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Blackburn ambulances 'not big yellow taxi service'
1:00pm Monday 30th December 2013 in News
EVERY day, just going to work can be a case of ‘life or death’ for Andy Gunn and his ambulance partner Jade Wiggans.
On a typical 12-hour night shift they deal with back-to-back jobs, each very different.
And as the first medical help on scene, they know how important their roles can be and the difference they make.
Former scuba diving instructor Andy said he ‘fell’ into the paramedic service ten years ago.
The 43-year-old dad-of-one from Blackburn used to travel the world plying his trade before returning to Blackburn between jobs.
However, only a few weeks after joining the service on a temporary basis, a tornado ripped through a holiday resort in Costa Rica, his next destination. So he decided to stay put in East Lancashire and has worked his way up through the paramedic grades since 2002.
Also on the ambulance is mum-of-one Jade, 34, who joined as an emergency medical technician in 2007 after training at UCLan. Jade, who lives in Burnley, intends to become a full paramedic.
After reporting for duty just before 7pm at Blackburn Ambulance Station, the crew was called out to a suspected stroke victim in Blackburn. The man, in his fifties, told Andy he had fainted and felt numbness in his arm and face.
He was taken straight to Royal Blackburn Hospital because of the potential severity of his condition.
The crew would not return to base for another four hours.
Andy said: “It’s normal to get called from job to job and it’s rare we make it back to the station without getting called out.
“On busy nights we can leave the station at the start of the shift and not return for five or six hours.”
The crew responded to nine emergencies during the shift, each costing on average £230 a call-out.
The next job was in Shear Brow where a child was reported to have chest pains. He appeared to not be in distress, was assessed and taken to hospital at his mum’s request to get fully checked. A trip, the crew told me, his parents could have done quicker in their own car, instead waiting almost an hour for the ambulance.
Andy said: “We seem to be seen as ‘the big yellow taxi service’ more and more these days, which takes us away from patients who actually need our help.
“A lot of the time people could have got themselves to hospital but they see us as the only way to get there. We are not here to act as an out-of-hours GP service, or a free way to get to hospital.
“We seem to be expected to be midwives, social workers and taxi drivers these days.”
After the crew had finally arrived back at the station, they received a ‘Red Two’ call, the second most urgent, after a middle-aged man in Haslingden Road, Blackburn, reported chest pains. A fast response vehicle was already on the scene with the senior paramedic assessing the patient who underwent an Electrocardiography (ECG) test.
The results were just low enough for him to be taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital instead of being transferred to the specialist heart unit in Blackpool.
After escorting a six-month-old boy from Burnley General to Royal Blackburn Hospital, the crew then attended a house in Wensley Fold.
The man, in his 40s, told Andy he had not been able to sleep properly for four days after overdosing on the pain killer Amitriptyline.
The paramedics discovered that it was beating at 180 beats per minute, much higher than usual. After the ECG in the ambulance he was taken to hospital for further tests.
Afterwards, Andy said it was most unusual not to be called out on a drink-related incident. He said: “More and more it tends to be drink related. We haven’t gone anywhere near Blackburn town centre tonight because more people are choosing to drink at home.
“This means there is less violence on the streets, but we are attending more jobs when people have got too drunk on their own at home.
“This seems to be a problem that East Lancashire seems to struggle with a lot. It’s cheaper to drink at home, that’s why people do it, but people seem to forget that it still seriously damages their health.”
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