Today I am sitting in the medical room at Shepperton Studios waiting for the proverbial accident to happen. I was here yesterday and the only time my skills were called upon was when someone needed a plaster. That was fine, I was able to sit in a warm room, with a computer and a kettle and pass my day in peace.
On the way here I drove past one of the ambulance stations at which I used to work. I could see someone leaving, no doubt tired to the bones after a long 12 hour night shift and felt so relieved it was not me.
I never was very good on nights. At around three o'clock in the morning I used to get absolutely exhausted and unless the job we went to was a life threatening emergency (they very rarely were) I would find it very hard to wake my brain up. I remember driving down the M3 on an emergency, trying desperately to keep my eyes open on the brink of sleep and petrified I would nod off. I opened the window to get the cold air to wake me and somehow kept going. We arrived at our destination only to find that the "collapsed male" had obviously walked off. As usual.
The last straw for me was when, just before we were due to leave for France, I went out to a young guy who had skidded on a moped and hit the front of a coach, gone underneath it and been dragged along the road. It was pouring with rain and on the way we decided that whatever state he was in, we would scoop him off the road onto a spinal board and then deal with him in the ambulance, in the dry, so that we could see properly what we were dealing with.
From a distance as we pulled up we could see he was dead, but we quickly got him into the back and attempted rescuscitation whilst carrying out a survey of his badly damaged body. We decided that for this poor lad there was nothing we could do and stopped. I then got a lecture from a policeman about moving the body from the "crime scene" and I although I was sorely tempted to tell him what to do with his crime scene, I started instead to fill out all the necessary paperwork.
As I sat there in the back of the ambulance I looked down at my feet and a river of blood from the guys head was pooling around my shoes and at that moment I realised, had I needed proof, that for me my days in the ambulance service were over.
Shortly afterwards, on another night shift, the back step of the ambulance clouted me on one of my fingers as I lowered it down and broke it. I was so excited that it meant that I could have some time off and my escape to France could begin a bit earlier.
I will never regret the time I spent in the ambulance service. I hope I made a difference for some people and it was a real achievement for me to gain my paramedic status, as I had never really bothered with any sort of study before. I worked with an amazing team of people, many of whom are still very close friends. I just think in that job you can have a sort of burn out. I take my hat off to people who can do it for longer than the 14 years I did and still be enthusiastic and motivated despite all the politics and difficulties.
Anyway, I'm off to put the kettle on again and I hope that down the road at the ambulance station, they have got the time to do the same.