Saturday 29 October 2011

The Bystander and Me

"25 year old female, reviling in the glory of an emergency"

Working for the ambulance service invariably involves working in areas which are very public and often, doing what we do, draws a lot of attention. The blue lights, the sirens, the hi-vis jackets, they all add to the illusion of an emergency. They all lead people to think that someone is dying or is dead! Obviously for those in the know, this is rarely the case but humanity has a morbid fascination with other peoples misfortunes.

We laugh when people fall over, we watch videos and TV programmes highlighting the misfortune of others, so its only natural that when we turn up to a busy high street on a Saturday afternoon making all the noise we do, people will stand and watch. Its a fact of life. Yes its morbid, yes its not their business and yes its an added pressure but as a race we are an inquisitive bunch.

Obviously, when there is a crowd we are on best behaviour. As a uniformed service the image we project, reflects on us, our colleagues, our employer and the NHS as a whole. I personally love a crowd! I like the drama of it all! The rows and rows of faces staring at you. I tell myself they are all in awe of me and what I'm doing. Its like being in the middle of your very own TV drama! Love it! I have a well practiced 'emergency face' which lets people watching know a) I'm serious b) I know what I'm doing c) I'm far to busy to talk to random punters. This temporary persona that I take on hides the inner 'morally casual cynic' in me and helps me keep my job!

The above scenario is fine for most jobs. Take an RTC I did a few months back as an example. Car mounts pavement on a busy high street, hits a woman, goes back into the road and goes under a lorry! Carnage! There are ambulances galore, police, fire brigade and HEMS circling above. The reason this was perfect for the crowd because it did indeed have everything! Only the woman on the pavement was injured and that was only a possible leg fracture. The key here, is minimal pressure! There were lots of grown-ups! Minimal responsibility and no life or death moments! The crowd was 6 or 7 deep, loads of cameras, hundreds of people all behind the police cordon. I loved it!

However, my tune does change and there times I want everyone out of sight and out of mind! i.e. When the shit is hitting the fan. When a life hangs in the balance I don't think its morally right for people to stand and watch. Don't get wrong, I probably would, and most of the people who watch probably don't have a clue what is happening but even my emergency face doesn't cover up my frailties when I'm out of my depth and know it!

We did a traumatic cardiac arrest, fall from extreme height. It was dark, raining, middle of the night, we were working on this young guy who was a real real mess and we had a crowd. A big crowd. About 100 piled out of the night club we were next to and watched for an hour. It was horrific, repeated requests to move back fell on death ears. We knew this guy we were working on was gone but we had protocols to follow. When all those protocols were exhausted we stopped, stepped back and there it was. 100 pairs of eyes staring at you. At this very moment, I hate the bystander.

I can't pick and chose when I have a crowd so my love / hate relationship will continue. I will use them to massage my ego during the good times and deal with them crushing my confidence during the bad, but if you must watch then please please please do the following.
  1. Stay well back
  2. Don't talk
  3. Don't film
  4. Don't heckle (see no. 2)
  5. Don't judge

1 comment:

  1. People heckle? What do they shout - "Your jokes are rubbish!"?


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