Menu

flobach.com

Contemplating life.

Eulogy

It’s not what you expect to see when casually checking your social media sites after getting up in the morning: A series of short eulogies on a friends account.

Death has only tangientally touched my personal life. Deaths in the family occurred  at a very young age where I didn’t know them enough and didn’t understand the concept of death, and not knowing them as an adult, unable to build a bond between them and myself.

We, in contrast, had spent four years of our lives together that shaped and changed us: we had become paramedics together. Through university, through paramedic school, in the classroom, on the road, at graduation: we did it together in our group, growing from keen students to grown up paramedics. Whether at one of our first practice scenarios in school, or at a job working together: you were a solid colleague, a mate that I could count on, someone who had my back even on tough calls. You got on with the job that we both loved: helping people, and having a laugh with them, never at them.

Although we weren’t close, we kept in touch as colleagues, even if I was in your country of birth, and you were in my country of birth. I was glad that we were able to catch up over a pint when you came to visit England recently, and it saddens me that we won’t be able to do it again as we had planned, either here or over your way.

Pleasure to have met you, an honour to have worked with you, and a sad day reminiscing about the good times spent during our journey together.

Design

Design, a sometimes forgotten and neglected topic not only in the Paramedic world. Examples include the often poor visibility of exterior ambulance design, unsafe practices on interior ambulance designs, hideously designed uniforms, and not properly thought through industrial design of the equipment we use (heavy, cumbersome, unreliable, expensive. Or all four).

One thing that has always bugged me 
is the utilitarian approach to designing the patient area of the ambulance. Essentially the Paramedic’s office, a bit more thought would go a great deal. I was reminded of this shortcoming today when I visited the London Design Museum. There are some great designs and designers on this earth, but apparently we need to stick to old-thinking style layouts, with the accompanying drab and depressing colours. How about improving our workspace – I’m sure it would have a positive impact on   happiness at work, and even a good effect on (conscious) patients and bystanders. Environmental perceptions shouldn’t be underestimated.

IMG_5178

 

An interesting piece of ‘design’ was the Music Memory Box, designed to help dementia sufferers. The box is filled with objects and tunes that the individual has a strong emotional bond with; these ties are still present even with advanced dementia, and can provoke quite startling emotional outbursts. I can already picture a bunch of poor demented paramedics in a nursing home, with somebody having put the radio tones for a call in the Music Memory Box. The otherwise quite placid retiree would come out with a strong “Oh damn! Not another call, I wanted to eat my lunch!”.

 

I’ll leave you to ponder with a picture and a quote from a sculpture outside the Design Museum:

IMG_5175

 

Though human genius in its various inventions with various instruments may answer the same end, it will never find an invention more beautiful or more simple or direct than nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.

Leonardo da Vinci.

 

 

Further reading & Links:

Ambulance Visibility: ambulancevisibility.com

Ambulanzmobile: Delfis Ambulance Design: http://www.ambulanzmobile.eu/brand/en/models/emergency-ambulances/delfis.html

Design Council: Making Ambualnces that don’t kill people: http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/publications/design-council-magazine-issue-3/making-over-the-ambulance/

London Design Museum: http://designmuseum.org

Transport Design of the Year 2012: Redesign of the Emergency Ambulance: http://www.designsoftheyear.com/tag/redesign-for-the-emergency-ambulance/

Music Memory Box: http://www.watershed.co.uk/ished/projects/music-memory-box/

A Decade – part four

I returned from my visit with the rekindled desire to join the ambulance service. The camaraderie amongst the staff had impressed me, and together with my memories of  time spent on shift made me rush to the phone and enquire about recruitment. Nine months. Nine whole months! At least that woudl give me time to prepare and think it through. But there was nothing to think through, I wanted to become a Paramedic in Australia.

