Sunday, 9 August 2009

Roadside repairs 09/08/09

Roadside Repairs
Life can be full of surprises. I am endlessly amazed at the potential for humour in the most unlikely of places. It is not impossible that my stint in the ambulance service has furnished me with a somewhat skewed sense of humour, but I delight in observing the absurd, the amusing, the wonderfully unlikely. Even the act of driving down a road can be a source of amusement. For me, if maybe not for the unwilling participants…

Having come home from Belgium I had delivered a load in Birmingham and was on my way back home, when I found myself in a small queue of traffic on the M1, heading south. Just up ahead I could see there had been a road traffic accident and a car and a peoplecarrier were limping off the highway. I pulled in to the hard shoulder, as, having been a member of the emergency services, I felt duty bound to render assistance if possible.

It quickly became clear that I was not, in fact, the first medical practitioner on site. Parked in front of me was a pastel blue Morris Minor. Synapses unused since I left the ambulance service started to twang. Nerves that had relaxed began jangling, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I knew, I just knew who I was going to face. Nevertheless, true professional that I was, I grabbed my first aid kit, and got out of the cab. And there she was. Stately as a galleon, scary as a scary thing. The District Nurse. My knees went weak and my skin tried to get back in the truck, but I pressed on, certain that she couldn’t be as bad as…

“What do you whant, yhoung mhan?!”

Damn it, knees. Keep me upright. She holds no sway over you any more. Her powers are weak!

“Ay said! What do you WHANT! yhoung mhan?” the Voice demanded, once more. I knew I had to answer. The lore foretold that if a District Nurse asked of you the same question thrice, then your soul was hers, forever.

“Um…please, I’m ex ambulance service, Nurse,” I replied, and blow me if I didn’t nearly put my hand up in the air before I answered.

She looked me up and down. I probably didn’t present a particularly stirring sight. Although later in my driving career I developed the habit of wearing a white shirt, tie and pressed trousers, at this moment I was clad in denim shorts, a teeshirt with a very unfunny joke, and wood and cow-hide clogs.

“Ai dhont think you will be necessaryah. Ai have telephoned the real ambulance people. They will be along shortleah,” she said, dismissively, and got back in her blue Minor and drove out into the oncoming traffic, without looking, indicating or making any effort to avoid any oncoming vehicles. When you are a District Nurse, you leave all the organising to the rest of the planet, which obviously will arrange things for your convenience…a few hundred years ago she would have been classed as a witch…

Curious as to what had happened, I wandered further up to the scene of the accident, as my eyes started to water, my sides to shake and I had trouble breathing. Basic first aid requires that when you are faced with an open wound or a bleed site, you apply a sterile dressing. The handbooks suggest newly laundered sheets, clean handkerchiefs or any fresh linen. The problem is, very few people are fortunate enough to actually come across an accident whilst carrying any of the above. The advice continues that you should make do with whatever you have to hand. And she had.

As the local ambulance pulled in behind me, I grasped at the Armco, and lowered myself to the floor, eyes streaming, shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter. In front of me were the four ‘victims’ of the accident, all men.

It was bad enough that one had a split lip, one had a cut over his eye and one had glass cuts to his cheek. The District Nurse had applied what sterile dressings she had to hand, and so all three were pressing NHS sanitary towels to their faces.

But oh, how sorry I felt for the young lad that had the nose bleed. I won’t tell you what dressing she had applied, but the poor sod was stood there, red of face, with a small white piece of string hanging from each nostril…


  1. When I read this one in the book it made me grin :-)

    Looking forward to the Offal chapter...


  2. Oh my... Well, you must admit, removal of the Custom Nostril Bandage p/n 12436A3-01 is a doddle.

  3. Hee! I too, have used sanitary towels as blood-staunchers - it's what they're for, after all...

    Son, aged about 8 at the time, was "pulling some grass (from the overgrown 'lawn') for the rabbit". Son old enough to know better (ha!) was helping. I never fully understood how a pair of garden shears became involved, but the inevitable happened, and the 8 yr old ended up with a lovely bloody slash to the wrist. Which I padded and bandaged with what I had to hand...
    The triage nurse in A&E giggled for ages when she saw what I'd used :)