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Monday, 23 March 2015

BUSY DAY AT DIAL-A-RIDE



For those who do not know, I drive one day a week for our local Dial-a-Ride bus service.  We have 1200 members now and are getting busier ~ the service is a life line for local people unable to get to and from GPs, Dentists, Opticians, Shopping or even visiting friends  . . . plus many other reasons to use us.

As an ex-ambulance man I love the work because I see it as an extension to my previous job and the work is very similar at times.  I am always able to help a few folk during my day's work on Monday.

Today was a very busy day which I just loved and fortunately I had rather some challenging situations to deal with which made the day more interesting.

I was driving a vehicle, affectionately called Diana, a five seater plus wheelchair facility if required.

Here it is so you get some idea ~ a little like the pope mobile on my last post, only bigger.



 . . . and here is the rear view, showing the ramp and wheelchair fitting area, but no wheelchair was used today.  What you can see is a folded four wheel zimmer trolley, very useful to steady the wobbly.



During the morning I was scheduled to pick up two elderly ladies from a nearby town and take them to the bus stop at our Post Office, about 6 miles away. I picked them up, seated them in the vehicle and said I needed to pick up an elderly gentleman and his dog and take him to a park just before their bus stop. They said, ok, and we chatted on the way ~ I know them very well. We arrived at the gentleman's house and out he stepped, very wobbly, with a huge Golden Labrador dog, which made a beeline for me and almost knocked me off my feet, much to everyone's amusement, including mine.  Anyway, I got hold of the lead and walked the dog behind his master up the drive towards the vehicle. I could see that the gentleman was quite incapable of controlling such a powerful dog.  Previously I had taken him out a few times, minus dog, and had to help him in and out of the vehicle, so I was very surprised he had opted for such a solo adventure.  Anyway, the immediate idea was to get the Labrador into the back of the vehicle up the ramp so he could be seated or lie down just behind his master.

He would not go in, try as we would, in spite of all our encouragement and persuasion.  The owner said he would travel in the back with him and I said that was totally illegal because passengers have to be seated with a seat belt.  So for plan B.  I asked one of the ladies if she would kindly move along the bench seats so the owner and the dog could fit in. She was quite ok about it but even with him sitting in the middle the dog would not go in . . . 

With a lot of coaxing the dog did eventually climb into the vehicle but there was insufficient room for him and his tail was sticking out where I needed to shut the door and his 'derrier' was in the way too. Reluctantly I had to ask the lady to move again into the front between me and the other lady, which she did with considerable dexterity for one aged 83. Fortunately she saw the funny side of things, along with the other lady, but they were both looking at their watches and getting anxious about their timetable. The guy moved over and I pushed the dog in quickly.  We got to the park and I got the dog out first and held his lead and he pulled so hard I had to go with him a few steps.  Then I got the old boy out and gave him the dog who immediately pulled so hard he did a 360 degree spin and then just had to let go but fortunately the dog came back when he called him. Reluctantly I had to leave him because there were passengers to attend to.  I drove the ladies to the bus stop and dropped them off. They were quite amused by it all.  I did hear later than the old guy plus dog were successfully picked up from the park for the return journey by a larger bus, as scheduled, but the driver had to chase after the dog to retrieve it. Maybe it was a Golden Retriever. 

A little later I picked up a blind man I know who goes shopping on Monday afternoons.  I used to know Ray's blind wife as well and often saw them out walking in town together holding hands and using their white canes with their other hands. 

Unfortunately Ray lost his wife four years ago and now lives alone but does so remarkably well.  We have something in common since I lost my Maria two years ago next month.

I was talking with him and told him the story of the blind man guiding me on my journey when I was in the ambulance service, as told last week, HERE for those who missed it.  Ray said he can relate to that and does the same on the bus when he travels from Bristol but if he falls asleep he is lost and has to ask someone.  I said, "You know Keynsham well Ray, don't you?  Any idea where we are now?  He said yes and he told me and he was right on the button.

