Contemplating life.

Ambulanzia Paramedici

3am. Early morning. Dark of night. Witching hour.

Whatever you call it, many a body clock reaches it absolute low within the 24hour period. A busy nightshift with a rest period between 0300 and 0400 is generally bearable; one without is intolerable.

We had been out all night. We had worked all types of calls, minor to major. My level of enthusiasm was not at its peak, but bobbing around in the sea of sleepiness. I was hoping for a short break; a pause to let my heavy eyelids droop over my dried and tired eyes, to be allowed to escape in to a warm, soft and happy dreamworld. But none of that happened. Instead, we received yet another call after handing our patient over at hospital.

I closed my eyes anyway and leaned my head on my hand, elbow on window sill, whilst my partner navigated the dimly lit streets, devoid of any activity in the dead of the night. I would have drifted off if it were not for the bouncing of our wheels, indicating the ambulance was just about parked in the driveway. A quick drink of water, a quick glance at our patients name from the screen; reluctantly opening the van door I feel a cool breeze engulfing my face, and take a few deep breaths, hoping the flood of oxygen to the system will wake me up a little more. I grab my gear, and groan at the sight of a bunch of wet and narrow stairs – could be a complicated extrication.

We are met inside by the daughter, who states mum had a funny turn, and was worried. We awkwardly gathered some history, as it appeared our patient did not understand a word of english – not making things any easier. Luckily the family were more than happy to help. I commenced taking vital signs, and whilst taking a blood pressure, sitting next to the patient on the bed, I wished that I could just let myself fall back, stretch my back and sprawl my limbs across the big and comfy bed.

But that probably wouldn’t look too professional, so I didn’t.

The decision to transport to hospital was made, and in order to try and establish a little more rapport, I crammed out some (pseudo?) italian, “hospitale” and “ambulanzia” whilst pointing to the door that we must now head outside. A little sigh of relief was breathed internally when she insisted on walking herself (which was fine with her presenting condition). She even insisted on sitting in the ambulance, which meant that we could sit approximately opposite each other on an equal level, and look each other in the eye (as opposed to physically having to look down on somebody who is lying on a stretcher – bit of psychology involved there I reckon!).

We were going along in the back of the ambulance, and all of a sudden our patient opens up and speaks (heavily accented but understandable) english! Huzzah! Communication breakthrough achieved. A few personal details for the paperwork done, and then we got on to the details of her life – where in Bella Italia she comes from, her love of cooking and baking, Pasta, Lasagne, Pizza, Tirami Su – you name it, she had an authentic recipe stashed away in her memory, and regularly made use of it for the family. She then asked me what I do, or rather what I call myself. “Paramedic” wasn’t quite understood. “Medici?” She asks me? No, not a doctor, I am a “Paramedici!” Showing her my Ambulance Paramedic badge, I repeat: “Ambulanzia Paramedici!”

“Ah, Ambulanzia Paramedici!” Her face lightens up even more, and I am proud to have established a little foreign language communication.

So proud, in fact, that I reply with “Si, senorita!”, only then realising that I am way off the mark with the language again. The last few minutes of the trip continue like this, me trying to get my point across with italian(ised) words and (authentic?) hand gestures, and she guessing the meaning and then teaching me one or two new nuggets of vocabulary. In between all this, I occasionally catch the bleary eyed nothingness expression of my colleague in the rear view mirror, which was turning in to a slightly less bleary eyed look of puzzlement, then finally in to an occasional chuckle and snort of my poor grasp (and interesting try) on the Italian language, together with a little astonishment where all the fatigue had gone to.

SF thoughts

June 2011

Walking home to the hostel one night, I came across quite a few people getting ready for bed, making themselves comfortable on their mattresses, tucking themselves in for the chilly night.

Unfortunately for them, their mattresses consisted of flattened cardboard boxes, and their tucking in was limited to zipping their jackets up to the neckline – if they had the luxury of a jacket.

Made me think how lucky I am to be able to tour the world.

I am glad that fate has ‘looked after me’; that I have not been subjected to situations where I would have fallen through societies cracks and ended on the streets. I am glad that people have been there to guide me and help me along the rocky path called life. But I am most of all glad that I have the capacity to have made, make and hopefully continue to make wise decisions to keep me out of such situations.

This trip has been a real boost to my self confidence and conscience; meeting people,  touring on my own, making new friends, doing all this paramedic related stuff on an international scale –  a great experience.

This trip has also been an eye opener and reminder in regards to my self awareness – living in a relatively small city for four years and being dumped in a mass of people they call London or New York makes you realise how physically insignificant ones self is – literally one of millions. Then again, getting all this positive feedback from readers has again boosted self confidence. It is really great that I could inspire people to go out on an EMS trip of their own, and I will strive to continue to promote that cause, as I firmly believe that an international perspective, a macroscopic birds eye view of affairs coupled with foreign experience really has a positive impact on self awareness, self confidence, learning etc. Never forget the big picture – we are all wheels in the machinery, but that machine needs reliable cogs to work.

Border Security

June 2011

My flight from Toronto to San Francisco was uneventful, except for the border security.

Arriving in the US, I presented my passport and was greeted not with a smile, but a with an onslaught of questions in rapid succession, which I managed to answer in a fairly timely manner.

Border Control: “Where have you come from?”

Me: Canada

BC: “Why are you here?”

Me: Pleasure

BC: “Where will you be staying?”

Me: Hotel X

BC: “What is your occupation?”

Me: Paramedic

And with that, whether he had run out of questions or was happy to have a travelling paramedic in front of him, he wished me a good day and I was on my merry way in to ‘Cisco.

Report, part 5

Let me take you away, if allow me, to a bygone era. A time of fuzzy hair, cool sunglasses, green pants and orange stripes. A time of precautionary immobilisation after minor fender benders and let’s intubate everybody. Oh, some still do that? Let’s gloss over that.

Board the time machine, get on your cool, and make way:

New York City Emergency Medical Services of the early 1990’s.




The most frequent question thrown at me in the last four months has been: “Why move from Australia to London?!”

Simple: Perth (where I worked and lived for the past five years) is too hot. Summer, sunshine and beach sounds like fun, but the reality of 40+ degrees in summer means people tend to do the same when it rains or snows in London: stay inside and let technology (airconditioning/heating) thermoregulate your environment. You can only take so many clothes off, even then it is too hot.

Perth is a cute little place, with a cute little rhyme to go with it:

Perth, Perth,

End of the Earth

Now, end of the earth is not necessarily a bad thing, but the next biggest city is either Singapore or Melbourne, both about 4 hours flight away. You would probably have to drive about eight hours straight just to get out of the state. A state seven times the size of Germany, but with less than two million inhabitants, 1.5 million of those in a town…sorry…a city with a north to south spread of over 120 kilometres.

London has over eight million people in one spot, lies in a country with over fifty million people, and is on a continent with approximately 500 million people. There’s always something happening in London. “Tired of London, tired of life” as the saying goes. If it gets cold, you put more clothes on. If it rains, you put wet weather gear on. There’s plenty of stuff out there to wear, it’s London after all. You can get anything here. It’s London.

But each to their own. You may think I’m crazy, you may not understand my reasons, you may be happy where you are.

Or you may agree and say: London is a great city.

That’s why I’m here.