The Nation's Health + Paramedic

Size Matters

"33 year old female, in labour, birth imminent"

Over the past five or so years without meaning to, I seem to have become the ambulance services resident midwife. That isn't an actual, official or even recognised title, it's one I have made up. I have done so because for most ambulance staff, delivering 1 or 2 babies in a 5 year period is about normal. Some have never actually delivered one, other have done more. I however have now delivered 12, including twins, a shoulder dystocia and breech delivery. That in itself is more than the requirement to qualify as a registrar midwife, and was all done without a hospital as backup and using the 'improvise, adapt and overcome' work ethic! (I was told this by the midwife that trains us! Apparently a registrar midwife needs to have done 'X' about of births including twins, shoulder dystocia and breach!)

I think that's what we pride ourselves on in the ambulance service. We have plenty of shortcomings when it comes to clinical knowledge and ability, compared to that of specialist resus teams, midwives, trauma doctors, nurses and GPs but what we do have is an ability to adapt to any situation, be it someone stuck under a train or someone giving birth in the back of a taxi! We generally don't get phased and can make the best of a bad situation.

Tonight, it became apparent we had logistical problems! We were dispatched to the 'in labour' and after driving for 9 miles we pulled up at the location which had been given with extra details of 'by the park and the school'. We were on the road we were supposed to be on, next to a school and a small park and we were parked at the exact point on the map that the sat nav was saying we should be. The only problem was there was no block of flats or building to match the name we had.

"Red base, we are at the location but there is no sign of the building, could you call back with some more location information, over"

"Rog, will do, standby, over"

2 or 3 minutes past by so we got all the maternity stuff together waiting for them to call back. Eventually we got a message on our screen.

'UPDATE: Patient states they are in the orange block of flats next to the school'

How helpful.....

"Red base, we are parked by the school, there are no buildings or blocks of flats, let alone an orange one."

"Rog, will give it another ring back"

5 minutes later.....

'UPDATE: Patient states they are in the large orange block of flats.'


"Red base, THERE IS NO BLOCK OF FLATS IN SIGHT! We have driven on all the local roads and up and down the length of this road, there are no blocks of flats"

"Rog, standby....."

7 minutes of area searching and frustration followed....

'UPDATE: Patient states they are in the huge orange block of flats next to the school, apparently you can't miss it.'

*counts to 10*

I'm never one for being rude to, or about control staff. They are bound by algorithms when taking a call and cannot deviate. 99% of the time the dispatchers and allocators are polite and helpful. However, I was getting a bit fed up with having the same conversation over and over again.

"Red base, there is no normal size, large or huge orange building, or any other building that could be flats in a half mile radius of our location. I need another road name or the patients partner or someone will have to come to us and direct us, we have been lost here for 20 minutes now!"

"..................Rog, standby......"


*counts to 10 again*

I get it, some patients are bad at giving directions! However, if you have a crew saying there is no block of flats anywhere near, changing the size from normal, to large, to huge isn't going to change anything! What was the next plan?! Ginormous, Mahoosive, Monstrous?! 'Oh sorry, we found it now, we didn't realise you meant the Monstrous Orange building, silly us'. NO! We need a better location, because quite frankly, there could be a baby stuck in our patients vagina and we are STANDING BY!

'UPDATE: Drive down the road you are on, patients husband will meet you outside, hazard lights are flashing on his car"

Off we went, down the road, no hazard lights nearby. We drove, and drove and drove. After just over a mile we saw hazard lights in the distance. Waving frantically was the hubby. There was no school, no park and the block of flats was averagely sized. Oh, and it was yellow, not orange! He rushed inside and we followed. As I turned the corner into the bathroom, I was presented with a crowning vagina! Within 30 seconds I was holding a crying baby boy! Dad cut the cord, everyone was smiles, photos were taken and they were both taken into hospital.

Another job jobbed.....!

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