“I think he is going to die”: Twelve hours in a Nottingham Ambulance

Our student world doesn’t often range beyond our University campus, the area we live and the city center. Impact Features joined paramedics Michelle Broughton and Steph Currant on their twelve hour shift to give you a glimpse into a Nottingham we as students rarely come in contact with.   

“He’s not safe. He can’t care for himself.”

Paramedics Michelle and Steph are visiting their first patient of the day, only a five-minute drive from Lenton, in their twelve-hour shift in the East Midlands Ambulance Service.

Ron* has oesophagus cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy to “buy him time”, his gardening partner Harry says. Ron and Harry used to work an allotment together, and it is Harry who has called the ambulance.

Ron is lying in his bed talking to Steph. From the small corridor only part of the bed Ron lies in is visible. His feeble arm, raised to have his blood pressure taken, is all that can be seen. He has “true” and “love” tattooed across his knuckles.

He has “true” and “love” tattooed across his knuckles.

Ron’s cancer has prevented him from eating, and the chemotherapy to “buy him time” is simply trying to reduce his tumour to allow him to eat, Harry says. He has managed to keep down water and “pop”, but he has not eaten in weeks.

When the paramedics pull down the duvet from the small single bed Ron lies in, the full extent of his suffering is clear. He is skeletal. Every contour of his bones beneath his stretched skin is visible, and it is apparent that Ron has been lying in his own excrement for days.

He has not eaten in weeks.

The carers who visit Ron twice a day started at the beginning of the week, but they didn’t turn up on the first day, and Ron says he was too embarrassed to tell them about his situation.

When the paramedics lift up Ron to try and clean him up before taking him to hospital, his eyes roll back and he faints. “I think he is going to die,” Steph says, as she runs to the ambulance to fetch the stretcher.

“I think he is going to die.”

Realising that there is not enough time to clean Ron before taking him to hospital, the paramedics wrap him in sheets, take him to the ambulance and drive to the City Hospital, where the Specialised Receiving Unit is based.

Driving away from the hospital, Steph calls the Ambulance safeguarding team, which has access to social services, to report the incident.

“He’s not safe. He can’t care for himself.”

Michelle explains how she copes with seeing traumatic cases such as these. “We see situations like this a lot. I’ve had to safeguard loads of incidents. It is the social aspect of it that’s gets you most. But for lack of a better expression, you get used to it.”


ambulance inside from out long


ambulance inside long


“It’s easy to be judgemental in this job.”

During their shift, Steph and Michelle visit two patients who have tried to overdose .

When they reach the second incident, they find a 37-year-old woman lying on the sofa, surrounded by pills. She has been sick in a bucket, but is still unconscious. She is a recent amputee, losing her leg to a medical condition, and lies slumped with her prosthetic stretched out in front of her.

Her brother lets the paramedics into the house and presents them with Co-Op Pharmacy bags filled with packets of medication found lying around the house. He explains that she has cut herself and taken these pills following a fight they had earlier.

She has cut herself and taken these pills following a fight [with her brother].

The paramedics take her to the ambulance and inject her with a drug hoping to wake her. Her airways are blocked so they attempt to insert a breathing tube through her nose.

Her brother knocks on the ambulance door and explains that he will not be accompanying her to the hospital. He says that she has been suicidal for 20 years, so “there is no point”.

“It’s easy to be judgemental in this job, but I don’t know what has made her reach this point. I can’t judge.”

“It’s easy to be judgemental in this job, but I don’t know what has made her reach this point. I can’t judge,” says Michelle.

“We’ve seen a lot of younger patients with mental health issues over the past few years. I have a 14 year old daughter, and I would hate anything like this to happen to her.”


bath 1


bath 2


“Game over.”

The next job of the evening is in Dunkirk, where an intoxicated man has fallen in the bath and is unable to get out. The two female paramedics manoeuvre this overweight man out of the bath and to his bedroom over the course of half an hour. Before helping him into his bed they had to remove his trousers as he had become incontinent in his alcohol induced state.

An intoxicated man has fallen in the bath and [was] unable to get out.

As the paramedics help William* to his bed, they ask him about his alcohol dependency, and he attempts to explain how has been “sad” following his stroke in 2004, which has left him partly paralysed down his left side. When they suggest seeking help about his alcoholism, he says he is worried about losing his house.

Downstairs, William’s friend, Chris*, who called the ambulance, tells the paramedics that it’s “game over as soon as William has a sniff of scotch.”

When they suggest seeking help about his alcoholism, he says he is worried about losing his house.

The paramedics call the ambulance safeguarding department for the second time in the evening, as William is at a higher risk of falling due to his incapacity and his drinking.


student 3


student 1


“We’re the taxis now.”

18 year old Freddie* went out in Nottingham city centre, and at 1.30am he had drunk so much that he had to be “lowered to the ground” by his friends, as he could no longer stand. He was covered in his own vomit and could not move. His friends called the ambulance.

When asked about their thoughts on students, Michelle said, “No one is responsible any more. They don’t know how to look after drunk people.

“No one is responsible any more.”

“If you have a drunk friend, who’s been hit for example, yeah he’s cut and there’s blood, but you just need to put some pressure on it, sober up, get in a taxi and go to hospital.

“But we’re the taxis now.”


ambulance 1


ambulances pl


“Weekends are just another working day.”

The situations of all these Nottingham residents, although different, were connected by their gratitude to the paramedics that helped them.

Although William could barely speak, he thanked the paramedics when they helped them to his bed, adding “sorry to put you through so much trouble.”

Freddie, after asking the paramedics not to tell his mum, also thanked Michelle and Steph, apologising for the trouble he was causing.

Steph has been working with the ambulance service for eight years. “It’s great riding with Michelle. She always knows what to do when there are tough decisions to be made.”

Michelle has been an emergency paramedic for the last ten years, and has worked with the ambulance service for thirty years. After her twelve hour shift on Saturday, she is working shifts on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so that she can make up the time off she has taken to see her daughter.

“Weekends are just another working day.”

* Names have been changed

Antonia Paget

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One Comment
  • Alice
    23 November 2013 at 16:04
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    What a great article, must of been a tough, eye opening experience. When you think that Paramedics have to deal with things like that every shift it makes you realise what an amazing job they do.

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