Work was becoming boring, and I had been offered a place at university in Western Australia, so I moved again. Studying computer science was a backup plan, to be continued until I either graduated, or got accepted in to the ambulance service. The more I studied computer science, the more I loathed it. Maths was just not working out, and programming jsut didn’t make sense. It was boring me to tears. I tried to put the long hours in, but my brain would just not cope with the input and could not make any sense to it. By that stage, applications had opened up for the position of Student Paramedic. So instead of studying for my current (failing) degree, I skipped some lectures and instead attended some free “how to ace an interview” courses. I slowly progressed through the application process, preparing meticulously for every stage (I researched nearly every possible interview question there has been in the universe, and laboured over the best answer, wrote them down, and practiced speaking my answers by recording myself on my webcam).

There was only one way of not having to take that stupid maths unit again next semester, and that was to be accepted as a Student Paramedic.

 

A Decade – part three

Seventeen years was enough. I wanted to experience living in Australia as an adult, not just visiting it. So I packed my bags and moved.

A massive leaving party, and a short holiday later, I arrived in Sydney with two suitcases, two guitars, and a bike. May as well do it properly and start from scratch!

Ambulance Service? A thing of the past. As much as I enjoyed it, being a paramedic is not a job for life, working in IT gives you more career opportunities, pays better, and is far more mobile. To be filed under “past experiences and enjoyments”.

I enjoyed the change in scenery. But I also remember spotting my first ambulance even on the taxi ride from the airport to the friends house I was staying at for the first few weeks. I just like the design, I thought. Just to look.

Work was good. I was getting paid, was getting experience, I had some pretty good colleagues (including the woman that used to sit opposite me who now sleeps next to me). It was on a holiday over to the west side of the country to visit my mum that I was able to organise an observer shift with the ambulance service – I was curious how the Australian system worked, and wanted to compare it to the German system I had experienced over the past three years.

I got dropped off at the ambulance station. The day crew weren’t back yet, and the night crew (I was going to follow them through half the night) hadn’t come in yet, so I waited for a few minutes until my aunt’s colleague’s flatmate (yes, you red correctly) turned up, who I had organised a shift with. In his final year as a paramedic student, he was happy to take me out and who me the Aussie way.

IMG_3169.JPG
A brief tour or the van, checking the drugs and equipment, I didn’t have much time to sit down until the first job came in. I can’t remember what it was, but what I do remember is that feeling of sitting in an ambulance again. This one was considerably smaller, made woo woo noise instead of neenaw, and had the addition of red and white flashing lights over the european blue I was used to – but each ambulance I have sat in makes a similar noise; the rattle of equipment in the draws, the crackling of the radio, the strain of the engine when the accelerator is mashed to the floor. In addition, all the other feedback was right too, the vehicle been thrown around corners at high speeds, the clinical white interior, the lights bouncing of the surroundings at night time. It all fit perfectly, a feeling and experience that I hadn’t had in a while. Quite nice, and good to know that it doesn’t differ much from Germany. Still hope that the university get back to me to tell me if I’ve been accepted for my bachelor in computer science, I’d like to progress my career in IT.

We drop our patient off at the hospital, and that is where I notice the biggest difference: it is all one service in the city. You see, in Frankfurt, the Fire Brigade had central oversight and control over EMS, and manned some ambulances. Additionally, the Samaritans, the Red Cross, St Johns and the Maltese Cross all ran ambulances in the city, under governance of the Fire Brigade. Five organisations, five employers – and people from different organisations didn’t mingle, it seems. But here, here in Australia, everybody knew their colleagues, they all wore the same uniform! I was introduced as the guy from Germany who wanted an insight in to the Aussie system, I was made very welcome by everyone else. The shift progressed, and I was able to have a good chat with the crew. Once again, we cleared from hospital, and were told that there were reports of a car crash coming in – one ambulance had already been dispatched, but in case backup was needed, we should head in that general direction. And sure enough, a few minutes later we were called to proceed under priority conditions to the scene.

