Those who know me or have ever read one of my rants, understand that I have a pretty jaundiced view of my fellow human beings. My somewhat waspish opinion of various government departments in the UK is also fairly well documented, but I will divert from my usual acidic scribbling this morning to tell you what happened to me yesterday.
Once a week I try to visit a lovely lady in Plymouth who is in the latter half of her eighties. Margaret is fit, sprightly and utterly adorable so we either sit around her flat and discuss subjects ranging from philosophy, ways of the world, politics or the writings of Swedenborg, or we get on to a bus – due to my advanced age I am allowed to travel free of charge – and head out into the countryside or visit some seaside resort.
Yesterday we decided to sample fish and chips beside the river at Torpoint, just inside Cornwall. We have done it before and it entails a twenty minute bus ride so after chattering for an hour or so, off we set. The fish and chips were excellent – we shared a portion – and the sun was shining so it was wonderful to sit on a bench and watch the boats. As always we set the world to rights but shortly after one, Margaret turned to me and said, ‘David I think we ought to go home. I feel very odd.’
I immediately set to putting our picnic things – we had a flask of tea – into the basket, stood up and turned towards her.
‘Off we go then Sweetheart,’ I said but my lovely little companion was slumped on the bench with her chin on her chest. She was breathing and her pulse was still there but when I lifted her head up, her eyes were closed and her face was chalk-white. I didn’t quite panic (I think) but wondered what on earth to do. There was nobody around to assist and I had only the vaguest idea where we were.
It is amazing what thoughts flit through one’s head at such moments. Was my indomitable little lady dying? It certainly looked that way and I wondered who I should inform, what to do at that moment and whether to administer artificial respiration. Could I even get her off the bench and on to the grass. I didn’t know and panic was setting in.
After trying to get a response from Margaret for nearly ten minutes, I took out my cell phone – thank goodness I had it with me for a change – and dialled 999. I asked for the ambulance service and a young lady came on so I explained the situation. She fired questions at me and I answered as best I could, but when she asked for an exact location, I was stymied. I knew we were on Marine something-or-the-other because I had noticed the road sign on our way in, but couldn’t remember whether it was Parade, Road, Drive or whatever. The lass on the line was insistent on an exact location though, which I suppose was fair enough.
She was patient with me though and kept the line open till the paramedics finally arrived.
Propping my unconscious companion up on the bench I wandered across the road and approached a lady who was getting into her car. She was wearing a vaguely medical uniform but I only half noticed that.
‘Are you alright?’ She asked and I admitted that I was not and asked where we were so that I could inform the ambulance service. She gave me the address and I went back to the lass on the phone while the good lady – whose name I later discovered was Rachael – hurried across to Margaret.
She was wonderful, the lovely Rachael! Questions were being fired at me down the phone but she was able to answer them all – I would have foundered and probably burst into tears at some point – so I was able to keep the 999 lassie fully informed.
We laid poor Maggie down on the bench and another lady arrived with a blanket to put under her head and a large umbrella to keep the sun off my wounded warrior.
As you can imagine my mind was in an absolute whirl. How was I to get Margaret home? When would I get home to distant Princetown? Where was the ruddy ambulance?
In fact the ambulance came from Liskeard, nearly twenty miles away so it was a lengthy and worrying wait. Just before it arrived, Margaret began to respond to Rachael’s gentle patter. She couldn’t talk but her eyelids fluttered and she was making little sounds in her throat. Then her eyes opened and colour began coming back into her face. At that stage I really wanted to cry and when her eyes opened properly and she looked around for me, I did.
When the ambulance arrived, I told the lass on the telephone and she wished me luck which of course made me burst into tears so I couldn’t thank her for her assistance. If you ever read this Ma’am – thank you.
Two lovely young paramedics named Amy and Ali took over the scene. They were brisk, efficient, friendly and helpful. They felt that Margaret was probably suffering from dehydration and made her drink a large bottle of water while conducting numerous tests. I was an emotional mess at that stage and Rachael answered most of the questions directed at me. Then she (Rachael) took me off to one side, put her arms around me and told me I was suffering from shock and to try and rest as soon as I could. Huh! There was little chance of that and I still needed to get Margaret home, but I thanked Rachael from the bottom of my heart and only now, wish I had got her address so I could send her flowers or something. I don’t know whether she saved Margaret’s life, but she did wonders for mine.
The final test for Margaret was an ECG in the ambulance itself and another problem immediately arose. It was a brand new vehicle and had no mounting step on the side door. We literally had to lift poor Margaret in because she is very small and her legs just would not reach the doorway. That led to a tirade from both paramedics against faceless desk jockeys who design such things without ever having been at the sharp end.
How often have I railed against such people?!
Rather than put us back on the bus, the girls took us back across the river and delivered us to Margaret’s back door. Ali rode in the back of the ambulance with Margaret and I so we talked through the journey. I was interested to hear that she is disillusioned with the day to day running of the ambulance service.
‘I love my job,’ she told me, ‘but if I had to start again, I would not join the ambulance service. Everything is regulated to the ‘nth degree and everyone is frightened to make decisions.’
Sounds familiar somehow!
Back at her home, I made Margaret take a couple of paracetamol for her headache and told her to go to bed. Against her wishes I rang her daughter and put her in the picture, then I left, somewhat shaken and yes, probably suffering from a bit of shock.
It was a salutary and sobering experience, but thanks to Rachael, Amy, Ali and the lovely couple who helped, my opinion of humanity in general has taken a general upturn. They really are helpful when one is in trouble.Thankfully Margaret is fine. I rang her this morning and although she sounded weak, she was her usual chirpy self.
Back to ranting tomorrow I reckon.