Gloves on …and then the gloves are off.
This isn’t exclusive to first responders by any means, but probably resonates more with volunteers simply because they don’t get paid!.
Let’s re-tell a small number of real-life stories and bundle them into a short article.
The first responder is booked on duty as a volunteer and getting on with their normal life. On this occasion the responder is feeding the children and sorting out their school things for tomorrow when the pager goes off.
A heart attack just around the corner. On scene time could easily be two or three minutes.
Everything stops at home, kit bag ready and the short journey begins to the house.
Location given is a postcode and a house name. It is mid-winter, very dark and the property is located somewhere on a long road with no clues as to the property. More luck than judgement, the responder stops in a safe place to park, grabs the heavy kit bag and a torch, walks up and down several peoples’ paths to find the correct address.
in fairness, this isn’t a control oriented communication problem, it is a caller communication problem, 100 years ago the house was the village bakery and today it is a private dwelling called ‘The Old Bakery’.
At least six wasted minutes because the caller didn’t declare a house number or clue, such as car with hazards on, person stood outside, all the lights on and front door open, next to No. 143, opposite the butchers etc.
End of round one!
The first responder finally finds the ‘old bakery.
First on scene, the responder is greeted by six members of the patient’s family, they are all extremely anxious and agitated, quite naturally.
The 94-year-old lady is in her bed; primary survey indicates not breathing. Lots of shouting, screaming and mixed emotions from family members – some are begging the responder to help her, praying for divine intervention and consoling each other.
The responder’s mind is clear despite the vocal emotional pleas; CPR is urgently required.
The request by the responder to help in transferring the patient to the floor for CPR evokes obstruction and family conflict.
One family member, more vocal than others demands that the responder ceases and desists because there is some legal document but nobody knows whether it is with the solicitor or doctor.
Every second counts, the responder feels threatened and intimidated because CPR is essential in the pathway to saving lives and the obstacles faced are preventing CPR.
It begs the question why they call an ambulance and then obstruct treatment. Perhaps they thought there was a magical injection?
The responder steps away to call control, another couple of minutes gone. Control advices that crew is one minute away. Another minute gone by.
End of round two!
Nine minutes down the line or down the drain, the paramedic arrived in an RRV, immediately followed by the crew, didn’t want to or didn’t have time to listen to handover and dismissed the responder who promptly picked up the bag and discovered the car blocked in by both crew and RRV.
Thinking it would be inconvenient to ask one of the crew to move the ambulance, the responder ventured back to the house to feel that very distinct atmosphere of declaring life extinct.
End of round three!
The ambulance moved and the first responder stood down, under a cloud, wondering about all those ‘what ifs’.
What if they were given a house number or clue.
What if the one certain person arrived after the responder
What if it was just one hour earlier …daylight.
Bet the very worse is when the first responder shares their experience with someone is isn’t involved in the ambulance service and their comforting response is ..”well, when you’re numbers up, you’re numbers up”.