Sep 19

It’s all about the details

Tag: Ambulance,Thrilling InstallmentKal @ 4:45 pm

I’m on the bike when the phone rings.
“Kal? I’ve got an emergency, but I think it’s out of your jurisdiction…”
“Where is it?”
“It’s in Belfast Road.”

Belfast Road is outside my jurisdiction, but only just.

“What’s the job?”

“It’s a five year old male with breathing difficulties – we’ve got a warning on the system that he’s got significant health problems.”

Suddenly I know exactly the house she’s referring to – I saw this kid about three years ago – he has some serious issues, in-house nursing and a set of parents who have the “ambulance phoning” tolerances of people who are used to their kid being, habitually, far, far sicker than your average bairn.

If they’ve called us, there’s something serious going on.

“I’ll go.”

Down the hill I go, through junctions and lights, filtering when I can; Edinburgh cyclists are notoriously rubbish at obeying traffic laws anyway, drivers aren’t too shocked to see me cutting up the inside of roundabouts.

I’m wheeling my bike into the front lobby of the house, all custom wheelchairs and trikes, when my phone rings again.

“Are you on scene, Kal?”
“Just arrived.”
“Mate, we’ve got a single crew making to back you up, but nobody for transport. I’ll clear a vehicle as soon as I can and you’ll be top of my list, ok?”

Great. Stuck in the house with a patient who probably needs to be in hospital. Now. Smashing.

The patient is Jamie, his Mum, Dad and nursing team brief me calmly, but quickly. Jamie is breathing far too fast, he’s far too hot, his lungs are full of phlegm. Where most kids have a bedside light, Jamie has an oxygen saturation monitor; where other kids sleep with Vick on their pillow, Jamie sleeps with plastic tubes in his nose giving him supplemental oxygen.

He cannot turn himself, or sit unaided, or tell me about his symptoms. Where I’d ask his peers questions, I resort to chatting to him about what we’re doing, explaining myself as I press the head of my stethoscope against his chest and back, apologising as I hoover around the inside of his cheeks, the back of his tongue, slurping snot and drool from his airway with a suction catheter.

Jamie makes eye contact, his cognitive abilities are comparable with his peers and he’s very, very sick.

He just can’t tell me.

Through the open front door I hear the diesel clatter of an ambulance pull up and a solitary technician walks in, I bring him up to date.

“I’d just sooner he was in resus, rather than here?”

He agrees, but there’s a problem. He’s single crewed, I’m on a bike. He can drive the ambulance, but I’d need to travel in the back to look after the patient en route. If I was in an RRU we’d just park it up outside, but the bike’s a little vulnerable to theft for that. These aren’t the sorts of jobs the bike typically responds to.

I come up with an idea, it’s unorthodox, but might work. I turn to Jamie’s Mum.

“We can take him into hospital now, but it would involve leaving the mountain bike in your hallway – do you have a spare set of keys I could borrow so I can come back and collect it?”

She, with that unquestioning trust that shocks me everytime I experience it, digs in a dresser drawer and passes me a set.

“Just post them through the letterbox when you’re done.”

We load Jamie up, crash him into Resus and leave him with the staff there.

I cadge a lift from an RRU back to Belfast Road. The car vanishes around the corner and leaves me on the pavement, keys in hand.

I slide the first into the Yale lock.

It doesn’t turn.

I try the second key.

It turns a little, but jams.


They’ve given me the wrong keys.


My response vehicle is locked INSIDE THE PATIENT’S HOUSE.

I realise I’m going to have to phone Control and get them to send another vehicle to pick me up, return to the Sick Kids, swap keys with Jamie’s Mum and then return here. This is a kerfuffle that I would rather not subject the mother of a critically ill child to.

Also, I will look like a dick.


I lean on the front door, hard. The wood flexes around a single point – perfect, the door is only secured by a single Yale lock, its spring forcing the bolt into the stay on the door frame. It’s an old door, with plenty of give in it.

In my pocket is a Quick Guide to ECGs. It’s long and thin and made of stiff, flexible plastic. I don’t need it for reading ECGs anymore, but it’s JUST the job for shimming doors open. This’ll be easy, I’ll force the door, grab my bike, leave the keys on the mat as though I dropped them through the letterbox and sneak away. I am practically a cat burgling assassin secret agent.

I slip the plastic down the doorframe, saw it back and forth and feel a little tingle of illicit satisfaction as the lock says “snick” and the door opens.

The hallway is full of large palms.

A wooden chair sits by a side table.

A coat rack occupies another corner.

A radio plays in the background.

There are no wheelchairs.

No trikes.

No children’s coats on the rack.

The picture montage of Jamie that hangs in the hall of Jamie’s house…isn’t there.


I’m next door.

I shut the door silently and run on tiptoes to Jamie’s house, where the keys fit beautifully, the bike is where I left it and I’m able to beat a rapid retreat down the street before anyone spots me burgling anywhere else.

And then I don’t tell anyone.

Until now ;)

44 Responses to “It’s all about the details”

  1. David Waldock says:

    :-O You criminal, Kal!

    I actually laughed out loud if that makes you feel any better :-D


  2. David Bain says:

    HarHar Loved it!


  3. Aarayan says:

    Hahaha! That is brilliant! I will, however, never forgive you for not phoning me IMMEDIATELY to tell me that story


  4. Colin B. says:

    Well, at least you got out without anyone catching you. Because explaining yourself would have been impossible. That story simply wouldn’t work…


  5. Mike says:

    You plank!

    Best laugh I’ve had for a while.


  6. Lucy says:

    Oh you chookie. I bet your cheeks are still flame red at the memory! I was totally led on by it as well, and marvelling at your ingenuity – till you got to the bit about the hallway.



