To My Paramedics

To My Paramedics,

Having a chronic illness, I only call an ambulance as a last resort. I only ring 999 when I’m concerned that I might die before I can get to an ED and/or I’ve not got anyone around to help me. I don’t ‘follow the textbook’ though, and I have an illness which lots of people haven’t heard of (secondary adrenal insufficiency). Which makes asking for help just a tiny bit more stressful.

When I rang 999 last week, I was out and not at my Red-Flagged address. The call handler was great- she knew exactly what I was describing/what my illness was and found my Red Flag anyway, sending an ambulance with Hydrocortisone on board.

When you arrived- a paramedic and a tech- I was instantly reassured. You introduced yourselves, asked about my condition, did my obs, compared them with the obs I’d done myself 20 minutes ago, asked about my medication regime and any measures I’d taken myself, and said ‘I’m thinking some IV Hydrocortisone and taking you up to hospital, what do you think?‘. I was super impressed- I didn’t have to explain stress dosing/baselines. You knew about the differences between Primary and Secondary. I often get asked ‘what do you think?’ with no suggestion of a plan, and a lot of the responsibility getting placed on me, which is stressful as a patient. Or sometimes I get ignored when I try to explain how I sometimes differ to other cases, which is also stressful. You had a really good balance of ‘I’ve got this, I know what I’m doing‘ and ‘you know the condition well, what do you think you need?’

I was also really happy with the way you talked about me to your colleague(s). You worked out quite quickly that I knew some medical terms and that I was paying attention, meaning you explained things to me, but most importantly, you didn’t insult my intelligence or talk about me as if I wasn’t there. You made jokes with me about it- I quite like this because it helps me feel less stressed, but sometimes some paramedics think I’m ‘not as sick’ as I say I am because I’m joking about it. The reality is, it’s a coping mechanism.

I said at the time how impressed I was with your care. It was lots of little things you did with little-to-no fuss that helped: You silenced the monitor in the ambulance when you realised I was listening to my heartbeat and knew what the alarms meant when they went off. You gave me choices, like IV or IM, and supported my reasons why. You were really calm and cheerful in your approach. The second I started to feel worse, you were paying attention and asked if I was ok, even though I didn’t think I’d shown any visible signs. You handed over to the Nurse in Charge in such a way that I knew I didn’t need to worry about you getting things wrong, because you had it 100% right. In the past, I’ve had to correct meds/timings/terminology/my illness and what it means, which other paramedics have noted down incorrectly. You had everything spot on, and it was so reassuring to know that. I was so relieved you didn’t make me work out my own IV vs oral HC maths, which has also happened in the past!

I liked that once you’d handed me over to Resus, you made a point of saying ‘all the best‘ before leaving and made sure I was ‘happy’. You’d be surprised how many paramedics get too caught up in saying ‘hello’ to their colleagues also in ED, and making sure they have all their equipment back. It’s a really daunting part of the trip, entering the hospital, even if you are ‘used to it’ as a patient, so it’s always nice to feel like someone is still ‘with you’ rather than literally handing you over and disappearing without a backwards glance. Your approach throughout showed me that you cared just as much about how I felt about the experience as you did about keeping my symptoms stable.

Hands down, that was the best experience I’ve had as a patient from start to finish calling an ambulance. The care before wasn’t necessarily poor, it just was never as awesome as you were was last week.

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