I dropped him off at the supermarket, got a trolley for him and helped him to the customer service desk and they arranged for a very nice lady to accompany and help him with his shopping.  I was able to stay with him until she came.  She looked at me and said she would look after him.  An hour later I picked him up and took him home and once he knew where he was in relation to the railings leading to his flat he was ok to pull his trolley after him, but using his stick to guide him home.  I find it all remarkable ~ I do admire that guy.

Next time, back to the ambulance stories I think.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

AMBULANCE STORY ~ WHERE DO YOU LIVE, LOVE, I CANNOT FIND YOUR HOME?



During my ambulance days I often drove a 'Pope Mobile'. This vehicle was ideal for the job of ferrying patients to and from hospital for kidney dialysis, particularly if they were seated in a wheelchair.  All my patients got to know me well and some of them had a sharp sense of humour to match mine.  I used to take my bit of double glazing Georgian Bar with me, since I am an agent for a local window company.  I sometimes held it up to them as they were entering the Pope Mobile, saying "Bless you, my son/daughter".  It always got a laugh and brightened their day a little.  



It was a cold dark night in the middle of winter.  I was meeting an elderly lady patient for the first time so I was serious and I certainly did not use my little cross on that particular night.  She was frail and in a wheelchair and had just completed her dialysis ~ she had just started with dialysis and was nervous and had recently moved from her own home into a nursing home, always a sad occasion for them.  Sometimes a patient's blood pressure drops after dialysis and that causes them to feel unwell, so she was feeling a little like that and I was trying to get her home and into the warmth as quickly as possible.  I knew the nursing home was nearby but it was brand new and I did not know exactly where it was located, apart from the general area.  The whole complex was newly built and not on any map, and certainly not on my SatNav. 

We approached where I thought it might be and I asked her if she recognised where it was and which way to go.  She said, "We are going in the wrong direction I think, if we turn round and travel the other way I might recognise where we are".   I turned round and we journeyed the other way and she said, "It's too dark and I can't see properly."  Stress was beginning to rear its ugly head and I saw a group of youths by some shops so I parked the vehicle and asked them if they knew where it was, but got the response, "Don't know, gov, try the cop shop up the road!"  I was taking a bit of a chance walking over to them because this area is the roughest in Bristol and people are mugged there quite frequently.  There were six of them and I would not have stood a chance.

I reached the police station and explained the situation and the policeman was quite concerned I had ventured out alone to see that group of 'yobbos', as he described them, saying they had loads of problems with their behaviour. I guess I must have been lucky that night.  He said he knew exactly where the nursing home was and said, "I'll take you, I'll hop into the police car and follow me".  I did, we got there and I thanked him and shook his hand.  I thought that was very decent of him.  It was very near where we had been looking but was hidden behind some wrought iron gates.  I got the lady inside and out of the cold and handed her over to her carer, feeling very relieved she was home safely and without incident.

We have had several instances of not knowing where to deliver patients ~ perhaps I shall tell you some of those stories soon.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

AMBULANCE STORY ~ LED BY A BLIND MAN



Most of my work within the ambulance service centred around ferrying renal patients to and from hospital for kidney dialysis. Without 4 hours on special kidney machines 3 times a week these patients would not live much longer than a week. So we are fortunate to live in modern times where this technology is available.

Wherever possible a kidney transplant may be available, the ultimate holy grail, donated by a very kind person wishing to enable someone to live a normal life by donating organs in the event of them having a fatal accident. I am so happy that two of my former patients are now able to live complete and normal lives after receiving these priceless gifts ~ a kidney donation for each of my friends ~ wonderful.   I have said the meds can have any part of my body when the time comes, provided it is functional of course.

My story this week centres around a 90 year old patient, John, who lived 30 miles away inland from a coastal hospital, where he attended dialysis 3 times a week.

