I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I’ve changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
Swearing happens. I have used, and will use, some words that some people may find offensive.
The question ‘You Millared yet?’ came up quite a bit. To be “Millared” was to become qualified. This was usually done after spending a year on the road having been mentored by a qualified ambulance person. I was coming up to my first year on the road and the question was continually asked by my colleagues from other stations.
When the fateful day did arrive I was on an early shift, seven to three, a Tuesday and working with Matt.
The instructor from HQ arrived early; it was Joe, one of my instructors from my induction course.
‘Nothing to worry about Clive,’ he said. ‘We’ll get the exam out of the way first and then I’ll ride out with you to see what you’ve learnt.’
I nodded. Made him a cup of tea and let him sit in the comfy chair.
Despite everyone telling me this was just a formality, I was nervous. The last couple of weeks I had my nose buried in my books, trying to get everything to stick in my mind. I was sick and tired of reading about the nervous system, the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the skeletal system, and every other bloody system that makes up the squidgy bits of humans. Then there were all the signs and symptoms of various illnesses and injuries as well as their treatments. All in all it was pretty much everything I had supposedly learnt. My mind was swimming in facts and figures.
Matt and Joe started yacking as I was dismissed to the office to do the exam. I sat at the desk and began to read through the questions. I was relieved; there was nothing there that I hadn’t read and learnt. I scribbled away, ticked boxes, and twice answered the phone.
The first time it rang:
‘Just checking,’ said control. ‘You doing your Millar today?’
‘Yes, I’m doing it now. I’m half way through the paper.’
‘You stuck on anything? Just ask if you are.’
‘No, I’m fine ta.’
‘Good. Speak to you later. Good luck.’
I carried on until the phone rang a second time.
‘You still doing the exam?’
‘Yes I am.’
‘Oh, that’s a shame. Got an RTA (Road Traffic Accident) but if you’re still writing then I’ll give it to another crew.’
‘Okay, thanks,’ I replied in relief. I had no wish to do an RTA on my Millar day anyway; too much could go wrong with one of them.
I finished the exam a short while later and handed the paper to Joe to mark. He did it there in front of me, slurping his tea and chortling away to himself as his pen flicked and ticked. Occasionally he raised his eyebrows. I kept my eyes fixed on the pen and on him as he worked. He looked up, grinned, and then went back to the marking. Neither me nor Matt said a word.
‘Well,’ said Joe in the end, as he lay my exam paper down. A serious look crossed his face. ‘I have to say….. I’m actually sad to say…..’
His hesitation was just that little bit too long; then he grinned. ‘Congratulations Clive, part one now down. You got ninety five per cent.’
Matt clapped his hands and cheered.
‘Bastard,’ said I. ‘You had me worried there.’
‘All part of the service; got to keep you on your toes. Let’s hope we get a job quickly now. I’ll have a word with control. Next one is ours.’
It was a strange day; very quiet. Three hours later we hadn’t moved. No jobs….anywhere. Joe was back onto control. ‘Anything will do, anything!’ I heard him say.
An hour later the phone rang. I picked it up. ‘Will an Urgent do you?’
I called through to Joe. ‘They have an Urgent, is that okay?’
‘Yes, thank fuck for that. Anything. I just need to see you with a patient.’
The job was a routine doctor’s admission. I fussed about a bit and did everything I should have done, plus a bit more for emphasis. Joe looked on as Matt and I carted the man out of his house on a chair and made him comfortable in the back of the ambulance. It was then a quick trip to hospital and then back to station.
‘You’ve passed,’ he said on the way back. ‘You can now call yourself an ambulanceman. You might not thank me for it in the end though.’
I felt pleased as punch. More money and a Millar badge on my arm, a laurel wreath, the mark of a qualified ambulanceman!
As soon as we got back to station Joe left. It had been a weird day as there were very few jobs in our area. I watched the clock on the wall, an eight hour shift and most of it spent sitting on my arse waiting for the phone to ring. At half past two, just thirty minutes before the end of my shift the phone rang.
‘RTA, A41, Bourne End. Believed one person trapped. Police and fire informed. You passed now?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, adrenaline already starting to pump.
‘Congratulations,’ replied control. ‘Shame you didn’t get this one earlier.’
Thank fuck I didn’t, I thought as I put the phone down.