Monday, 14 July 2008

Book club

I am in the thick of a new old book which I bought from a charity shop in Beckenham on Saturday. It has a marvellous title, which is Blood, Sweat & Tea, and is a collection of the blog posts of an ambulance driver working in East London [his blog can be found at]. He is funny, misanthropic and listens to The Magnetic Fields, which means that I am quite possibly in love with him. I can remember reading about the book when it came out, so I was pleased to cross it off my charity-shop book-buying bingo card, and at 3-for-£1 prices too. I began reading it on the way home, and it has forced me to cast aside Nineteenth Century American Short Stories, which is no mean feat when you consider I am right in the middle of Bartleby The Scrivener by Herman Melville which, frankly, is bloody brilliant.

I digress. If you have any friends or relatives who are paramedics, ambulance drivers or similar, you will know how endlessly fascinating their work-related stories are. (Not to them of course, but to the rest of us whose work consists of moving files around a computer, printing out bits of paper and talking to fellow drones whose work is also, in comparison to this flesh-and-blood, breathing/not breathing, total and genuine peril, utterly meaningless.)  This book is the same, for stupid and serious reasons. If you know how my dad died, you will understand why I find the chapters on responding to cardiac arrests particularly absorbing. And given the life-and-death nature of the subject matter, it is no surprise that a wealth of tiny profundities spring up across the pages. So far, I have been most unable to shake a chapter where the author is called to the house of an old lady whose neighbours have raised the alarm, believing her to be dead. The ambulance crew discover that, while she is undoubtedly checking out, she is still more or less breathing, albeit with increasing emphasis on the less. They go to work on her and our hero writes:

'She had little chance of recovery, but we hoped for it anyway. She fought for her life, and had probably been doing that for the whole of the night. Because of our actions, and the actions of the hospital team, she wasn't going to die alone, and she wasn't going to die without her family saying a final goodbye to her.

It's a small victory, but sometimes those are the only ones you get.'

Perish the notion of coming over all 'dance like nobody's watching', and I don't think I am religious, but really – amen to that.


Gorilla Bananas said...

I wonder if they ever resuscitate people they accidently run over while speeding to an emergency call. The irony would be excruciating.

Miss Jones said...

And imagine the emotional torment it would provide for our hero, which could only make me love him slightly more. Chicks dig that stuff.