Emergency Admissions isn’t really a book at all. Or maybe it’s two books.
I grew up in a bohemian family with one, two, or possibly three, mad, hard drinking parents (depended what day of the week it was) and people said I should write a book about that. Then years later as something of a contrast I ended up with my own children and working in the NHS emergency ambulance service, and people said I should write a book about that.
Only when the agent suggested it and I did a bit of psychoanalysis on myself did I realise they were actually the same book, and Emergency Admissions is the result.
The book is a series of sketches about the crazier things that happened during my childhood, and some of the crazier jobs I’ve been to during over a decade working as an emergency medical technician on an NHS 999 ambulance.
My parents – all three of them – sadly passed away years ago, but I’m still working for the ambulance service. It’s the best job in the world. Sometimes it’s hard, but there’s rarely a dull moment, very rarely a shift where something doesn’t happen that’s laugh out loud funny, or just totally bizarre.
Emergency Admissions doesn’t just talk about the times when being an ambulance driver is like it is on Holby City or Casualty (though there’s a bit of that). It also talks about the times that people just wouldn’t quite believe it if they saw it on the telly.
The drunk calling an ambulance when he’s already on an ambulance, because it’s not taking him to the hospital he wants to go to. The man who calls an ambulance because, basically, he wants someone to look at his private parts. The man who’s fainted because he’s been thrashed too hard at an S&M party.
You get the frequent flyers who call an ambulance hundreds of times for no good reason, just because they want company or a lift home. You get the elderly ladies who’ve fallen down the stairs and broken their necks, but still don’t call an ambulance because they don’t want to make a fuss.
They’re all here. The mad, the bad, and the dangerous to know. Luckily the police usually come with us for those ones. (Not always.) And many of the patients are none of the above, of course.
I suppose the book is about what it feels like to save someone’s life, but it’s also about what it feels like to make a mistake and not save someone’s life, when you might have done. Or watch someone die when there’s nothing you can do about it.
The job is often sad, and often funny. But the best thing about it is it matters. When you get called to the foreign immigrant who barely speaks English at three in the morning and she’s terrified her baby’s ill and she doesn’t know anyone and doesn’t know what to do and at this time of the morning you’re the only help she’s ever going to get. Or the old man who has no friends and has fallen over and pooed himself and you’ve got to clean him up because it’s four in the morning and right now nobody else in the world is going to.
You find out as much about yourself as you do about anyone else doing this job. Not all of it good. But hopefully not all of it bad either.
Anyway, for good or ill, this is what it’s really like being an ambulance driver. In which case I hope you enjoy it.
And, for good or ill, it’s what it’s really like being me. In which case, don’t worry, it’s only a book, you can always throw it away at the end and forget you ever read it.
Words from Kit Wharton
Emergency Admissions is out on the 9th February 2017. #EmergencyAdmissions
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