"You want me to go where??" I ask Control. "But, that's miles away, through all the Sunday traffic. Where's the helicopter?" They tell me, and I wince: not quite next door to me, but, with a prevailing wind I could probably spit on the rotors from where I was sitting, comfortably ensconced with the family and a good Disney film on the box.
Off to the car (now I'll never know what happens in the film) and off I go. As I turn on the engine, my fuel guage gently reminds me that I meant to fill up the last time I was out, but thought I would wait until the next time. Hmmm, may be a problem. My car eats fuel the way I drive it. Well, at least I have my wallet in the car, so that I won't be completely stranded.
The traffic isn't as bad as I thought it would be: it is far worse. I spend most of the journey on the wrong side of the road, as cars come hurtling towards me, then swerve around me at the last moment.
Up ahead, I can see the lights of the ambulance, fire tender and police. Nearly there. The traffic has slowed to a crawl, not unsurprisingly, this close to the accident, and I drum my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, changing the tone of my sirens every few moments, trying to persuade the drivers to give me just a few more inches.
My mobile rings: it's Ambulance Control, standing me down. The patient was initially very agitated, but has settled down, and the crew are happy to transport him to hospital. I suggest that they wait a few minutes, considering they have made me miss my film, and I roll on scene.
He is in the back of the ambulance, having been cut out of his car. His daughter, sitting next to him, tells me he had gone all vacant, just before colliding with the car in front. She is unharmed, just very shaky, and he is calm and coherent. He remembers what happened with a clarity I don't often get from patients. He remembers driving his daughter to a friend, when, all of a sudden, he couldn't speak. Then, he remembers his right hand dropping to his lap, lifeless, and his right foot become heavy and glued to the accelerator. He recalls pulling the steering wheel over to the left, hard, so that, when he struck the vehicle in front, it was with his side of the car, not his daughter's.
I look at his drooping face, his lopsided attempt at a smile, and hear his slurred speech. He asks me if he has had a stroke, and I nod. He sighs. It's going to be a very long journey for him...
1 week ago