Novel set on the Gold Coast, AUSTRALIA
Memoir of an NHS paramedic, set somewhere in ENGLAND
28th July 2020
Can Your Hear Me? by Jake Jones, memoir of an NHS paramedic, set somewhere in ENGLAND.
It seems fitting to be reviewing this just as the NHS has its 72nd birthday. A much valued institution that is sadly under siege given the political and coronavirus situation in the UK at the moment.
The author writes under a pseudonym to preserve the confidentially of the people he sees. He also doesn’t reveal the location but it is clear it is somewhere in England.
For sure there is drama, interspersed with routine and frustrating call-outs. It is quite alarming to discover the high proportion of people who summon an ambulance when they really don’t need it. One woman dials 999 only for the author to turn up and discover she wants help understanding her paracetamol dosage.
Each chapter is devoted to a single situation. The author has been trained largely for physical interventions but a growing number of call-outs are for mental health issues, which need careful managing and onward referral – although resources are far too scarce to service the needs of many patients with mental health concerns.
One woman urinates on the floor of the “truck”, as they call it. Another call is to a father and son who are living amidst hoards of newspapers, and extricating the patient from his convoluted circumstances requires logistical gymnastics. Sometimes the ambulance crews have to guard their own safety, as well as those who are in their care. Paramedics and first responders perhaps don’t get the credit for the jobs they do, setting out on a call with little information, to a part of town (for the memoir is certainly set in a town) that is unknown. In the dark. They are not always welcome or welcomed with open arms. Imagine having to find your way to a flat, down an alley that is totally unfamiliar and then not really knowing what the reality is of what awaits you. It is strong stuff and require strength and grit on many occasion. The ‘can you hear me?’ of the title is the clarion call when someone appears to be out cold.
The last chapter is devoted to a personal episode in the author’s own life, and is very poignant. It also causes him to reflect on his work life and contemplate what his drives might be. It is clear from the narrative that the author is incredibly focussed on his job and driven to do what he can to have a positive input. It is overall a memoir told in sanguine terms, a peek into the lives of an ambulance crew, the rewards and the innumerable down sides of the job. It is certainly not a work choice for everyone, but let me stress, they have my utter respect and gratitude for the work they do.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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