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Contemplating life.

A Decade – part five

Needless to say, I got accepted.

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Once the lazy, uninterested kid at school, this was different. I dived in to the study. I would be in the library until they kicked me out for closing times. I would relisten to whole podcast lectures, write them out, just to understand and learn the material. I would organise group learning sessions, because I best learn in a group (pure selfish tactic really, but it’s a great social and educational tool too!). I dedicated most of my life that year to my first year of study. And it paid off, achieving highest marks, but more importantly, I knew that I had found something what I want to do, my vocation, my calling.

What followed from there on…well, I don’t really need to write it all down again – because that is when I started this blog.

More than five years have passed since I started as a Student Paramedic, and it is coming up to two years since I graduated as a Paramedic. Nearly a year ago now I gained my UK Paramedic Registration after making the decision to move to London, England. And ten years since I first set foot in an ambulance, which set off a series of events, more than I had ever anticipated.

A big “Thank You!” to everyone who has been, is, and will be on my journey!

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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 Ā 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.

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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 šŸ™‚ 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 theĀ 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 theĀ Autobahn that had delayed her.

I didn’t feel like saying anything.