  7. Medic999 says:

    Great story Kal,

    Youve made me and my mate laugh out loud whilst patrolling the lovely streets of Gateshead at 1am.

    Thanks for the giggle.


  8. Ross says:

    Nice that you were willing to leave the bike, but quite funny you go the door wrong.


  9. AaronRN says:

    Just wondering, how often do you usually have to break into a house? When you arn’t just being a ninja bike-riding catburgler that is…

    I would assume it is needed from time to time with a caller collapsing indoors and not being kind enough to leave the door open.


  10. RapidResponseDoc says:

    Mrs RRD and I are laughing so hard at this one. I actually have tears running down my face!!! Beautifully written, and a stonking ending…


  11. Fee says:

    O dear, oh dear, oh dear … that would have been a cracking explanation has someone called the boys in blue! Honest, officer, I just wanted my bike back!

    Great to start Sunday with a laugh – thanks! :)


  12. Vetnurse says:

    Thanks Kai l need a lot of laughs at the moment :-)


  13. GrumpyRN says:

    Oh Kal you twonk, I had a tear running down my cheek after that story. I agree with Lucy, this is definately a red face moment.


  14. Sarah says:

    I love how carefully and gently you broke into the wrong place. What a considerate burglar.


  15. Tom says:

    I knew this was going to be a gem when I read you describing yourself as a “cat burgling assassin secret agent,” and my wife came into the room to see me cackling in front of the PC.



  16. Metamor4sis says:



  17. Kelly says:

    Hahahaha! Oh god, do you think said neighbours were actually IN at the time? Brilliant :D


  18. Lucy says:

    Love it.


  19. Betterlatethannever says:

    Just what size d*ck were you aiming for?


  20. Win-Stone says:

    ………. and in the pantheon of personal cock-ups – that one rates a ……… ? :-)


  21. The Blackadder of paramedics… « Musings from a Stonehead says:

    […] The Blackadder of paramedics… 2009 September 20 by Stonehead When Kal, the Blackadder of paramedics, faces an apparently insurmountable obstacle he can be relied on to come up with a cunning plan… […]

  22. arkonite says:

    I’m just about to commence a career with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, is this what I have to look forward to???? *groan* :0D

    My Dad is in service too and I think he’d enjoy your blog, I’ll pass a link on to him


  23. Cannonball Jones says:

    Genius sir, just genius.


  24. Heyhoo says:

    you star honey…i have had a cack weekend and that made me laugh out loud xx


  25. Chris Norton says:

    Really well written and funny.


  26. Neepster says:

    Tears rolling down my face – thanks to Stonehead for posting the link to this on his blog.


  27. Sewmouse says:

    One of the many things I love about you is your priceless ability to laugh at your own foibles.

    Because I laughed. Oh how I laughed – then sang “Sillouette on the Shade” under my breath for the next hour.


  28. Veronica says:

    Ooops doesn’t really cover it does it!! Brilliant blog as always, kudos for admitting your mistake for our amusement :-)


  29. Just Me says:

    HA! Awesomeness…I can just imagine :D


  30. Clare says:

    Did near enough the same thing myself when i was PTS. Turned up at the patient`s house, knocked on the door. No answer. Knocked again, door gave slightly so I poked my head in and shouted. Still no answer. This being a very elderly lady we were going for I feared the worst and started in. My partner and i searched the place top to bottom. There was a few clues. The children`s toys in the living room. The lack of old lady smell. But only on going back out the the ambulance, double checking the numbers we realised we were at 11. not 77. But seriously- who in Glasgow goes out and leaves their doors unlocked? with fifty quid on the kitchen table?


  31. Blunt Bloke says:

    Absolutely brilliant, although I did get a few odd looks through my office window as I bellowed with laughter.


  32. Patch says:

    Fantastic mate.


  33. Croila says:

    BRILLIANT. Now that gives me a good start to the day, almost PMSL at this! Excellent! Ya fanny :-D


  34. Chastity Flyte says:

    Fantastic! Paramedics now trained in the dark art of breaking and entering? Move over, Fire Brigade, your time has gone.


  35. Lin says:

    Classic, love it!! Thanks for the laugh


  36. Juds says:

    Had police break in with quite a bit of damage to flat that we were called to for old lady on the floor. Shouted through letterbox got answer so thought it was correct address, no flat number or name on door. Once in flat no one to be found, she stayed in flat opposite and door was open. Pt not injured so not wanting to travel. Left the lovely boys in blue with a mountain of paperwork and a door to get fixed.


  37. FireMom says:

    I laughed. I did. Good job. :)

    Passing it on so others can laugh.


  38. Jot says:

    Oops to the latter and nicely done to the former!
    always a delight catching up here :0)


  39. Ellie says:

    just one of those days, eh?


  40. Sarah says:

    I died with laughter – fact!


  41. iks says:

    One of all my all time favorites of your posts. Put a Sh*t day at work into perspective Thanks!


  42. Miss Waz says:

    ha haaaaaaaa!


  43. Trauma Queen » Gone fishin’ says:

    […] the storm drain outside. In the drain. Outside. What if they get washed away? Forever? This is just the bike all over again. I’m going to get skinned for […]

  44. Fentex says:

    At a new years eve party once a friend cut his hand badly trying to use a knife to get at a wine bottles cork. A couple of us ran him down to the hospital ER for attention in a car borrowed from another party goer.

    After he was stitched up we left and made it back to the party before we realized we’d taken a four door variant of the two door we’d borrowed off the road in front of the hospital – that the keys just happened to fit perfectly.


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