Its half past four in the morning and the dark skies contrast starkly with the snow on the pavements and verges. Its a real bone chilling icer of a night. I’m constantly stamping my boots in the passenger foot-well of the truck to maintain the circulation. I can feel the coldness seeping through my steel toecaps and creeping up my legs.
As we gingerly drive towards our intended patient the blue strobes are bouncing off the black ice on the road surface. Never mind having ‘Sat Nav’ we should have ‘Ice Nav’ to help us avoid the treacherous ice. The vehicle is slipping and seems to be flying slowly just above the tarmac. I see my crew mate constantly correcting his steering as the wheels struggle to purchase some grip.
As we approach the vicinity of our incident we start to slow down even more…and gracefully glide past the junction we need to turn down. Luckily there is minimal traffic at this time in the morning but there are plenty of parked vehicles around. Eventually after a 300 point turn we slip and slide into the industrial estate in search of the factory car park where someone has crashed their motorbike on the ice.
How someone made it this far on their motorbike seems a miracle as we constantly bump the wheels against the kerb failing to get proper traction on the road. After what seemed like an eternity we are flagged down by a security guard and pointed towards the large car park at the rear of a very large industrial unit. ‘Be careful of the ice! Its treacherous round there!’ says the guard. ‘No shit Sherlock!’ I think as if we need reminding!
After several demonstrations of doing ‘J’ turns and ‘handbrake turns’ without having to do anything we see a group of people crouched over a figure in the middle of the road. A smashed up motorbike lays on its side nearby. My crew mate makes sure that he steers away from the group before gently depressing the brake pedal. Once again all we can do is wave from our cab as we sail majestically by like some sort of ‘Federation Space Battle Cruiser’ slowly drifting through deepest dark space.
The vehicle comes to a sudden stop as the front wheels bump into the kerb, but then it carries on by swinging the rear round not unlike a very slow version of the waltzers at the fair. All we can do is wait for the ride to stop. After two more very slow 360s the truck comes to a rest. I feel as if I’ve taken part in the worlds biggest game of pinball! We are now more than a hundred metres from our casualty. Opening the cab door invites the cold icy breath of Jack Frost into our faces and his ice cold fingers seek out the gaps between neck and uniform collar.
Keeping hold of the door I place one boot on the road carefully followed by the other boot. It seems okay as I dig my heels into the surface to determine how deep the ice is. ‘I’ll go take a look first and give you a heads up on the road conditions.’ My crew mate nods enthusiastically knowing that he can stay in the warmth a bit longer. I’m cold, I’m tired, I,m hungry and its me that has to make my way across this black ice tundra…so I leave the truck door open to get my own back.
It takes a couple of interesting minutes of modern dance moves before I arrive next to the casualty. I have never experienced ice conditions as bad as this before. The casualty is a woman lying face down, helmet off, groaning with pain. I quickly establish a GCS level of 15 and determine her main injury being a possible mid shaft fracture of her right femur. Colleagues from a nearby factory who heard the crash have covered her in coats etc to try and keep her warm.
Once again I set out on the perilous journey across the car park over the black ice tundra towards the big yellow thing with its twinkling blue lights and its steamed up windows. Eventually I sidle up alongside the truck ‘Ninja’ like with a stealth befitting any assassin. My crew mate has closed the passenger door to keep warm. With speed of hand and deftness of foot I yank open the truck door and scare the living shit out of him. A major spillage of hot steaming coffee occurs betwixt mouth and cup. ‘Arrrghhh! You mad bastard! What you doing?’ he calls out plaintively.
Together we get the lift down on the truck and using the stretcher as a make shift sleigh we skate across to the casualty. The moon suddenly makes an appearance casting its spotlight onto us revealing us in perfect tandem keeping one foot each on the floor and propelling ourselves gracefully with the other foot. Sheer poetry in motion. Arriving by our patients side we make plans to get her off the ice cold floor and onto our sleigh stretcher.
‘I think we’ll use the scoop then we can use some bystanders to help us lift her.’ I leave my crewmate to explain to her colleagues our plan. After another couple of interesting forays into the world of modern dance I bring the scoop stretcher over. An ingenious piece of kit designed by someone ingenious enough not to have a job that requires you to work in all conditions in all weathers at all times of the day and night! We quickly assemble the scoop under our patient and prepare to lift.
I take the head end so I can explain to our casualty what we are doing and my crew mate takes the foot end. Two work colleagues, one either side, get ready to help with the manoeuvre. ‘Right on the word of command LIFT! we all need to lift at the same time…and watch your backs!’ ‘Ready? 1, 2, 3 and LIFT!’ The strain is taken, knuckles whiten as they grip tighter under the scoop stretcher with an audible intake of breath as oxygen is sent to muscles for the effort about to be undertaken.
Everything goes well as the patient slowly rises from the floor…then I realise my feet are slipping…sideways! I see people around me get taller as I get smaller. My boots cant grip with the extra weight and as I approach the final stages of the splits I am reminded of ‘Bambi’ suffering a similar fate on ice! As my groin reaches towards the floor, my voice is changing octaves as I speak, shout, yell…eventually shrieking ‘Put the scoop down! Put the scoop down!‘ Just as I am about to do a very good impression of Jean Claude Van Damme doing the splits I regain traction and with one last effort our patient is on the sleigh stretcher.
After a slow skate back across the car park we safely place our casualty in the truck where we warm her up with blankets and get the heaters going full blast. Eventually we set off to A/E on a journey that should take only twenty minutes but which in fact takes us almost an hour!
The next day I am still sore around the old groin area but now have remarkable flexibility! I make a mental note to myself…to do less nights and especially less freezing cold nights!!!