Sunday, 20 April 2008

Dual cab ambulances?

It appears that fatties are becoming a problem for the ambulance service in NSW - and the morgues as well.

Carrying an injured person on a stretcher is not easy. Doing casevac training in the Army Reserver was the one thing I really dreaded, since it usually involved carrying someone on a stretcher for kilometres - and carrying a stretcher is a bastard of a job.

We didn't have ready made stretchers with wheels or anything like that. What we had was a plastic groundsheet that had a tube down each side for the insertion of poles for carrying handles. The groundsheet was actually used for sleeping on at night (as the name implies), and the army sensibly adapated it for another use by making it capable of being a stretcher too.

We didn't carry poles with us. What we did carry was something like a machete or a small axe, and someone was given the job of chopping and trimming two small trees, or saplings, to make the poles (and quickly too). So what we would always end up with was two roughly cut poles of uneven size and weight and length, stuck into a groundsheet, and with no cross bracing between them. If you were lucky, the guy trimming the poles would de-bark the ends. If not, it was blister time. In fact, it was always blister time. I never did a casevac without getting a blister somewhere on my hand or wrist.

Thankfully, I served with a bunch of lightweight bastards. I was one of the big guys in my platoon (hence me being given the job of carrying the M60) and I only weighed about 70 kilos at the time. You carry no excess flesh in the Infantry - days of lugging heavy loads around the countryside will quickly burn off any flab that one might be carrying. But it meant that our casualties were not that bad in terms of weight. It was possible for four guys (one on each corner) to carry a stretcher at speed across miles of broken countryside.

We also had to lug the casualty's stuff as well - their rifle, webbing and all that sort of thing. As gunner, I was usually exempted from having to take a turn at carrying the stretcher, since I was already weighed down with a big heavy gun, extra ammo and stuff - and my job was to protect the guys lugging the load. However, it sometimes meant that I got to carry my stuff, plus the webbing of the casualty, plus his rifle slung over my back. Plus stuff that the stretcher bearers dumped on me, like the M72 and M79 and extra ammo.

Talk about mules. Very well armed mules.

And we didn't hang around when we carried a stretcher. The assumption was that the casualty had been caused by combat, which meant that bad guys were around still, so we bugged out at a pace just short of running. Plus, when you've been shot, it helps to get to medical attention as quickly as possible.

It's fucking hard work. Especially in summer. The drill would be that four guys would carry the stretcher a certain distance, then we'd swap it around - either swapping sides, or other guys taking over the heavy lifting. We'd collapse like dead men when we finally dropped the casualty off at the evacuation point.

So I can sympathise with ambos having to lift people onto a stretcher and say carry them down a flight of stairs, or up an embankment from a rolled car or something like that. It's a very physical job.

Carrying a big fat bastard would be a really nasty piece of work. One ambo on each corner would be the only way to go - and even then, you'd have to select guys that spend a lot of time in the gym. So are dual cab ambulances the way to go - so that you an have a crew of four for the really "big" jobs?

I know it's a silly idea, but it might come to that one day. Either that, or you get a pizza delivery company to drop off a stack of pizzas, but get them to leave them at the front gate. Fatties will presumably crawl on their hands and knees out the front door and across a lawn of broken glass to get to the pizzas.

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