I’m back! Did you miss me?

I spent a month in Australia, visiting Sydney, Alice Springs and surrounding desert and tropical North Queensland. I had a whale of a time and didn’t want to come back. Oddly enough, when I went to Queensland I found my hotel was right next to the local ambulance station. I might have stood around taking photos of it like a right old spotter. I swear this wasn’t planned.

When I got back from Australia I decided to take a bit of a blogging holiday. Life is a bit hectic at the moment and morale at Nee Naw Control isn’t exactly high right now. It never is this time of year, especially for those of us who are working Christmas and New Year and not getting any extra pay, whilst our colleagues who are rostered off are eligible for triple pay if they choose to come in. Ouch.

Anyway, I’m back now with some tales of seasonal woe. You will not be surprised to learn that it’s been very busy over the last couple of weeks due to a combination of horrible weather and people overindulging at Christmas parties. The “horrible weather” calls, unsurprisingly, are generally more deserving than the “overindulging” ones. Most are complete timewasters who call us because their mate is too drunk to get in a cab and they are too scared to ring his mother. But there are some exceptions. The other night, we blued a young woman in after a “sambuca overdose”. She was completely unconscious, though I suspect she’ll recover with no more than a serious hangover and patchy memory. But then…

“30YOM” I read on my screen. “UNCONSCIOUS. NOT BREATHING.”

As soon as I’d sent the ambulances, I called the police – standard procedure for any unexplained cardiac arrest in a young person. The police came straight back to warn us they had no officers available. I had to make the decision whether to tell the crew to hold off until there were police available (endangering the patient) or go straight in (possibly endangering the crew).

I lifted the phone to listen in and heard someone, who I presumed was the patient’s mother, talking to the call taker. She was upset but coherent.

“He had so much to drink last night… I think he’s choked on his vomit, he’s covered…” she wept.

Someone in the background was doing CPR. I could hear the crunching of the patient’s ribs.

“He’s making AWFUL noises,” said the mother. “Oh, stop, it’s…”

“No,” said the call taker. “You must carry on, unless he’s started breathing by himself…”

“He’s not breathing,” said the mother. “Just… gurgling… listen…”

I recoiled from the phone as I heard the most awful sound. The rasps of agonal breathing with additional… bubbling.

The call taker had clearly heard enough too.

“Yes, I can hear, but you MUST carry on with the compressions until the ambulance arrives,” he commanded. “Tell your husband to keep going and to count aloud and I’ll tell you when the ambulance arrives.”

Right on cue, the first ambulance pulled up outside the door (we’d let them know it sounded safe to go in), so I hung up and let the call taker know it was time to get someone outside.

They got him back.

A matter of minutes later, he was blued in, post cardiac arrest, breathing regularly, blood pressure and pulse not bad, considering. He was starting to regain consciousness.

Like a lot of people, I bet he’ll be vowing never to drink again when he comes round. Unlike a lot of them, he might actually mean it.

Published Dec 23, 2009 - 22 Comments and counting

22 Comments on “Christmas Spirits”
  1. catx Says:

    Glad to see you back again :) I certainly missed reading you!

  2. Elliott Rodgers Says:

    Welcome back! You were missed.

    Congratulations to the call taker and the crew! LAS 1 Grim Reaper 0

    Oh and Happy Christmas to you and all the colleagues, especially those on shift over Christmas/New Year

  3. Alice Says:

    I hope he recovers and I hope circumstances occur so that he is played the tape of the call. He should know that the repercusions are not just the injuries done to himself but what his parents actually went through.

    Welcome Back.

  4. helen-louise Says:

    I wondered where you were! Welcome back!

  5. Cogidubnus Says:

    Welcome back and I hope you find some time somewhen to have a Happy Christmas…perhaps working the Christmas shifts will free you over New Year?

  6. Rayn Says:

    I hope that you had a most excellent holiday, but I'm glad you are back and blogging again.
    I know that you cannot drink at work, so pleae have a choccie or two for me.

  7. Josh Says:

    Tropical north queensland? Wasnt the ambo station in cairns was it?

  8. Suzi Brent Says:

    No, Port Douglas…

  9. Suzi Brent Says:


    I have NEXT Christmas off though!

  10. MarkUK Says:

    Wondered where you'd got to! Glad you've enjoyed your hols.

    Got a call tonight (Xmas Day) whilst I was still on a call! Could I hand over quickly and go to a woman with severe DIB, just a couple of streets from where I was.

    Handed over and called Control for details. The woman was now "not breathing".

    When I arrived, she was having a panic attack. I talked her down from it before the truck arrived. They did obs (I can only do a few, as I'm merely a CFR) and declared her fit to stay at home. By this time she was speaking normally.

    Considering her family situation, I'm not surprised she was hyperventillating!

    Anyway, Merry Christmas to all.

  11. Josh Says:

    Oh, so close. I had the pleasure of doing some maintenance work at the call center for FNQ ambo's in cairns during a couple quiet night shifts. Great bunch of people. Heard all manner of interesting calls too..

  12. Dullahan Says:

    Welcome back, I was worried all the recent Jordan stuff had been too much for you! :p

    Sympathy for landing the Xmas/N.Years shifts. Personally I think Xmas Day is the worst shift of the year. Jobs have the extra emotional attachment, juggling cover versus crews christmas requests and then putting on the happy face for the distant family turkey dinner after finishing a grim 12 hr shift!

    N.Years on the other hand is a riot!

  13. Julio Says:

    What does "rostered" mean?

  14. Treasure Says:

    'Rostered' means 'scheduled or how their work rota falls – Suzie means that people who are not scheduled to work on Xmas day can offer themselves up to work on it and get 3 x their normal pay if they are asked to work those days.

    Yes Suzie I did miss you. So much I nearly paid a trip to our EDC (Secamb) to get my fix.

    And o how wonderful, a successful Resus, what a Christmas gift to all. No offence, but I think that of all the ambulance staff the Call Takers are the ultimate heros.

  15. Suzi Brent Says:

    I was a call taker once and I agree – it's definitely the most stressful job in the control room. I did enjoy it but by the time I was promoted I definitely felt I'd done my time and I wouldn't go back to it now!

  16. Suzi Brent Says:

    I hate NYE, I'd much rather work Christmas. If it were a choice between the two I'd gladly swap, but I have no choice as I was rostered for both this year! All those drunks and similar sounding calls and patients who have staggered off by the time the ambulance arrives… it does my head in. This is the third NYE I will have worked in a row. Thank god, I am off next year, and let me tell you I won't be working even if they offer me a MILLION BILLION pounds to go in on overtime.

  17. Ceeej Says:

    Welcome back, I though I'd lost my last ambulance blogger after the other one disappeared up his own rectum.

  18. Taking Precautions in the More Rustic Tropical North | Travel Tips Says:

    [...] Christmas Spirits (neenaw.co.uk) [...]

  19. Simon Says:

    Hope you enjoyed Oz! Been there twice!

    I have friends in Alice Springs! Exciting place eh! lol

  20. Paramedic Blogger Says:

    Welcome back, its always good to read a blog "from the other side"….

    …I recently completed some work in our EOC and may have to consider it full time in the future. There is one thing that I already know, I couldn't be a call taker!

    Keep em coming!

  21. cogidubnus Says:

    [...] are … Tell me Cogidubnus, in the eight years since Section 28 has been repealed, in what way …Nee Naw – Christmas SpiritsI spent a month in Australia, visiting Sydney, Alice Springs and surrounding desert and tropical [...]

  22. Excitement27 Says:


    http://www.tede.pun.pl/profile.php?id=22 I think…

    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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