On the frontline with paramedics

IT’S little more than two hours into my shift, and I’m already facing the harrowing reality of death.

On the floor of a residential home lies an elderly woman, unresponsive, despite 40 minutes of CPR. The call is made to stop.

Death, or ‘patient purple’ as it is described in the ambulance service, is just one of those things for my experienced crew, critical care paramedics Shaun Baron and Stacey Ibbott.

It’s not that they’re emotionless robots, either, but as I learn quickly, if you don’t learn to deal with it, you’ll struggle in the job.

“You get hardened to it very quickly, and accept death is part of living,” explained Shaun.

“I remember my first fatal. It was in London, and two young girls had been thrown from a Smart car. One of them died. You become tough.”

But there are many cases where even the most hardened of paramedic is struck by emotion. Stacey recalled a recent case of a terminal cancer patient, who was in his 50s.

She said: “It can be hard when you have done an emotional job, but you learn to deal with it. Death is not talked about much in this society, and perhaps it should be discussed more.”

After filling in the relevant paperwork, and arranging for the police to visit – as they must do as a matter of course in all sudden deaths – we’re back on the road to pick up the next call.

For the full story, see the Herald and Gazette, out Thursday, July 18.