John had lost the use of both legs and the nurses used a hoist to get him in and out of bed into his wheelchair, where I pushed him up a ramp into our Pope Mobile ambulance transport, idea for those journeys. 



Safely secured onto wheelchair mounting fixtures onto the floor of the vehicle I was able to ferry him back to a nursing home where he lived with his wife, also a resident. The first time I met John we immediately hit it off and he loved it when he heard I was playing classical music on the journey.  I was not entirely sure of the route, although I did have my SatNav with me.  He said he would guide me along the route so I listened to his directions with the music in the background.  I remember he was particularly taken with Mendelssohn's 3rd Symphony, also a favourite of mine. 

Little did I know it but he was completely blind, it was not visibly obvious he was, yet somehow he knew exactly where we were at every point of the journey.  It was truly astonishing because he made remarks like, "In 200 yards there is a turn to the right coming, give way to vehicles coming to your left once you have made the turn", and "The road veers sharply to the left soon and it is quite a tight bend and quite a steep hill follows." That sort of thing ~ all the way.

It was not long before I realised he was completely blind and I expressed my astonishment that he knew exactly where we were all the time.  He said he knew that area like the back of his hand and that he could tell by the bumps and camber of the road and the bends and hills and road speed and what gear I was in, even the cats eyes striking the tyres.  He had a mental road map of the journey as we progressed and yard by yard he knew where we were.

He said that we were approaching the nursing home and explained exactly where the entrance was and where to park.

I got him out of the wheelchair and he thanked me for the lovely music and I said I would play it for him every time.  We got quite friendly and each time I brought him home I wheeled him to his room and had a chat to him and his wife, who always greeted us with a cup of tea and a cake.  The nursing staff were very friendly too and I got to know them quite well.

I remember on warm summer evenings, after I had delivered John safely, the journey back was truly lovely, across country and through Wells, a small Cathedral city in Somerset, and the views across the valleys were truly breathtaking against a striking red sunset ~ glad to be alive indeed. 

John got transferred to another hospital so we lost touch ~ I suspect both he and his wife have passed now.

I often think about my former patients. I consider myself most fortunate to have that job, caring and being with people ~ beats the pants off office work any day of the week, in my book.

Next time ~ I could not find where a patient lived and they were unable to tell me . . . HELP



Thursday, 5 March 2015

RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS ADVENTURE 2015 ~ Week 4






This Friday is the last Random Act Of Kindness week in the series of four for 2015, hosted by the lovely Betsy at My Five Men.

This week I have not been in the position to display a significant RAK because I have been quite busy with bus driving, helping a lady friend gardening on Wednesday and of course looking after baby Peter today and tomorrow.

However, there are three little ones which might add up to a whole. I hope.

One is almost a carbon copy of last week. On Monday whilst driving the bus I was scheduled to pick up a 90 year old lady from an opticians. When I arrived at 12 am at reception, asking for her the receptionist said she had already gone and was worried about how she was going to get home so they rang for a taxi.  She had forgotten she had booked Dial-a-Ride for the return journey and they said she was getting very absent minded.  They were most apologetic and asked me for some leaflets and application forms for our service, which was nice.  On my way home I called in to see if she had got home safely but this time there was no-one there, so I rang the office and they had not heard anything either so they rang her to see if she was ok and I am pleased to say she was. Naturally I was a bit concerned but there was nothing more I could do personally as she obviously did not hear the front door bell.

Also, whilst waiting for a passenger at a supermarket an elderly gentleman stopped me and asked me about our service and said he could do with us next week.  I said, "No problem, sit in the car out of the cold and I will explain everything to you - if you fill in this application form I will take it to the office and fast track it through for you and then as a member you can just ring the office and book the ride." Needless to say he was a happy bunny.

Today, a nice neighbour knocked on my door and I invited her in to see Peter.  She said she and her husband were going on holiday for three weeks, would I look after her house and make sure all the mail and newspapers are put out of sight.  I usually do this for them every year.  I have their key and they have mine just in case I lock myself out . . . 