And what a scene it was: The police had blocked the road, the fire brigade were cutting the roof off one car, whilst the ambulance crew on scene had split and were dealing with what was to become our patient, and another one who was in (what I now know as) traumatic cardiac arrest. Both young, having fun, but one of them had a bit too much of a lead foot for their guardian angel to keep up – even the paramedics weren’t going to change that. I was told to stay close to the ambulance, and was happy to do so – I was happy to take a back step on this chaotic scene, try and make sense of it all, get a general overview. A manager turned up, one that I had met earlier at hospital, who reminded me that if I didn’t want to see what was happening, I could sit in the back of the ambulance and shut the door; he made sure I was OK with the whole situation. I was.

After transporting the patient to hospital (I assisted, upon their request, by keeping the attendant up to date on the patients vital signs…OK I may have gone slightly overboard with the constantly changing heart rate until I was gently told to shut up 🙂 Iwas dropped off at a taxi rank. The crew took off for the rest of their shift, and I returned back to my mums place, deep in contemplation of my newly gained experiences of the life of a Paramedic in Australia…

 

A Decade – Teil Zwei

The next two weeks consisted of a lot of waiting around, reading the newspaper, reading magazines, looking through the ambulance bits, with the occasional call in between. I think we must have done approximately six or seven emergency calls in ten days.

I had become considerably calmer once I realised that I could handle the situations I was taken in to – I was only an observer, and not responsible for much except keeping my mouth shut when appropriate. Jobs I remember was taking an old lady a quarter of a mile down the road for a doctors appointment, a kid with anaphylaxis, an MI and a drunk teen at a foam party at the local disco.

I had tasted my first blood, and relished the flavour. But the waiting drove me crazy.

Later that year, one day after work, I had planned to meet a friend. I had finished earlier than he had, and so had some additional time up my sleeve – and instead of catching the train to out meeting point I did what I still do today when I’m in no rush: walk. Frees your mind, gives you opportunity to think, feel, appreciate, absorb…and walk past organisations that are involved in the cities ambulance service. With time to spare, I thought I’d pop my head in and ask what I would have to do to get on one of their trucks. The answer was simple: sign up, there’s a basic 40 hour course over four weekends starting in two weeks, after that you will be able to third man an ambulance and assist during event first aid work.

The course was interesting. To be honest, I can’t remember much, but there were a lot of concepts discussed. Confusing at the time, but somehow I managed to pass, and proudly received my first certificate relating to medical care. To stay in the organisations good books, it would be good to do a few event first aid services. I did more than a few, was good experience and I met some interesting people…

The tender beginnings in Frankfurt, Germany
…but my real aim was the big white truck with bright red stripes and flashing blue lights…

Photo Source: bos-fahrzeuge.info

For three years I volunteered for first aid and ambulance shifts, slowly getting to know a thing or three about the work, and meeting some interesting people – both colleagues and patients. I really enjoyed my time there, and managed to never be called to a cardiac arrest. In retrospect, I may have even placed a little bit too much emphasis on my volunteering in comparison to my IT training, finishing vocational school for the day, riding my bike to the ambulance station, doing a night shift (rarely doing more than one call after 1am), having a shower on station and riding back to school the next morning. One day, I was five minutes late for school because of a late job – a drunk driver had ploughed in to another car, killing one person and seriously injuring three others (the driver remained unhurt). I can still vividly remember parts of the call – the Mercedes in the middle of the field, the other car absolutely smashed on the Autobahn, one dead body covered by a sheet in the middle lane, the fire brigade on scene, the early morning response prior to rush hour, our patient being on blood thinners, the handover at hospital, knowing that the patient is seriously injured, but not having much idea about the science and the medicine behind it, but knowing that if she survived, she would have two other family members who were also fighting for their lives, and another one who had already lost the battle. All because of one drunk driver in a Mercedes station wagon, with a scratched door and muddy tires in the middle of a field.

The only reason I got away with being five minutes late that day was because the teacher was nearly an hour late. She came in to the room, apologised and briefly explained that there was a horrific accident on the Autobahn that had delayed her.

I didn’t feel like saying anything.

Temporary hibernation…

…due to stimulus overload.

