The Beast from the East. March 2018

Our team of volunteers have been on duty throughout the recent bad weather, typically being on call for the ambulance service 18 hours a day. With most of the area inaccessible to rapid response cars and normal land ambulances, our First Responders using their own 4 x 4 vehicles - as well as those loaned by members of the community - have still been able to reach critically ill patients.


This is just one of the stories from our team.

In a lull between calls in the morning we had been out checking road accessibility in our area. It's best to have an idea of what's going on in the daylight, before being caught on the hop in a blizzard during the night. Some roads were still just passable but suddenly there would be a white-out as the ferocious winds from the East blew the snow from the fields. We came across a few cars which were already stuck in snowdrifts and managed to tow them out. Some were driven by elderly people who were dangerously at risk due to the conditions, if they had been left for any length of time.

At 3:29 pm on Wednesday 28th February, we received a request from the ambulance service to attend to a man in his 70's who had pains in his chest, and was short of breath. A minute later I was mobile. Five minutes later I arrived at the location. All we had was the road name. It was blizzarding at the time and the road had snowdrifts 3 to 4 feet deep. I was soon joined by my colleague John. We left the vehicles and carrying all our kit made our way through the snow on foot looking for the patient. It was bitterly cold. The snow was deep and made it hard to walk and the gusting wind was making it difficult to stay upright.  There were three or four cars stuck in the snow. Eventually we located the patient on his own inside one of them. He may have been stuck in the snow for a couple of hours before the 999 call was made. Although conscious he was having difficulty breathing and was suffering from the cold temperatures. Other medical problems prevented him from being able to get out of the vehicle and walk away. In hindsight - given the snow was steadily building up around the vehicle - if someone had not found him, the consequences don't bear thinking about. He had been worried about running out of petrol so had turned the engine off some time ago and although out of the wind, the car was cold inside. We started the engine and got the car warmed up. After giving him a thorough check over and putting him on oxygen his situation started to improve. He had not eaten all day and I went back to the Landrover to get some food for him. After being with him for a half an hour, his situation had stabilized and he was feeling better. Ambulance control informed us that the ambulance tasked to meet us was stuck in a snowdrift  and that another one would be dispatched. We knew this would take some time as the direct routes were blocked and even then it would not be able to get within half a mile of the patients vehicle. With conditions deteriorating we made the decision to tow the vehicle to a point accessible to the ambulance. With the vehicle being towed backwards, John was still inside the car monitoring the patient and steering the vehicle. After fifteen minutes we had towed the car to a sheltered part of the road which could be accessed by the land ambulance. It was dark by now and still blizzarding but the patients car was sheltered. At 5:35pm - two hours after we had first attended, a replacement ambulance arrived after battling though terrible conditions for over 20 miles. Soon the patient was inside and on his way to hospital. After receiving treatment for 48 hours the patient was fully recovered and due to be discharged home.

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