Today a lovely act of kindness was shown by a good blogging pal, Penny at Alias Jinksy to grandson Peter.  She crocheted a beautiful blanket for him, shown here.  Thank you Penny, you are very kind.



And here is the proud owner, sitting in Grandpa's chair with his cuddle blanket.  I'll be posting about him again soon.


I enjoyed these RAK weeks and reading about kindnesses shown by my fellow blogging friends.


I am linking up with Betsy's RAK week 4 post HERE




Saturday, 28 February 2015

AMBULANCE STORY ~ PLEASE COME AND SEE ME AGAIN


Here I am with Charlie, circa 2008.  We sometimes worked together, sharing driving and attending duties.


This particular day I was attending, which means sitting with the patient and making sure they are ok during the journey, making sure they are at ease and talking with them and sometimes introducing a little humour now and then, or just listening to them, often pouring out their tales of woe.  We were prepared for anything, literally . . . . . but this day surprised me.

We arrived with a stretcher to pick up a lady patient to transfer her by ambulance to another hospital 25 miles away, a slow 40 minute journey, because this lady had a back problem and was in a lot of pain. She was due for surgery to replace four worn out discs in her spine.  Quite a dangerous procedure ~ and one incidentally my sister-in-law will have next year.



**************

I saw her pretty face, attractive and smiling; marred somewhat by lines of pain, yet still framing her bright, lively green eyes and long dark raven hair.  I suppose she must have been in her mid forties and she was lying on her front, since this was the only position seeming to offer her any comfort.  Her face showed pain, anguish and worry about the surgical ordeal she was soon to face and at once I felt a surge of empathy and sympathy for her.  I started reassuring her straight away that we would make sure she got as pain free a ride as we could possibly give her, and made her laugh when I said she would have to put up with me for 45 minutes or so while Charlie drove us. 

I cannot remember this lady's name now, but on that day her voice and laugh seemed very musical and I could see she really did have a cheerful disposition, currently buried beneath her painful circumstances.  We seemed to make a connection straight away ~ you know, sometimes we can meet a perfect stranger and immediately feel at ease with them, talk with them effortlessly, and genuinely like them ~ I am sure we have all felt this at times.  On this day it seemed to work both ways for us.

We managed to transfer her to the stretcher with a few instances of pain unfortunately, but settled her on the stretcher again and wheeled her to the ambulance, still lying face down. She was looking at me all the way as we talked.  I sat with her for the journey and immediately we seemed to make a connection and after several minutes I managed not only to reassure her that I had heard about many successful surgical procedures like she was having, but also I made her laugh ~ boy did I make her laugh. It was such a delight to see her laugh like that and sometimes I had to apologise when she actually belly laughed and I could see this hurt her back a few times.  She just dismissed that with a wave of the hand, preferring to enjoy the humour.  She said she had not laughed like that for many years, and quite frankly I had not heard anyone laugh like that for a very long time. I was just telling her some funny stories and experiences I had in my job and how we 'took the Mick' out of each other sometimes. Charlie, driving at the front, told me later she was highly amused.

Then, at a stroke, her eyes filled with tears when she told me how worried she was about the forthcoming surgery and her fear that things might go wrong, and would she ever be the same again and lead a normal life.  I took her hand and asked her if she would mind if I prayed for her and her face lit up and she really welcomed it, so I did.  She said I was so understanding and approachable and took and held my hand and squeezed it several times, and thanked me for my kindness.  

It turned out that our daughters had the same name and were the same age, although I had a son as well.  She told me where she worked, at a doctor's practice as a receptionist in the town we were headed and she hoped to be able to resume work there some day.  I said I knew the town very well and she actually told me the road she lived, and I knew it well.

