Ashes to Ashes…!!!

May 16, 2007


Its dark, its wet and I,m cold! And I,m on nights…again! So hopefully it might not be busy. Most sensible people will stay in and watch the T.V. or read a book or just sleep. But if our last job is anything to go by, then perhaps it would be best if all our jobs were outdoors!

***cue BBC wibbly wobbly picture and strange atmospheric sound effects***

Having trekked halfway across the city we turn off the “Blues” as we pull up outside the address. Looking through the passenger window of the truck I can just make out the open front door through the raindrops that have collected on the glass. A light is on in the gloomy hallway and I can just about make out the shape of a person standing on the doorstep….waiting for us.

Diving quickly out of the vehicle and grabbing the resus bag we cross the wide grass verge, almost “Ninja like” trying to avoid the incessant rain we crouch vainly attempting to keep dry. It doesn’t work! We look like drowned rats! (So much for Ambulance Ninja School!)

“Hello!”… “did you call for an Ambulance?” The person on the doorstep nods and waves us into the house. It takes a couple of seconds to wipe the rain water from our eyes and faces, a couple more seconds for our eyes to get accustomed to the dim lighting ahead of us and more than a couple of seconds to see through the fog of cig smoke!

Walking into the living room was like walking through the doors on “Stars in Your Eyes” through all the smoke. Only on the other side there were no cameras or enthusiastic audience waiting to cheer us on. At the centre of the smoke storm was our patient sat upright in a leather chair. I quickly remembered what the job had flashed up on the vehicle data terminal…”Severe Respiratory Distress” Cat A code Red…

“Hello! Is it you we,ve come to see?” The reply from the chair is a splutter and a cough and something resembling a “Yes!”


“Right, before we start can you put your cig out please so I can ask you a few questions?” The floor around the chair is covered in ash, all the ashtrays are full and the patients woolly jumper is starting its own collection of wildlife. I can see his eyes are bloodshot, the kind of red thats been diluted with alcohol and causes problems with focusing.

I get straight to the point…”How can we help? What is your main problem?” I know that he is having a little difficulty in breathing but this could be normal for him given the amount of ashtrays, rollup baccy and enough ash on him, the chair and the carpet to cover a small version of Pompei!

“I,ve got chest pain!”…”and I,m finding it hard to smoke!” Something tells me that we are not dealing with one of lifes great intellectuals! As the smoke drifts towards the open front door (thank God we left it open!) I begin to pick up the distinctive smell of stale alcohol. My nose directs me to the side of the chair where a large basket is full of empty Special Brew beer cans and on the other side a half empty/half full (depends on your outlook in life) bottle of whiskey. 


“Do you suffer with anything to do with your heart? Have you had chest pains before? Are you on medication? Does the pain alter if you take a deep breath?”

I already have a good idea whats wrong as I listen to his chest wheezing and hear the phlegm rattling around the back of his upper airways. He is quite warm and clutches the left side of his chest directly below his armpit. At my feet I can see one, two, three, four different inhalers for asthma. They are almost covered by ash and the excess spillage of fag ends from one of the many ashtrays!

Making sure that nothing is going to jump off his jumper I place him on oxygen and soon he is breathing easier. A quick listen with the stethoscope to his chest indicates that he is probably suffering from a chest infection. We make the decision to take him in to A/E. He gestures to the old crone sat in the opposite armchair…”come on then lets go, make sure you bring my fags and baccy wont you?”  

Up until now I hav,nt paid much attention to the woman sat nearby. She seems old in her face, her posture, her clothes. A mass of tangled hair sits on top of her head. I don’t usually judge people by how they look but FFS she looks scary!!!

As we take our patient out the old crone turns off the fire, switches off the Sky satellite and unplugs the 42″ plasma telly. (I make a mental note to pack in my job, drink at least 10 cans of Special Brew and a bottle of whiskey a day, smoke at least 40-60 cigs a day then I too maybe able to get a 42″ plasma telly with Sky.)

Once we are on the truck and we are settled for the trip to A/E I ask more questions…and am astounded at the answer to his age. He is 39! He looks about 69! He then tells me his dad died from smoking and drinking too much! (No shit Sherlock!!!)

I think that perhaps he may be heading the same way…………..