What does it feel like to work as a paramedic? In the latest in our series of articles looking at life from other people’s perspectives, a Galway paramedic takes us through his day
I reach a hand out from under the covers and smack the alarm for making such a racket. It’s November, it’s Wednesday, it’s 5.30am and it’s cold and dark out there.
I am not as reluctant as you might think to be getting up for work on a morning such as this. I am an Advanced Paramedic in Galway City and I love my job and even the early hour does not dampen my spirits. Today we get to make a difference.
By 6am, I am on the road sipping coffee and listening to the news. Barack is back and the best is yet to come! By 6.30am, I’m arriving at the Ambulance Station at UHG and meeting the night crews who hopefully, but not always, get to go home now.
‘How was the night?’ I ask.
‘Busy.’ Comes the tired reply and so ends the pleasantries.
Time to get to work. We check our ‘wagon’ from top to tail, inside and out. We make sure all of our equipment is clean and in working order, everything from cardiac monitoring equipment, defibrillator, suction units, resuscitation gear and oxygen to kits for delivering babies! You name it, we got it.
We check our lights, our oil and diesel. We make sure our ‘blues’ are all present and correct and our siren sings bright and clear, which always makes us popular at seven in the morning!
By 7am, when our 12-hour shift starts, we are ready to go. We contact our Control/Dispatch to test our radio and then we wait.
Our first call is to a 55-year-old man complaining of pain in his chest. We find him sitting on the edge of his bed one hand pressed against the centre of his chest. His wife leans in the doorway, her hand pressed to her mouth. Both of them are scared. We go about our business quickly. I speak with the man, reassuring him, obtaining a history. ‘What were you doing when it started? What makes the pain better or worse? Describe the pain to me? Does it radiate anywhere else? How long has it been there?’
While I do this, my partner is checking the patient’s respiration rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, blood glucose level, 12 Lead ECG. We continue to build a picture of what is happening here. Are you allergic to anything? Taking any medication? If so, for what?
This process is done quickly, with purpose. We know what may be wrong and the clock is ticking. We suspect this man is having a heart attack. We begin to treat him using a range of medications ranging from oxygen and aspirin to IV morphine and clopidogrel. We transfer the patient to the ambulance, constantly monitoring him, constantly reassuring him, and then we’re off.
With lights flashing and siren wailing through the early morning traffic, we arrive at the Emergency Department. The patient will be cared for there by the extraordinary nurses and doctors who do a difficult job under trying conditions.
Our patient is going to be ok. He did the right thing and called 999. The moral of his story? If you have chest pain, call!
Our next call takes us to a nursing home, where an 87-year-old female with a history is COPD is complaining of shortness of breath. We begin our routine again of reassuring, checking, asking questions and checking again. We provide nebulised salbutamol and IV hydrocortisone and by the time we reach the hospital, the lady is stable enough to by-pass the ED and go direct to the Acute Medical Assessment Unit.
Next is a lady who is 39 weeks pregnant. She is complaining in equal parts of contractions and a hubby dancing in excited circles around the room. Thankfully, she does not deliver en route and has a baby boy an hour after arriving at the hospital. Just in time for lunch!
Then comes the traffic accidents, the abdominal pains, the back injuries, and the speed-cutting chef whose knife was faster than his finger. Each call represents a person with a story to tell and a condition needing attention. We reassure and check. We treat and check again and on into the evening until we reach that other 7 o’clock and it’s time to go home. We meet the night crews coming back on.
‘How was the day?’ They ask.
‘Busy.’ We reply and head home to spend some time with our families before it’s time to set the clock and do it all again tomorrow.