Six-fifteen in the morning and exhaustion powers us, a darkly inverse propulsion system that feeds not on potential but the absence of potential. Not only does it pick us up and walk us back out to the truck, it also gives us the preternatural ability to see how things are – the tactical spread of work at this hour, and how we’ll need to play things to be in with a chance of finishing on time. Because if we don’t, after such a demanding night, I will surely die on the spot, an EMT vampire staked through the heart with a rolled-up patient report form.
It’s tricky. An elderly woman fourteen miles out of town who can’t get out of bed to take her meds. The fact we’re being sent so far out means there are no resources in that sector. It also means we’re highly likely to get stood down from this job to attend a higher category call. If we can reach this patient and book at scene, we’ll be safe, but we’ll need to take her to hospital, because if we leave her at home we’ll almost certainly be given another job in that area; if it’s serious, it’ll have to go to the main hospital ten miles further east, leaving us with an overrun of approximately one million years.
Rae drives like a winged angel of death. We arrive marginally younger than when we started.
Agnes is lying in bed.
‘You took your time,’ she says.
‘Hello! Agnes! What seems to be the problem this morning?’
‘I need to take my five o’clock pills but I can’t get out of bed.’
I don’t say anything about the fact her pills are neatly positioned on a little pine table right next to the bed. She could turn her head and pick them up with her teeth if she wanted.
‘Can you normally get out of bed?’
‘Why can’t you now?’
‘My legs don’t work.’
We examine her. There doesn’t seem to be anything the matter with her legs. She’s FAST negative, nothing seems amiss.
‘Do you have any pain anywhere?’
‘I always have pain.’
‘Where, in particular?’
‘In your chest?’
‘Well – given that you say your legs don’t work and you have pain all over I think we should run you down the hospital for a check-up.’
‘I want my daughter to come with me.’
‘We can give her a call and she can meet us there.’
‘I want her to come with me.’
‘Where does she live?’
Agnes mentions a town about an hour away.
‘I really think the best thing is for us to give her a call and get her to meet you there. Okay? Shall we help you into the chair?’
‘Oh! Your hands are cold’
‘Yep – but warm heart, as they say.’
‘I don’t know. People.’
She tuts as we help her into our chair. She weight bears perfectly well.
‘This seat’s all sticky.’
‘Shouldn’t be. We clean it regularly.’
‘Where are my pills?’
‘We’ve got them.’
‘I need to take them.’
‘Let’s do that on the ambulance, shall we?’
She frowns as I wrap the blanket around her.
‘Someone’s got out of the wrong side of bed this morning,’ she says.
‘I haven’t actually been to bed, Agnes. I’ve been working all night.’
‘Oh. I ‘spect your tired then. Never mind the rest of us.’
‘I am, tired, Agnes. I am. Now then – don’t worry, you’re perfectly safe. Here we go.’
We wheel her out to the ambulance.
‘I need my bag and my glasses.’
‘I’ll come back for them.’
‘And lock the back door. And make sure the kitchen window’s closed. And put the key back in the keysafe.’
We wheel her onto the ramp.
‘Blimey! That’s a bump,’ she says.
‘Sorry, Agnes. There’s no easy way to do it.’
‘If I wasn’t ill before I am now.’
‘If I’d known how rough you were going to be I’d never have come.’
‘Let’s get you over onto the trolley, Agnes.’
‘Don’t you have heaters on these ambulances?’
‘Yep. It’s just the door’s been open and all the heat’s gone out. It’ll soon warm up again.’
‘I hope it does or I’ll freeze to death. Is my daughter coming?’
‘We’re going to call her en route. Do you remember?’
‘It smells in here.’
‘It smells of disinfectant.’
‘Well there are worse things.’
‘I don’t know. Things.’
‘Where are you taking me?’
‘To the hospital.’
‘Because you can’t move your legs.’
‘I know I can’t.’
‘So why are you taking me to hospital?’
‘Well, if you can’t move your legs, what’ll you do when you need the toilet?’
‘I don’t need the toilet.’
‘But when you do.’
‘I have a girl comes in.’
‘But what if you need to go before she arrives?’
‘And anyway, there’s all this pain you’ve been having.’
‘Oh, you’re right there. I suffer terrible with the pain.’
‘So that’s another good reason to go to hospital.’
‘I’m ever so thirsty. Can I have a drink of water?’
‘Just a tiny bit to wet your mouth.’
‘What d’you say?’
‘I say don’t drink much. Just enough to wet your mouth.’
‘But I’m thirsty.’
‘The nurses don’t like you to drink before they see you. In case you need an operation.’
‘I don’t know.’
The ambulance moves off.
‘It isn’t half bumpy.’
‘I know. It’s the roads.’
‘I feel sick.’
‘Here’s a bowl, just in case.’
‘Where are we going?’
‘To the hospital’
‘I don’t think much of her driving.’
‘She’s a very good driver.’
‘I don’t think so. Oh – this is an absolute shocker! Where’s my daughter?’
‘She’s meeting us there.’
‘Well I’ll phone her and see.’
I take my phone out, drop it, the case springs off and the battery flies under the trolley.
‘Butterfingers’ says Agnes.