This photo is credited to northescambia.com.
Too many times I read about accidents in the news. Even more so, JEMS reports constantly about accidents with ambulances and aircraft. I never thought that I would ever have to worry about being in an accident while providing patient care or driving. No one really does, because we are driving a big white box. Who would honestly think that an ambulance, that has lights and sirens, would have an accident? Well, when you put humans in charge, things happen.
My first accident with the ambulance was when I was driving. I was taking a cardiac patient to a larger facility from a closer facility. The patient was actively having chest pain, and had lab value changes. Now our transport times to larger hospitals very, but this one was a good 35-40 minutes away. I had my lights and sirens on, and was in the left hand lane on a four lane highway. So here I am, with all of my warning signals on, and I come up to an exit ramp. There are a line of cars coming on to my highway, and the first two cars see me, and slow down pulling to the right. (This very rarely happens for me, I like to refer to my ambulance as a chameleon ambulance because NO ONE slows down and pulls over for me) However a young gentleman, on his cell phone, noticed the people in front of him slowing down. He stated that he figured he would just pull to the left of them and pass. That thought pattern would have been fine, if I wasn’t where he wanted to be. I see him coming off the off ramp, and figure that he’s gonna stop, gonna stop, gonna stop…..nope. BAM, right into the side of my ambulance. Now the patient in the back is having chest pain again. And I have to pull over and radio in. I can’t get anyone to answer me on the radio, so then I call 911. I explain to the dispatcher who I am, where I am, and what happened. I have to stay with my ambulance, especially now that the patient is in the back having chest pain even more now. After clearing that the driver is fine and that someone is staying with him until law enforcement gets there, we continue to the hospital. An accident report later, (and a lesson to always make sure and double check that your wallet is with you) I had completed my first accident. And got a very nice apology from the kid too. Yet another reason cell phones on the road should be banned. I will admit I used to use mine on the road all the time, but have cut down on it tremendously! And have been pushing it in the schools too.
My second accident (and it better be the last) happened taking a critical patient to a hospital in southern Iowa. He was intubated and had some severe traumatic stuff going on in. It was during the fall season, which equals deer. I had to take off my seatbelt, and adjust a ventilator setting for my patient. Just as I was sitting down, I got thrown all over. Next thing I know we are stopped, and my neck and arms are killing me. Added to that, I am confused. They call for another ambulance, My patient starts to not do so hot, and thank God I have an extra set of hands in the back that wasn’t hurt. Fortunately I was near a service that had paramedics and could just take over direct care, plus had two ambulances. They c-collared and backboarded me, gave me Zofran (hello wonder drug) and took me to the hospital. The scariest part was being confused to the point of not knowing my address or birthday. I ended up with neck issues and what is now a constant headache. All because of Bambi. But, I am much luckier than some, so I will take what I got and roll with it.
We are at the mercy of our drivers, whether they want to think of it that way or not. They get our complete trust when we are in the back, whether they want it or not. And when that trust is broken by bonehead mistakes and not using their head, it creates an environment that isn’t condusive to patient care. How am I supposed to concentrate on my patient when I’m getting thrown around in the back of the ambulance, when I know how close you get to the vehicle in front of you, when I know what kind of decisions you will make to avoid certain situations…. If you drive the ambulance, whether you are an EMT, Paramedic, or CPR certified, understand what kind of responsibility you have, and how much it affects what goes on in the back of the ambulance. Safe driving, safe distances, stopping at EVERY red light and stop sign whether or not you have lights and sirens on. The decisions you make don’t just affect you, they affect your partner and patient. Don’t be dumb.