The Great North Air Ambulance Service ups the ante with a full on night exercise simulation with cars piled up everywhere and a car club thrown in to sow added confusion for the paramedics.
The day exercise was stressful enough and finished as the evening light faded. The next phase was far more challenging. The trainees took a break while a new set-up was arranged.
As darkness fell a car club consisting of twenty souped-up bangers arrived. They were there to provide a little extra distraction. The cars were parked in a row next to the scene. Boots were opened and large speaker systems cranked into life. The car club had volunteered to be a rowdy group of party-goers that heckles the paramedics and videos them on their smartphones.
I know what you’re thinking, why on earth? Unfortunately, this is representative of many situations the paramedics will face whilst trying to save lives.
The night exercise started with a blaze of sirens as a police car pulled up and dropped off the first paramedic. They came in waves to mimic a real-life situation. As each car pulled up the paramedics leapt out to help the injured.
Picture the scene. Cars piled up everywhere, people crying for help, multicoloured lights flashing in the dark from the ambulances, fire trucks and police cars, blinding if you looked directly at them. The rescue services' torch beams lazered through the darkness, dancing from one emergency to another.
The car club danced to pounding music as the paramedics tried to resuscitate and perform emergency surgery in the cold. Everyone was just grateful it was not raining. Though it rains 182 days in the year around here, so maybe they should have had the sprinklers on for more realism. And let’s face it accidents occur more frequently on rainy days.
Some of the car club were also asked to drunkenly annoy and bother the paramedics to test their focus, going so far as to pick fights with them. The patience and determination of the trainees were quite astounding. I know this was an exercise, but this had been a long day and yet they responded patiently communicating with their colleagues, the project manager and the other rescue services.
As the night wore on, babies were rescued from the bushes, surgery performed, anaesthetics administered, people cared for and lives saved. The trainees were immensely impressive, demonstrating enormous professionalism and proficiency in very difficult circumstances. And GNAAS only take the very best of these.
Throughout the car club provided a useful distraction, pumping out the bass all night long, smoking and pretending to drink.
Finally, there was only one patient left to recover, their leg trapped in a car buried deep in the bushes. A decision had to be made, could they rescue them quickly enough or would they need to amputate a leg in order to save their life. A decision that unfortunately comes up every so often. Not an easy thing to teach, even to someone with many years of experience.
Not long before a person drowned in a river because their foot was caught and the medics at the scene, not GNAAS, were unable to make the decision to amputate in time. That is not a choice anyone wants to face, but they have to.
The GNAAS instructors watched over it all taking notes, guiding when needed, but most of all looking on with pride as the trainees rose to the occasion and performed incredibly well under such duress. To be fair, these are not your usual trainees, they all have either extensive medical training or years in the ambulance service already.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service is 100% self-funded. It receives no money from the NHS. The team raise all the money to save people’s lives independently each year. They even buy in their blood supplies. Anything you can do to help, contribute a little cash, raise funds, tell people about them etc, every little counts.