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Paramedic Science placement: Staring death in the face

Alex Grant

Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Allied Health and Social Care
Course: BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science
Category: Allied and public health

20 June 2016

Alex's ambulance crew gets rescued by the fire brigade and they attend an attempted suicide/murder.

I am now almost half way through my second placement block and so far I have completed seven shifts and, wow, have they been eventful at times!

Ambulance crew gets stuck in a lift

On the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend we responded to a female with abdominal pain, which resulted in a GP referral. The patient’s flat was at the top floor of an apartment block with a lift; just a short distance from the front door. As the three of us were leaving the property, we stepped in the lift and started to go down, when all of a sudden we came to an abrupt halt. It soon dawned on us that we were in fact stuck! My Paramedic mentor decided to prize open the lift door, only to discover an exposed lift shaft and wires running along the concrete wall. We were trapped in the lift for 30 minutes before LFB (London Fire Brigade) showed up where they manually pushed us down to the 3rd floor. They managed to push the lift down so there was a half-metre gap for us to squeeze through. When I was jumping down out of the lift, I went to push off the lift in order to get out, and my legs started to fall into the open 40ft elevator shaft that was exposed! Needless to say we were incredibly grateful for LFB crew for freeing us; thanks Alpha 241!

Attending a hazardous attempted murder/suicide

I have been attending most of the calls in order to progress as a Student Paramedic and to get things signed off in my placement document. Late on a Tuesday night our MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) showed “11yom injured w/ smoke inhalation, fire in property, 45yof unconscious overdose, neighbour on scene”. This was very confusing to read but also raised a few red flags. We were immediately dispatched to the job as were 1x FRU (Fast Response Unit), 1x HART (Hazardous Area Response Team), and the Met Police.

This was because it was classed as HAZMAT/CBRNe (Hazardous Materials/Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear, explosive). As I was attending, I had to think about crew safety and the appropriate 1-2-3-step approach with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The 45 year old mother of two had schizophrenia and she was feeling suicidal. She had turned the gas oven on in order to try and blow up the house with the kids inside. However, she did not want to live through the explosion so tried to overdose on her prescribed medication.

A child averts a tragedy

In an astonishing turn of events, the 11 year old son had turned off the oven, opened all the windows, put his mum into the recovery position and alerted a neighbour to all the commotion! The neighbour, who was clearly in a lot of shock and distress, said that when she went into the smoke-filled flat she could only describe it as “staring death in the face”. We transported the mother and son to hospital as a priority, however, there was no sign of the eight year old daughter. After trying to ask the mother of her whereabouts, all she knew was that she was at a sleepover somewhere in London – and had no contact number. Even two hours later, when we were at the hospital, the police did not know her whereabouts. Because of the serious nature of the whole situation, I had to complete some safeguarding and vulnerable forms and inform the mother that her kids were going to be taken away from her by the police.

Stress relief talking to my paramedic tutor

As stressful and eventful as it sounds it is all worth it in the end. Once I make the journey home and put on the kettle, I have a little moment to myself to think back through the jobs of the shift and realise the difference we have made, big or small. I received an email from one of the paramedic tutors at university asking how the placement was going, so that gave me an opportunity to talk to someone about the jobs I’ve been to, which was a big stress reliever.

Alex studies Paramedic Science at ARU. You can find out more about this and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.


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