It is very strange that the ambulance job did sometimes offer opportunities to really get to know people quickly and occasionally the intensity of the situation did affect emotions in quite a powerful way.

We arrived at the hospital, and transferred her to her new bed.  It was then she turned to me and said, "Please come and see me ~ I shouldn't really be saying this, but I think I have fallen for you and it would be so sad if I never saw you again!" She knew I was happily married so there was no question of anything between us.  On my way out I looked back and saw she had managed to turn round and wave to me and I noticed a tear flow from one eye but did not know whether this was a tear of pain, or a tear for me. 

To this day I still don't know why she said that to me, or what caused her to say it.  Maybe she saw a temporary relief from her plight, which clouded her judgement . .  . who knows? . . . . maybe it was the uniform . . . . :)

I did go and see her again, a few times when I was in the area, because I wanted to see if she was alright after surgery. She had her operation ok, which was a complete success.  She was transferred back to Bristol for convalescence and I saw her again during my job, transferring another patient to that hospital. It was then I said goodbye and wished her well. I have often wondered how she is and whether she managed to get back to work, whether she is happy and enjoying life ~ we often wonder these things when our job with patients is over.

Well ladies, you can put your box of tissues away now . . .  I am afraid I cannot promise you another story like that one.
Aw . . . lol


Next week ~ how a blind man was able to direct me to his home, 30 miles away, from being strapped in a wheelchair in the back of a vehicle ~ quite unbelievable, but true.




Thursday, 26 February 2015

RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS ADVENTURE 2015 Week 3






This is the third RAK week, hosted by Betsy at My Five Men.

I have had few opportunities this week for any RAK activity but fortunately I was able to do two last week, plus a little one this week.

During my Dial-a-Ride job on Monday afternoon, I noticed an elderly lady I was scheduled to pick up, not there from a bus stop near our local Post Office.  This could have meant either someone else had picked her up and not let me know or she had decided earlier that morning she was staying at home and forgot to let the office know.  We always get a little concerned when one of our passengers is missing because in a way we are responsible for them and we all care about their well-being and would hate to see them stranded somewhere. This uncertainty caused me to wonder and worry a little so I drove to her house and knocked on her door.  She was surprised to see me and said she had decided not to go out that morning and had omitted to let the office know.

She seemed genuinely appreciative of my concern and I was rewarded with a cup of tea and a piece of cake, remarking I was one of her favourite drivers.  There is nothing special about me I can assure you and I still do things which are wrong sometimes, which makes me sad ~ conversely a RAK to someone makes one feel glad.

I have been looking on-line for examples of RAKs and found some really good ones.  However, I found a truly inspirational example on you tube, which I think captures the spirit of what this is all about.  So I thought this week I would share it with you.  This guy has a heart of gold, and she is truly deserving so it worked out well for both of them.



Of course not everyone can afford to give $500 and the amount does not really matter ~ it is the thought that counts and the kindness can be given in so many non monetary ways. 

However, that $500 probably did not mean a great deal to that kind guy, but it meant so much for her.

Yes, the Lord is good, he really is, just as she said.

Now, did you all do a cartwheel after your RAK ?  . . .  lol

Link your RAK to Betsy so others can share and you can read and comment on their stories.  Press HERE to register your link at the bottom of Betsy's post.


Sunday, 22 February 2015

AMBULANCE STORY ~ WE LOST DEAR JOHN


I like to post an ambulance story from time to time ~ I have done a number of these over the years and have a lot untold. I loved my work before I retired from the service over 5 years ago.  Principally I was involved with Patient Transfer duties, taking dialysis patients to and from hospital three times a week for a four hourly session on a dialysis machine, the only thing keeping them alive as their kidneys were no longer functioning.  