It has been a very busy time the past two months. Finally starting full time work as a paramedic in the NHS has been great, but obviously time and brainpower consuming (There will be a dedicated post about this).

And as if starting a new job on the other side of the planet wasn’t enough, university studies have kicked in again – starting on the same day as my first day of employment. I’ve only got a few more weeks of study to go this semester; obviously it takes priority over many other things, but once out of the way, blogging shall be on the reuptake.

Phew…not much time for me or my poor little head!

I’m also thinking where this blog of mine is heading, and where I may take it. Considerations and thoughts include a focus on work, travel, general thoughts and reflective practice in general including university studies – bringing you a couple of my thoughts on management in a healthcare environment.

Thanks for reading the blog – there will be more to come!

Your view

Know the facts.

What are the facts?

 

Know the truth.

What is the truth?

 

That is something you will have to find out for yourself. You must judge what you find acceptable, reasonable and plausible. Your view of the world through your eyes is unique. Your reality is different to that of your neighbour.

Are you colourblind? Then you will perceive the world differently than those who aren’t.

Are you left handed? You will have made different experiences than right handed people.

 

There are no hard and fast rules.

This is what makes things so complicated.

This is what keeps things interesting.

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.

Explanation

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.

2 1/2 hours

My phone rings. I answer.

Receptionist: Hello, Mister Bach?

Me: Yes, speaking.

Receptionist: Your blood test results are back, and the doctor wants to speak to you about them. We’ve just had a cancellation, are you available this afternoon for an appointment?

Me: Yes…

OK, rewind: After being discharged from hospital, the ENT specialist told me to get a follow up blood test in a weeks time for a liver function test with my GP.

GP appointment made, phlebotomy paperwork acquired, told to make an appointment one week after the blood test.

Not a problem – although being slightly needle phobic, I let my antecubital fossa be attacked by the phlebotomist the next day – needle in, blood out, thank you very much. Results will be sent to the doctors surgery in a weeks time.

Then the above mentioned phone call. This wasn’t “call me in a weeks time”. No, this was “the doctor would like to discuss the your results with you, come in two hours time”.

The department store I was in went a bit fuzzy. Normally being fairly level-headed, this disrupted my world. What is there to discuss? Something must have gone wrong…maybe my liver suffered more than expected, I developed hepatitis, I acquired some infection or disease from hospital, I will need a liver transplant, all my future plans are going down the drain. The christmas shopping I just finished half an hour ago? Meaningless. “Here, have a sloppily wrapped present, and by the way: I’m not going to survive next year.”

The following two and a half hours were torturous. The trip on the tube home was the longest ever – reading the paper was pointless, playing Sudoku produced a mass of errors, sitting looking in to space just made my mind wander to even more horror scenarios, and playing out different scenes how to tell friends and family. And clutching at straws, maybe the GP just wants to tell me not to drink alcohol over the Christmas period to give my liver a rest…but then again, it could be liver failure.

I arrive at the GP surgery. I wait. As always, the GP is running late. Half an hour later, it’s my turn. I get up, walk towards the room, take a deep breath, open the door, and sit down in front of the Doctor.

“Hello, how are you going?” he asks me cheerily. OK, not what I expected. I mumble that I’m alright, and ask him about my results. “Yes, your results are in. Your liver function test has come back fine, and all your other values are within normal limits. You’re feeling better, Yes? No coughing, or other symptoms? Great! You can get back in to your sports routine when you feel ready, too.”

Phew. That was it? That bloody receptionist. My bloody imagination. Damn circumstances. Probably lost a few years because of that…not a nice experience. At all.

After telling the GP of the doomsday scenarios that were playing in my mind, we had a bit of a chuckle (I had to let my relief out some how!), chatted for a few minutes, and wished each others merry christmas and a happy new year.

You may smirk reading the above, you may shake your head, but believe me, it wasn’t pleasant. But it did teach me a lesson, shoving me back in to place, with the realisation thrust upon me: Cherish your health, your life, your loved ones.

It could change in the blink of an eye.