Australian paramedic Tim Booth is lifting the lid on his life at the medical front lines in his darkly funny new comic memoir, You Called An Ambulance For What?
Released on July 26, the book is full of funny, silly and absurd stories from Tim’s life as an intensive care paramedic as he races around Sydney’s south-west, sirens ablaze, never quite sure what he’ll find when he reaches his next patient.
Like the excerpt below, exclusive to news.com.au: Tim, still relatively new to the job, heads to a house call with his colleague Danielle to find a man who’s had an amorous encounter with a metre-long mop – one that’s turned out to be a real pain in the butt …
Far too often in our line of work, we’re met with gruesome images and unsightly vistas when arriving at a scene.
I’m rapidly learning this with every shift of my probationary year.
For me, though, the mangled limbs and decomposing carcasses are always trumped by one thing, which I’m about to get a rude introduction to: unnecessary male schlong. I can handle blood and gore, but there’s just no need for overzealous blokes to whip out their appendages and get us to check out rashes or bumps before we have a chance to protest that it’s not our area of expertise and can be sorted by their GP instead.
Paramedics are as interest-free as a three-year deal on whitegoods at Harvey Norman when it comes to these kinds of problems. But it happens far more often than it should – and it’s exactly what’s staring me in the face when I enter the front door of Reece’s house.
We lock eyes and freeze, but we’re not here to draw weapons (even though one of us already has). There’s no clothing below the level of his T-shirt, and there’s a good reason Reece isn’t wearing any pants: because he can’t.
As much as the job notes are supposed to prepare me for what I’m going to face, one can never be truly ready. When I nervously move closer to ask how we can help, I see there’s a metre-and-half-long wooden handle protruding from behind him. Attached to the end are the scraggly, fibrous remains of what was once a mop head. I can see that the world’s most diabolical game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey has gone seriously wrong. When the caller statement on the ambulance’s data terminal said, I’ve got a mop lodged in my rectum, we
didn’t expect it to be still in situ, swinging around with every movement like a Channel 9 cameraman’s boom microphone chasing down a love rat.
‘What the hell, mate! Pull it out!’
Danielle’s voice pierces through the hallway from behind me. After the day we’ve had, she’s already dropped the illusion of compassion. Reece’s lips begin moving to offer a reply, but no sound comes out. I’m guessing he’s in some sort of embarrassment-induced catatonia. Then I notice movement coming from lower down.
Thankfully, it’s just his hands morphing into various shapes in front of his torso, and my gaze doesn’t have to drift too far south. The imaginary cartoon lightbulb that lingers above my head for moments like this suddenly illuminates and I remember another note on our data terminal that mentioned the caller was using a text-to- speech device during his 000 call.
‘Oh right, he’s a mute,’ I say to Danielle.
Reece points to me and nods like an enthusiastic puppy, then he makes the same hand motions again, but with a strained look on his face. The plot of the bizarre pantomime thickens.
‘I’m guessing it’s stuck …’ I say.
More enthusiastic pointing and nodding follows.
‘But how? It’s a straight pole. Just yank it out,’ says Danielle.
Reece turns towards the wall, and the lengthy, wooden, artificially inserted rudder behind him pitches and yaws. He starts throwing his hands in a looping motion towards a pair of coats hanging on the wall, like he’s trying to put a basketball into a hoop.
‘Oh no …’ I say. ‘What?’
‘I think it’s gone up so far that the little hook thing on the end that you hang it up with has gotten snagged.’
Reece nods again, this time with sadness and deflation. I sigh in sympathy.
‘Alright, mate, let’s get you to hospital. Looks like they’ll have to surgically remove it. We’ll tell them you tripped over and fell on it.’
I may still be a newbie, but I’ve seen enough medical TV shows to know that this is the go-to excuse for cavity installation enthusiasts.
‘How are we getting him into the ambulance like that? There’s no way he can sit down,’ says Danielle.
‘No, I guess not. And with that thing sailing around every time he moves, if we try to position him sideways, we’ll end up smashing a window. That’s not a conversation I’m interested in having with the boss.’
‘Well, I didn’t bring my drop-saw with me today, so you better radio for the fireys.’
And so, a short time later, a rescue truck arrives, and a group of amused-looking firefighters disembark and begin handing various cutting tools to a probationer of their own. The nervous trainee gets the honour of neatly sawing most of Reece’s mop down to a stubby, transportable length. With a quick mechanical buzz and a soundless flinch from Reece, just over a metre length of wood clangs to the floor.
‘Anyone need a new paint stirrer?’ quips Danielle. The group of firemen collectively winces at her offer, wish us the best and head back to the safety of their truck with a new tale to tell around the station. We follow them outside a short time later, but not before Danielle has reversed the ambulance as close to Reece’s front door as possible to avoid the prowling eyes of ever-snoopy neighbours and maintain a modicum of dignity for the poor bloke.
He waddles out of his house and through the side door of the ambulance, mop stump waving right to left like the tail of a French Bulldog with a tapeworm. He contorts into a sideways foetal curl on the stretcher, and we hasten for the hospital, giving them a heads up on the radio. It’s a courtesy message to prepare them for the fact that Reece will need to be reviewed by a surgeon fairly urgently, before a wrong movement ends up piercing a vital internal organ, and also to bypass the congregation of paramedics and other patients at triage that would only add to the suffering of our voiceless patient.
‘The heat’s really bringing out the madness today. He was supposed to go out and buy an ice block, not turn himself into one,’ comes the compulsory wisecrack from Danielle after we hand Reece over to the hospital staff.
‘Pretty good introduction to blokes shoving weird things up their arse, though. You’ll be seeing them from now until the end of your career. Now, what’s next?’
This is an extract from You Called an Ambulance for What? by Tim Booth (Macmillan Australia, RRP $36.99). Out on Tuesday 25 July.