfing us. Santa then vomited to add a nice little extra to the aroma.
Once at the hospital we discharged our charges into the hands of the lovely hospital staff who were fighting against the tide, trying to sort out the needy patients from the waste of time ones. We left our two on the floor, a bucket nearby and went out to have a smoke. A few minutes later a nurse came out and asked us if we would like to give them a hand.
Back inside we went to the crash room where Santa was on a trolley. The doctor produced a big long plastic tube and we all grinned, especially the copper. While we held Santa down the tube was unceremoniously rammed down his throat and then about three gallons of water poured down. Santa didn’t like it very much…..but we did!
I will always associate Christmas day with corpses. Every Christmas day I worked I got a Christmas corpse.
It was a quiet shift for us after the night before and we were enjoying snoozing in front of the telly. We got a call to a collapse and motored off into the late afternoon, around tea-time. We were going to Tring, a small town just up the road.
We pulled up outside a little row of Victorian terrace cottages to see a man standing outside the address. The police had been called too and arrived at the same time as us. The man said he was a neighbour and was checking on the old lady who lived there; he had a little bag of Christmas goodies with him to give to her. He hadn’t got a reply and was now concerned as she lived on her own and she hadn’t any relatives that he knew of. We peered in through the window but saw nothing. After a few minutes of banging on the door we decided that we had to break in. A couple of kicks later the door burst in and we all followed.
The house was dirty with battered furniture and lots of bits and pieces, pots and pans were littered all over the floor with junk everywhere. The carpet was rank. We pushed passed all this and entered the tiny back room.
Sitting in a chair with a rug over her knees was the occupant of the house; a tiny emaciated looking woman with thin grey hair. A single Christmas card was placed on the fire surround, next to an old mantle clock. The room was freezing cold, she had no central heating, the open fire the only source of heat, and that looked like it hadn’t been lit in days. The old lady was dead. I checked and found she had rigor mortis so she had died a good few hours previously, all alone in a cold dank house.
Her neighbour was upset, the bag of goodies still hanging from his hand. He thought to cheer her up with a visit but found that the grim reaper had got there first.
Happy bloody Christmas, I thought to myself as I stood there looking down.