The kindness of control

First off the bat, you may have heard me talk about my friend Merys, she is a trainee doctor and therefore very poor and badly in need of a new laptop. If you’ve got 5 minutes to spare pop over to her blog and have a read of what she’s written or go here and vote for her superbly written piece!


I would like to tell you about a job I did recently. I sometimes worry that even after my short time on the road I have hardened and become untouchable by normal human emotions. My crew mate for the day and I were sat at hospital completing paperwork from the last job when our radio burst into life asking for a crew to attend to a child with burns. We were nearly done and quite close to the address so we offered up for the job. You may have read my other half’s description of a Mother’s wail when something is seriously wrong with her child… this job was the first time I heard such a noise, and now I have I’m in no rush to hear it again.

Pulling up to the scene I didn’t even bother to turn the engine off – stood outside the address were the FRU medic and the parents holding a screaming bundle. The fact that the bundle was screaming was a reassuring sound but as they came running towards us I saw the extent of the scalds. The child had pulled a pan of boiling water onto itself and now had a scalded face and chest. Within minutes we had alerted the receiving hospital that we were on our way and I drove as quickly and smoothly as I could to the nearest accident and emergency department.

Ambulance crews in London have an advantage over our county ambulance colleagues in the fact that we have specialist burns units within driving distance. We could have gone straight to a burns unit but we were more concerned with getting the child stabilised and relieving his pain first – the facial scalds could have compromised his airway and it was not a chance we were prepared to take. Once he was delivered into the care of the hospital staff we could reflect on how the job had gone. This was one patient we were going to check up on through our shift although we were fairly certain that once he was stabilised he’d be moved to a burns unit.

A couple of hours later we were in our vehicle when our control called us on the radio. “We have a transfer for the child you picked up this morning – would you like to do it?” This was something nice that our controllers didn’t have to do, but at the end of the day, the child and his parents knew us now; and control know that even harsh ambulance road staff can sometimes be touched by certain jobs.

And so we transferred the little fella who ended up in one of the best facilities in the area, the staff there dealt with the patient, his parents and even made us a cup of tea before we turned around and started the journey back to our area. Nice people. Usually we would have just left this child in A&E and gone on to the next job, but thanks to the thoughtfulness of one of our controllers we got to see what would happen to the little dude. He has a long road ahead of him, but he’s small enough that hopefully he won’t remember the day he made an ambulance lady cry…


~ by Laura on February 3, 2007.

38 Responses to “The kindness of control”

  1. Blimy Laura- that even made me cry. That sounds awful.

    I hope he recovers speedily- and that you are ok too!

  2. Now here’s a thought: “Cool a burn”; and here’s another thought “With what?”
    30yr old lady – wearing only a nightie – had thought it a good idea to boost the fire by chucking (literally!) half a gallon of petrol on to it. When we arrived, she was sitting on the edge of the bath spraying herself from a stick-it-on-to-the-taps shower head. What I initially thought to be soggy toilet paper lying in the bath turned out to be her skin. (We estimated 30% – turned out to be 27%, so call me a liar.)
    It was one of THOSE houses, with not a half-clean container of any kind anywhere, and we had a 20 mile run to the hospital. There just isn’t enough fluid on board an ambulance to provide anything like the cooling needed under such circumstances.
    The next day, I went to Millet’s and bought a 2-gallon plastic collapsible container which now lives in a cupboard in our motor (Rural service – always the same vehicle.)
    Just a thought.

  3. Great post…

    I spent three hours last night looking for a 10 year old kid that’d sneaked out of his house, his mother had no idea where he’d gone. One possible sighting from a concerned MOP, but no trace when we arrived on scene.

    An hour after we were supposed to have finished, we headed back to the nick to hand over the search to someone else – as we made our final turning into our car park, a little fella rode past us on his bicycle!

