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Monday 23 March 2015


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


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


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


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