WE WERE booked on for a 12-hour night shift on a Friday – one of the busiest times for the ambulance service. I was out with Steve Collyer, a paramedic with more than 10 years' experience. His partner, Kevin Lever, is an emergency care assistant who has been in the role for almost six years.
We had a quick briefing session at the Ashbourne station at 7.30pm followed by a thorough inspection of the ambulance and stock check of kits and equipment.
At 8.10pm we were sent by control to go on standby in Derby and wait for our first job.
We did not have to wait long, as at 8.31pm we got a "green three" call, one of the lowest priority, to attend a 91-year-old woman at a residential nursing home. It took just two minutes to be on scene, where we discovered the patient had rolled out of bed and there was some concern over a black eye that was quickly developing.
Steve and Kevin took her medical history, and explained that she needed to be seen by doctors at the hospital to make sure there was nothing broken, and by 9.15pm we were on our way to the Royal Derby Hospital.
The paperwork that had to be completed by the ambulance crew was incredibly thorough and ended up taking them more than 30 minutes to finish – a scenario that was the same for each of the four calls we attended.
We were cleared from the job at 10pm but we only had four minutes to wait for the next call.
Our next patient was a 47-year-old female with chest pains.
Categorised as a "red one", we arrived within four minutes to discover our patient had a previous history of heart problems.
Steve set up an ECG which showed some abnormal rhythm and the crew lost no time in getting her to the resuscitation unit in hospital.
We handed her over at 10.31pm and then spent almost 45 minutes completing the necessary paperwork and records, before the next call at 11.20pm. This time it was a "red two" – still classed as life threatening – and we arrived well within the eight-minute target.
The 28-year-old female patient was showing signs of anaphylactic shock. Surprisingly despite knowing she was allergic to a substance, she had knowingly swallowed some of it.
She was taken to the resuscitation unit and within an hour of receiving the call we were once again clear for duty.
At 12.47am, we got what was to be the last call of the night for me, with a "red one" to a 62-year-old male suffering from fits.
We were on the scene within three minutes, but the call turned out to be much more complicated than we could have imagined.
The patient was in the final stages of a terminal illness – and his family did not want him to be taken to hospital, preferring instead that he died at home.
Steve and Kevin handled the situation with calm compassion and worked with the family to ensure the patient was as comfortable as could be expected, and waited for the on-call doctor to turn up.
We were there almost three hours in the end and once we were finally clear control sent us back to Ashbourne for a meal break.
It was 4.30am by the time we got back, and I had seen enough by then. The last call in particular was an emotional one to witness.
The amount of pressure the crew were under all night to get to calls, complete paperwork and deal with stressful situations was a real eye-opener for me. Yet throughout the whole shift they maintained a calm demeanour and defused difficult situations with a sense of honour and diplomacy.
It made me realise just how much we take our ambulance service for granted, and just how hard the crews work to try and meet the government targets they have been set.