    I had a quick run round the block after him and after we’d confirmed him as being the missing child, we chucked the bike in the back of the car and gave him a lift home. It felt good to have seen a job through from start to finish, expecially as it dealt with a minor, and although we live in a reasonably safe town, it’s still a huge relief to think we found him before any unsavoury types did…

  4. My husband is an Air Force Paramedic. He has all kinds of stories to tell. I enjoyed reading about your day.

  5. Hey Laura im one of Toms regular readers and I followed the link to this post (ill add you to my faveraites). I hope it all ended up ok for the child and his family. Burns are never nice to deal with.

  6. Well done Laura, love from D

  7. The same thing happened to my Mum “back in the day”. Her Dad was boiling water in pots to fill up the bath in the kitchen (I did say back in the day!!), he was carrying one when he tripped and the boiling water went all over my Mum. One of their neighbours was the seventh son of a seventh son and he licked her everywhere she got burned and she healed quickly and has no scars. I am not making this up!

  8. God, as a parent, these kinds of stories are so difficult to read about. Prayers to the family.

  9. Hi Laura, I followed the link from Tom’s blog. That’s an awful you had to attend. At least you got to follow up and got some closure on it. Hope you and your partner are ok as well as the family

  10. hello love, just had chinese wiv kirsty, we read ur blog n now we crying! thanx 4 that! hope u ok xxx

  11. Laura, great post it’s interesting to hear about the jobs of first responders, keep up the good work.

  12. Mention to your friend She may be able to take up a collection if she doesn’t get a laptop via the contest.

  13. hope you well.

  14. wow… rough job. i think i’d be very emotionless if i worked a job where i was exposed to such things on a regular basis… keep it up, it’s appreciated.

  15. wow…rough!!! man, they must be hard on you at your job!!

    people who are reading this…

    i know this sounds really obnoxious of me, but could you please come my blog and my friend’s blog, and, and comment? if you don’t comment…you can come, but i wont’ know and i wont be able to respond to you.

    my blog has clubpenguin cheats, neopets cheats, preteen girl cheats (haha…but i do give advice) and some other stuff thrown in.

    it is dedicated to all those struggling girls out there.

    please come and comment

  16. Great writing – just arrived from Random Acts – will become a favourite blog. Thanks.

  17. Some years ago we were sent to a burns job. Young lad got burnt (full & partial thickness) from playing on an electric sub-station. His nylon imitation football shirt was welded to his body and he was in a bad way with entrance and exit points. Between the entry and exit points his muscles had been reduced to mush. (later found out).
    But just as in your job we got the chance to transfer him from the A/E to the burns unit. It felt good to see the job through as I think you would agree.
    All the best and well done.

  18. Horrible … I’m not a parent but nevertheless this story makes me want to cry.
    I knew a man a couple of years ago, he was thirty then and had been scalded by boiling water as a child. The scars were across his shoulder and parts of his neck, back and chest. They looked very strange, because they had grown with him since childhood, all knobbly and knotty, like twisted rope. To make it worse, he was quite a hairy guy and tufts of hair grew between the patches of scar tissue.
    Strangely, I wasn’t repelled by it. I would have imagined I’d be, but I wasn’t. I used to trace the scars like rivers and mountain ranges on a map and he seemed comfortable with it.
    I hope the little guy will be fine, too. Scars on your body are much more easily dealt with than scars on your soul.

  19. A moving story. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.

    During my time with St John Ambulance, I’ve only seen minor burns personally, but my sister has. And I still remember the look upon her face when she got back from it, and the smell that she brought with her.

    Thanks again,


  20. touching…. an eyeopener ..coz it’s really tough to realize and analyze the situation in which profession you r in…god bless all

  21. […] 4th, 2007 The kindness of control « Laura’s blog Posted by Shann Filed in […]

  22. what a great blog , hope the kid does well, and u do a great job !

  23. good story, i remember attempting to resus a child who had been dragged out of a housefire {she died in a/e} we all sobbed in the resus room, by the way the fire fighters got a full de-brief and conselling after the job, after we had tea and re-stocked we got an urgent.

