Tuesday, September 13, 2011

one under

Ricky sweeps the door aside, strides into the crew room and drops down into a nearby computer chair in a melodramatic swoon.
‘What a day! Too tired to fuck, so you’re bang out of luck. You, boy – rub my shoulders or something and be quick about it. In fact, just rub my something.’
Ricky is so flamboyantly debauched he could have stepped straight out of a cartoon by Gillray. He’d look utterly convincing, dressed as an eighteenth century gentleman, the buttons of his frock coat straining over his gym-pumped arms, the seams of his breeches straining to hold back the playful, uninhibited exuberance of his sexuality.
‘Honestly, I don’t know how I do it,’ he says, laughing at the effect he always has on the room.
Ricky is one of an elite band of paramedics that specialise in trauma and critical care. As a result of their extra skills and experience, Control keep them in reserve until significant trauma or resus jobs come up; consequently, their trauma quotient is higher than normal. If this were a Gillray cartoon, it would feature Ricky dressed as a dragoon guard in knee length riding boots and scarlet coat covered in braid and medals, banging his knife and fork on the table as an endless line of servants hurried in from a hellish kitchen with plate after plate of crashed cars, buildings on fire, piles of corpses and other miniaturised horrors. His speech bubble might say something like: Let me assure you gentlemen, I’m sodding well good for twice whatever you can bring me! And the caption: Anatomy of a Public Servant for Health on the Front Line – or – The best place to get a decent chop nowadays.
And like Gillray, Ricky would be rampant with innuendo.
‘I just can’t seem to get it up like I used to– the website, darling, the website. I’m not talking about my cock. Did you think I was talking about my cock? Did you want me to?’
Ambulance vocabulary is often tough, its common terms of reference every bodily function, variation, degradation and perversion possible to imagine. Once you’ve worked in the field for a while, you become inured to the effect, though, and it takes more awfulness - more dreadful specifics, more refinement of awfulness - to provoke a response. But of the people guaranteed to push the limits of what you thought you could bear, Ricky is in the extreme, experimental tip of the cutting edge of the vanguard. He has an exuberant way of describing the awful jobs he’s been to, segued neatly in with the details of his own sexual adventures, that would have The Marquis de Sade shrieking for the exit.

Except yesterday.

Yesterday even Ricky seemed more subdued than normal, like a trapeze artist that for once almost failed to make the catch.
‘Are you okay, mate?’ I asked him when he walked quietly into the room and sat down in a chair.
‘Yeah – well. Jesus,’ he sighed. ‘I don’t know why they send us to these jobs. I mean – what are we supposed to do? The guy jumped off a bridge under a train. Pretty much obliterated. Nothing left to speak of. I was never very good at puzzles, anyway.’
He links his hands together behind his head and frowns at the air in front of him.
‘Still,’ he says after a long pause. ‘They won’t have any trouble identifying him.’
‘Why’s that, Ricky? Did he leave a note?’
He closes his eyes.
‘No – for some reason his face was still intact. We found it sticking to the front electric shoe.’


Crimson Ebolg said...

Just horrible. The general public are so lucky to have you guys and gals of the paramedics to deal with all the awful injuries and accidents that happen in world.

InsomniacMedic said...

Bloody hell. One job I've never done is a one-under. I damn well hope I never do...
Hope Ricky's ok.

tpals said...

That would give me nightmares.

Spence Kennedy said...

Crimson - Luckily those awful jobs are quite rare, although it's different for Ricky, as he's actively sent to them. That was a bad one, even for him.

IM - I've only done one. That pt survived, although it was quite messy. I think the fact we had work to do helped - it forces you to be practical, so you don't have time to hang back and really take it in.

tpals - Def the stuff of nightmares. Just the wording of it made me shift in my chair.


Thx v much for the comments!

jacksofbuxton said...

Not the most pleasant of jobs for Ricky there Spence.I bet the poor train driver wasn't too chuffed either.

Spence Kennedy said...

You have to feel sorry for anyone connected with jobs like that - esp. the train driver, track staff, transport police, coroners &c. But ultimately I suppose you have to feel most for the person who threw themself under the train - a truly dreadful act of self-harm. I find it hard to imagine the state of mind that would lead you to make that jump.

A Daft Scots Lass said...


Mike said...

He's the sort of guy who could go off with no one noticing; sometimes the over the top bluster is a cover.
You guys are good at hiding the ill effects of the things you have to see and do. I hope there's someone watching over you too.

Anonymous said...

A tube driver I know has had to deal with 2 of these, which meant six months off work to deal with the effects, now I can understand why.
Bless you all who have to cope with it.
Glad I didn't read this late at night though.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hey Mike. I think it's true that bluster's often just a way of papering over the stress. In Ricky's case, there is a genuine zest to his savoir faire that's great to be around, though. I do worry sometimes about the long-term effects of exposure to scenes like this - and even more to the relentless scenarios of deprivation, abuse & so on (more damaging because there's more of it, perhaps). They do have 'listeners' in service, but I don't know anyone who's used one. There's a feeling you just suck it up and show no weakness. Not healthy in the long run!

I think tube drivers have an even worse time, Anon - in that they sometimes make eye contact with the person who jumps, or at least have a very late realisation that they're going to. Horrible situation. You wish the person would chose a gentler, more discrete exit - but I suppose consciously or unconsciosly there's some kind of point being made with such a violent act of self-destruction.

Cheers for the comments!

RapidResponseDoc said...

These are always the jobs I dread. In fact, a one under was the first job I ever did as a prehospital doc. The devastation a train can do to a human being is quite horrendous. Nuff said.

Charmaine said...

Being a nurse, I've been with a lot of people at their last breath, and each experience has stayed with me. I don't know that I could face the horror of any kind of violent death and carry on afterwards. You can hide the thoughts and emotions, but there is no way to suppress the dreams, crystal clear and brutally graphic.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thank goodness those really bad jobs are few and far between. As far as dreams go, I do get ambulance specific ones, but they tend to be more about not being in control of the vehicle, or getting lost in a building!

Unknown said...

Desperate people do desperate things I suppose, presuming that jumping in front of a train is the quickest less painful way? Takes some balls to jump though. Poor guy.
I do feel bad though cuz I did find it quite funny when Ricky said he's never been any good at puzzles... dark humour.

Spence Kennedy said...

You had to say stuff like that (privately / discreetly) to keep you sane, sometimes. It's a distancing technique, I suppose.

Unknown said...

Think you would end up under a train yourself if you didn't spence, people's way of coping in the forces. My dad and step dad were coppers, they had dark soh to, and my old school mate who's a pathologist....well... he's so dark you can barely see him!! But I do love the humour even though it's so wrong sometimes.

Spence Kennedy said...

Absolutely. I must admit it's one aspect of writing about the job I didn't think I ever really captured. It's so tricky; you can easily come across as uncaring or downright inappropriate. But like you say, it's a way of insulating yourself from the trauma of it all.