Our Record Breaking Ambulance Runs

On the night of the 30th, I was already anticipating the many tasks that I will be doing that following morning, March 31, the last day of the month, which also falls on a Saturday, the first weekday here in Saudi. Aside from the possibly few usual booking appointments for consultation at Al Hada, the main hospital, I’m fervently looking forward on finalizing statistics and other files of our department here in Emergency Medical Service for the month of March. It will be an arduous task which should be done by the day or night shift staff on duty. Our EMS coordinator, Ate Pilar, will be with me on that day shift also, but she will accomplish other paperworks. On the ambulance transfers, on the other hand, whenever there is a run during our shift, we would do it alternately, more often than not.

Wellington Free Ambulance Patient Transfer Ser...
Wellington Free Ambulance Patient Transfer Service - Mercedes Sprinter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That following morning thus, we reported at our office. Indeed, we had one booking slip that reads “10 o’clock appointment at Al Hada from Family’s Ward.” Pick up would be an hour earlier, and it’s just 8am. So I first made my daily checks on our ambulances, transport incubators, storage room, drug boxes, and oxygen tanks. Then I made my way to the ER Trauma for any possible transfer of patients. There are actually three RTA (road traffic accident), non-eligible patients, but the nurse said they will be discharged. So I made my way to the ward to pick up my patient for her appointment to Al Hada. While the driver was loading the patient inside the ambulance parked at the ward exit, I noticed that another ambulance of ours that was parked at the ER exit. I learned from my accompanying driver that those three RTA’s won’t be discharged anymore. Rather, they will be transferred to King Faisal and King Abdulazziz Hospitals. Ate Pilar will take one patient to Faisal with that ambulance on the ER. Whoever gets back first among us will take the last two patients simultaneously in one ambulance going to Abdulazziz. So, we headed our own separate ways. Without us knowing it, it was the start of the undeniably long, tiring, record-breaking series of runs that we will unfortunately encounter this very day.

After endorsing my patient in one particular clinic, we rode off. We need not to wait for the patient to finish consultation because AH EMS will take them back to our hospital. Upon reaching Prince Sultan Hospital, I received a call from my mobile. It was Ate Pilar. She said that she came back first and was going to take the two remaining patients to Abdulazziz. She then told me that there are two more patients waiting for an EMS at the Male Ward for appointment both at Al Hada, the usual destination. This hospital is the most common accepting facility for transfers. Getting so familiar with the destination is not very important. Rather, an EMS needs to tolerate traversing that forty-minute trip at an overwhelming ambulance speed of 120 kph around that long, winding road- back and forth at that. Dizziness and vomiting would be a common body response if one is not used to it. So upon arrival at Sultan, it was already past eleven. I just hurriedly sipped the mango juice I brought and headed to the ward to pick up the two male patients. Their doctors ordered the AH consultations a few hours earlier so we were informed just then.

It was about 1pm when I returned to the office. I haven’t had my lunch yet. Far worse, I heard our phone rang within five short minutes of my stay there. “Hello? Donna, is this you? Where is Ate Pilar? Is she done eating? Our patient’s folks here are crazily arguing us because it’s late and no EMS is here to pick them up for their appointment to Al Hada…” the nurse said, calling from Family’s Ward. My stomach is growling and arguing at me as well, I almost wanted to say. I hurriedly looked for Ate Pi so I can inform her that I will take the patient myself. I found her in the bathroom, brushing her teeth. “Just prepare the stretcher and get the patient. I’ll be right out.” And I did. After a few minutes, Ate Pi was there. Everything was ready. And they went off.

I earlier cooked a great meal for lunch that I hardly ate in front of me. I was tired already, and that hunger had consumed me first. I opened another cold mango juice to sustain me instead. Thereafter, I brushed my teeth and went back to the office. I recorded our patient transfers in our logbook when the phone rang again. Now I won’t really be accomplishing any paperwork at all! The enthusiasm I had on finishing the files and figures is useless for now. This time, Labor and Delivery on the other line was requesting a transfer of their patient in 34 weeks preterm labor. Since we don’t have a NICU here, it’s a protocol to transfer the mother on preterm labour to another hospital. I informed Ate Pi through phone, because nobody again would be left at the office. It was the 8th patient for transfer already. And it was just 2pm. For the record, our usual census of transfer averages only to four patients in a 12-hour shift! But it didn’t end there yet. There were terribly more!

I returned after two hours and found Ate Pi at her desk, finalizing our April duty schedules. I haven’t sat down for about ten precious minutes when an ER nurse dropped by the office and informed us that there is a transfer of one patient to ER AH for further evaluation. Without much ado, I received the patient and took the responsibility of transferring it. It will be my amusingly third trip to Al Hada!

When I came back after a couple of hours, Ate Pi is at the ER Trauma preparing a terrible- looking patient who was a case of suicide with a slashed neck. Blood all over, four IVFs on fast drip, semi-conscious, with a packed dressing around his neck. The doctors and nurses had managed him already and he was ready for transfer. I assisted Ate Pi in preparing the patient to the stretcher. We secured a drug box, extra IVFs, and emergency airway kit to the ambulance for this toxic case. She was accompanied by one resident doctor. They dispatched right away at 7pm.

Just an hour more, and we will be off from work. But just when I was about to get inside the office, I was informed by that same ER nurse that there is another patient for transfer to Al Hada… Seriously? Even at the last hour, I still have to run! It was a case of a ten-month old baby with head fracture secondary to fall. Poor boy… and poor me, cause I won’t be able to come back at 8:30pm to ride our service van back to our housing. Without second thought, I grabbed my bag and head off to Al Hada with the patient. I requested my ambulance driver to take me to the housing after we finished the run. And he did. My, an ambulance took me home.

The next morning, I was not on duty but I reported at our office to do some coloring for our visual presentation for the upcoming Quality Week. Ate Pi and I were talking and sharing with the others about what happened that previous day. We could hardly believe we made eleven remarkable runs! On the contrary, that very day the EMS on duty only had two runs! Talk about luck! Nevertheless, for a new staff like me, such great encounters were actually very helpful. It made me more confident, more independent and I was more able to comprehend on what EMS life would be like. It doesn’t really matter how much I’ve grown tired and hungry with the transfers that I did. What I consider value and thank God for am that in the runs that I performed, I learn more, think and work faster, and respond better. More importantly, I am grateful to Him because all my patients were safe, papers were complete, endorsements to the accepting facilities were satisfactory, and I and the driver were safe on our return. I hope that I will be able to pursue this new role that I will take in the next two years. Or who knows, maybe in many more years.

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