  24. Moving and inspiring, I loved this post.
    I’m so grateful to people like you and your co workers. Tough jobs, and you do them with with such care.


  25. it was nice of them to do that for you.

  26. hope the little fella is doing ok. you guys are the best, so dedicated. i’m glad you were there to help.

  27. i like the post. i wish i could write something like that.

  28. Another visitor from Tom’s blog – no, I don’t think you’re getting hardened and untouchable at all.

    Keep on caring.


  29. Thinking of you and the little lad you attended to, you do a brilliant job. Sending you a big hug 🙂

  30. Consider yoursel nothing, and let God Almighty make you something.

  31. Heart touching incident. I am glad there are good people still out there in the world caring for the little things that matter.

  32. thanks for being there when we need you.

  33. Sitting here crying like a lemon… and proud of it. Will remember you all in my prayers tonight.

  34. Hi – like so many others before me, I followed a link from Tom’s great blog. I stand in absolute respect of EMT’s and medico’s – I am a retired police officer (from Zimbabwe) and know how we could have done with you guys then…

    This blog will be joining my blog roll on

    Take care.


  35. Hello.

    Another linky from Tom’s site.

    A couple of questions, since I’ve not read much on here. How long have you been doing this job?

    I only ask as I wonder the same about myself – 2 years on the road next month – am I becoming hardened against patients and people in general? I hope not, though I see it in colleagues on the road the same time as me. I DO think it helps to develop a barrier of sorts against certain horrors – when I started, I found myself so worried about elderly patients, the last place I wanted to leave them was with an un-caring A&E staff. Obviously not a useful preoccupation in this job!! I remind myself before every job that I should try and treat them as I would like to be treated.

    Another question: How on earth are “pulled pan from cooker” burns still occurring? God knows there was so much public service bleating about this for years, surely to God parents should have realised this by now. That and the fact that kids get absolutely bloody everywhere given have the chance.

    All the same, you reminded me of a burns transfer a colleague and I did some time back. 90% burns to a woman in her late 20s/early 30s – apologies, the details fade with time – due to a parafin flash fire. ‘Apparently’, their ‘traditional’ method of minimising rubbish was to burn it in a metal bin with parafin. Only this time, she became one with the fire. Bizarrely, an ambulance had not been called until after they’d stripped her of her clothes (and a lot of her skin) and re-dressed in her in something else. And I do mean FULLY re-dressed. God, imagine the pain!! And more so when she later had to be stripped again….

    She was heavily sedated for the trip, ventilated via ParaPac with IV fluids, antibiotics and some sort of plasma substitute. No room for family on board as we also had A&E docs and nurses travelling.

    I hate burns jobs. They worry me constantly. As do ‘fitters’ and children.

    Keep up the good work. The time to worry is when you realise you really don’t care at all any more.

  36. Oh, your friend Merys could get a cheap laptop off that famous auction site. I got one for £102 – bargain. There’s a bloke in Stoke on Trent who sells Dells for – usually – less than £200.

    Knew I’d miss something off the other post – it always happens.

  37. I too am a new ambulance techie and this year was my first bonfire night shift and i thought i had a reasonable chance of seeing a burn over the three shifts i was on. NOT that i want to see a burn, or to see human suffering in general but we need certain types of injuries to write up for our training and am short a scald or burn treatment. I had read up my stuff, checked the ambulance had burn dressings and cling film galore and set off. These days burns are rare because we are all a lot more careful about things like this and i heard only one reported burn incedent over my three shifts. This was while i was cleaning down my rig between patients outside hospital. A nurse was going from rig to rig asking for burns dressings from us because….. THE HOSPITAL HAD NONE. !!! – and let me remind you, this was bonfire night weekend! The child in question had facial burns from a firework – how can a hospital not have any burns dressings available for the one weekend they will probably need them!!!

  38. Peace people

    We love you

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