Also, I worked as a two man crew, or should I say two person crew because I worked with lady personnel sometimes.  This work sometimes involved driving and sometimes attending stretcher patients, sometimes carry chair transfer or wheelchair or just helping them into the ambulance.  When I started I quickly learned to relate to patients and to make them feel at ease, to amuse them, make them laugh, be sympathetic when required, and do whatever to make them more comfortable.  I remember on day one of my employment a senior paramedic was flabbergasted at my ability to talk to patients, remarking that he knew qualified paramedics who were not able to do that.

I got to know John very well and for three years I ferried him to and fro to hospital for dialysis.  He was the nicest elderly man one could ever wish to meet ~ he was always cheerful and never complained and always thanked me for the journey.  It was really a pleasure attending him. He had difficulty walking, so the nurses and I always transferred him into his wheelchair which I wheeled up the ambulance ramp, securing it to the floor mountings before we set off.  He shared the long journey with 5 other patients living over a wide area to the south of Bristol. The journey was often very picturesque during warm summer evenings when the sun was beginning to set set over the sea ~ try to imagine just how beautiful that was. We could see for miles and miles and we could just make out the Welsh coast 12 miles away across the shimmering sea, looking across the Severn Estuary ~ a delightful sight, punctuated by rays of light coming out of fluffy white clouds against the commanding backdrop of an angry red sky.

One day I was shocked to learn from a colleague, who drives emergency vehicles that John had had a bad fall at home one night and had to be rushed to hospital as an emergency. Sandy was on duty and was shocked to see it was John. She would have been driving on blues, weaving in and out of the traffic with blue lights flashing and siren, when required.  She knew John very well too and she and her colleague got him safely to Accident and Emergency, but we learned later that John had sustained a fractured hip.

During the course of the week a colleague and I were assigned to transport John from a hospital in Bristol  to another hospital 25 miles away for surgery.  We arrived at his bedside and although he recognised Steve and I, we saw he was very distressed.  With the assistance of two very nice nurses the four of us managed to PAT slide him on a Patient Slide Board onto a stretcher and wheeled him into the ambulance.  


John was in agony and we tried our best to make his journey as smooth and pain free as we could, arriving at the hospital less than an hour later.  We wheeled him to the ward and with the help of two nurses PAT slid him into bed, which was much more state of the art than this illustration shows ~ higher and with safety sides, plus electrically controlled controlled moving mattress in various positions to assist patient comfort.  You can imagine the stretcher moved alongside at a greater height and the patient rolled with four of us at each corner moving him as gently as we could towards us, sliding the board under him and then rolling him back gently onto the board and sliding him onto the bed. Alas John was very distressed as we did this transfer, even though both his legs were strapped together using the good one as a brace to reduce movement of the injured one ~ but we had to do it.

We stayed a while talking to him and making sure he was all right and he seemed much more comfortable so we left him.

Next day we were sickened to hear that he had died during the night before they even had a chance to consider operating ~ apparently the severe shock of the fracture plus the subsequent stress had caused him to have a fatal heart attack so he did not have a chance although they tried hard to get him back.

A week later I called to see his wife to express my sincere condolences. She said he had slipped when trying to transfer from his wheelchair to his arm chair and had fallen awkwardly and thought she had heard the break.  She appreciated me calling, which was the least I could do because we had got to know each other very well over the years. 

We always miss a lost one although renal patients generally do not survive for much longer than five years.  It was always sad in such situations but in spite of the sadness sometimes I really do miss that job, which I loved.  I felt free, useful, and free to be able to help people, almost hourly.  Beside that I got a real buzz out of it.

Patient/ambulance person/ nursing staff relationships sometimes get quite close with the emotion of it all and occasionally sometimes rather unusual things happen, as I will tell you next week, when a lady patient, after just a 25 mile journey told me she had fallen in love with me  . . . . . . . 

. . . . . . now ladies, that pricked your ears up didn't it?  . . . .  but true . . . . be patient ~ you will have to wait for the story . . . . . . . . a whole week  . . . .  lol





I am honoured to receive a Post Of The Week award from Hilary at The Smitten Image ~ 27 February 2015