Tom Reynolds’s book, Blood, Sweat and Tea is available as a free download. It’s also available in paperback from Amazon (click the image on the left). It’s a captivating read. I’m a huge fan of short stories, and, while I’m generally not a huge fan of ‘medical’ stories, Tom’s writing is some of the best. I guess the big difference was seeing the flickr images of Tom exploring his own damaged knee – clearly (thankfully), this isn’t Shortland Street, rather these are real-life stories – reflective practice – from the London Ambulance Service. It’s sticky, icky, violent, funny, and heartbreaking – overworked people dealing with the damaged, dead, deranged, doped, and desperate.
There is a fear that every Health-care worker has. Tonight that fear jumped up and slapped me in the face.
Second job of the shift, we were called to “50 year old male – collapsed in street”. Normally this is someone who is drunk – but we rushed to the scene anyway, just in case it isn’t (we rush to everything it’s the only way to be sure you aren’t caught out). We reach the scene and see the male laying on the floor talking gibberish. He is bleeding from a cut on his face and possible from his jaw. Bystanders tell us that he “just dropped”. He then starts to vomit, and because it’s dark we get him on our trolley and into the back of the ambulance.
Our basic assessment finds that he has no muscular tone on his right side, although all his obs are within normal limits. Decided against hanging around – we start transport to hospital. Halfway to hospital he starts to vomit and cough – part of this vomitus/blood flies unerringly across the width of the ambulance…
…right into my open mouth.
Pretty disgusting – but what can you do? The patient then starts to come around – now able to move all limbs and to talk. This is good – it means I’m able to get some history from him. So I get his name, date of birth, address. Then I ask this 50 year old if he is normally fit and well.
“No”, he says, “I have AIDS”.
I think the message that comes through loudest from the book – is that despite all, Tom is inspired by his job, he finds it satisfying, even enjoyable. From the book:
Across London we deal with more than 3 500 calls per day, and with a fleet of 400 ambulances of which perhaps only three-quarters are manned, we seldom get a rest. Where I work we average one job an hour, and are supposed to transport every one of those patients to hospital.
The longest shift we officially do is 12 hours, in which we can expect 10–13 jobs, which doesn’t sound like a lot but is enough to keep us busy . . . We spend 97% of our time away from station (compared with 3% for the fire service).
However, it is a fun job.
For me, that’s the part that grabbed me the most – as Tom wanders through what appears to be some of the more random inner circles of hell, his spirit, humour, and generosity shine through – bizarrely (from my perspective) he seems to love what he does. It’s good to know that this is kind of Churchillian grit survived the blitz. If you haven’t had a movie offer yet, Tom, there has to be one on the way soon. Congratulations on a great book.