Medicine & Nursing & Dentistry

A Front Line Changed


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We know about Paramedics and Technicians, but do we know how they survive the Vast array of emotions that go with this unusual Profession?
A Front Line Changed refers to my Forty years Service in Scotland’s Capital City Ambulance Service. It reflects on my personal Journey from my early Service to my Retirement. Including my valued free time, that would also play a varied part in this story. Revealing in detail some of the more extreme ‘call outs’ I was asked to attend. Mapping out the major changes which have taken place since my Employment in 1976.
At times, failing to understand the real pressures that the Front-Line Staff experienced. The result of this strategy would of course see our early Service dominated by Unions and disruption that would only add fire to an already inflamed situation.
The concept of true Team Work was essential, if we were to get better in our everyday care.
So, I too would have to stay onboard and complete further my Education. A Paramedic program was introduced and that major development in Front Line Care: along with the Strike and Media challenges: would finally drag Our Service ‘out of the Cold’.

The Start of My Journey

Lauriston Gardens was my destination after receiving a call from G. McDermott, a station manager within the Edinburgh branch of the Ambulance Service. He had arranged an interview at this location. I recollected this street from my stories about the great detective Sherlock Holmes; the novel A Study in Scarlet conveyed a picture of this Victorian street which would hold the reader’s attention.

The street was unchanged from Doyle’s description and I could somehow visualise Holmes striding towards that famous ‘number 3’. Poverty was rife in this area during that early Victorian period, and Doyle could not have picked a better location for his dark tale. This particular street retained an aura of mystery, which adequately served the creator of the great Victorian detective.

As expertly depicted by Watson…

Number 3, Lauriston Gardens wore an ill-omened and minatory look.

It was one of four, which stood back some little way from the street, two being occupied and two empties. The latter looked out with three tiers of vacant melancholy windows, which were blank and dreary, save that here and there a “To Let” card had developed like a cataract upon the bleared panes.”


Arriving at my designation in October ‘76, this city townhouse radiated a Victorian stature which seemed somewhat out of tune for my modern-day interview.

I pulled the heavy metal bell, waiting some minutes before the ancient door was opened. It was a Mr Tomkins who appeared on the threshold. An elderly smiling man dressed in a dark blue uniform that made his appearance clearly on par with a Victorian police inspector, such was the dated design of the timely dark blue uniform. He greeted me with a handshake and ushered me into a room situated at the rear of the building, genially beckoning me to seat myself in front of his solid oak desk. He made me feel relaxed and was most anxious to know of my background, somewhat surprisingly making it clear to me that since I had taken the trouble to reach his office, my future entry into the Service was already looking positive. I thought this amusingly strange. Surely, I had somehow to qualify for such a responsible job. His initial assessment, however, was based on the person he perceived right for the position. The interview, although relaxed was largely an in-depth discussion of my own persona.


Later during our discussion, he presented me with a landscape painting of an early eighteenth-century country scene and asked me to describe its content. I did this without effort, shyly perplexed as to why my description of dairy cattle heading towards a dilapidated farmyard crossing over a shallow mountain stream, would assist in my future career. It was as though he had read my thoughts. A creative imagination was essential for understanding the human mind, he stated.

In other words, his attentive view of this simple psychology would play a vital part, in the understanding of my new employment. He described the Service life, solely on his own positive vision of the ideal participant in this field of care. Thus, creating in my mind, a view of a special breed of people who cared most fervently for the underdog. After completing his brief assessment of me, he offered tea and biscuits and much to my surprise, a position within the Service. Adding, that firstly I should familiarise myself with a non-emergency transport group. Noting, unless a catastrophe befell me, I would almost certainly be invited to join the Front-Line Service. After about twenty minutes of conversation he shook my hand; thus terminated this brief interview.

From CHAPTER 4............

The A68 was a major Southern approach road about six miles from the City. Culminating in a fast section of road that descended steeply into the Forth Valley. On approach to its Southern bound blind summit, this section of road created its own problems. On this occasion an overtaking vehicle appeared suddenly over a blind summit; on the wrong side of the carriageway, only to be met with the approaching South Bound traffic… A massive head on collision occurred.

A noted Police accident black spot that would regularly produce fatalities…

March 1981: The 999 call alerted our control that a serious road accident had occurred at this black spot.

I was asked to assist on my own and boarded my vehicle with some trepidation. This would be my First long distance drive to an Accident. The Blue Flashing Lights and Headlamps blazed as I exited the Station. Negotiating the light Traffic as I exited the City limits. The Yelp and Wail of the Vehicle almost reflected the tragedy it was approaching, as I brushed aside the concerned motorists that stood in our way.   

 The information for this particular accident was limited, clearly not a fault Control, they had no crystal ball to observe the scene.

As I approached my location some 20mins later, I was immediately confronted by a vision of extensive carnage. Wrecked vehicles littered this main highway into Edinburgh and the Police had already closed the road. I exited my Ambulance and approached several policemen who advised that they already had two fatalities from a family of four. Informing me that a remaining patient was still lying on the roadway in a viable state. Several Border Ambulances had already left the scene. Approaching the wrecked vehicle, I was appalled by the carnage. How could anyone possibly survive such an impact? Noting damage to the occupant’s vehicle, a crushed bonnet and shattered windscreen with extensive roof indentations. Clear evidence that the collision had probably caused the vehicle roll over. I observed a lone policeman attending to a critically injured person on the roadway, several feet away.

 Assisted by the policeman we both mobilized and carried our patient to my Vehicle. I was shocked by the injuries of this particular patient. I could not identify the gender of this person. Such were the injuries, a mass of torn flesh and crushed facial injuries make identity of this victim’s airway virtually impossible A low moan echoed from this tragic causality. I sat their stunned wondering what I could possibly do for this patient. I first attempted to suction her ‘Airway’ with a foot operated Suction unit that clearly was totally inadequate for this vital task. Inserting an oral airway into her mouth. All the time continually speaking to the patient trying my best to reassure this person that we would soon be at Hospital…….



About the author

Retired from the NHS Front Line Care (Paramedic) Live in the Historic City of Edinburgh with my wife and daughter. Enjoy Golf/Chess and other General interests such as Writing. view profile

Published on April 23, 2020


50000 words

Genre: Medicine & Nursing & Dentistry

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