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Swinging the Lantern

“We’ve never had it so good,” remarked Thelma, pressing the command button. “No more stooping or struggling with awkward or heavy patients thanks to these ‘ere air bags. “Too right” replied Louise as she gently applied support to the elderly gent’s shoulders while the Mangar smoothly lifted him off the ground to a height where he could step forward and make his own way to his armchair. Louise had been her regular crew partner for more than 15 years and both had experienced the stresses and the pain that resulted from physically shifting or lifting patients, often by grasping the waistband of the clothing or the trouser belt. “Same with the handling belt” remarked Thelma, “it’s so much easier for us when assisting a patient of providing that little bit of reassurance while they walk across the room”.

There had been a lot of changes since Marty had mysteriously left the depot garage after his day shift on 21 October. Rumour had it that he was depressed; some thought he had injured his back once too often shifting patients, but inwardly Thelma and Louise had this feeling that Marty was on a sabbatical, doing research into the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries and how the ambulance service could prevent lower back disorders being the main cause for early retirement amongst otherwise fit individuals.

“The smell of the grease paint and the roar of the crowd, that’s what life is all about” commented Pete, recalling his days in the circus. “We used to take risks, but they were calculated, we knew what we were doing, we’d practiced time and time again, till we got it right”. His crew partner Anthony, wasn’t the same outwardly type of character as Pete. He had watched and noted how his partner appeared slick, sometimes mystical in the way he pulled off certain manoeuvers or techniques, but inwardly he was dreading the day it might all go Pete Tong. The guys over in procurement had secured a supply of “widgets” to make it safer when breaking off the top of ampoules, but Anthony had seen Pete showboating too many times by holding the small glass bottle in one hand and cracking the top off with his thumb. “I hate it when you do that” he remarked “Even though it takes my breath away, I’d rather you use the widget”.

Seeing a clown dangling from a truck with his braces snagged on the door handle, reminded Chrissy how close his crew partner Graham had come recently when they responded to a call in an unlit part of the county. “This is madness” remarked Graham as he opened the nearside crew-cab door intending to step out and walk towards the dark garden. Instead, he lost his balance and fell forwards still grasping the door handle with his right hand which resulted in him twisting around and landing on the muddy ground on his back. “This Suggs !” he hollered; “Why can’t they put the street lights back on so I can see where I am going?” Trying to stifle his desire to laugh out loud, Chrissy came around the front of the ambulance and offered his hand to Graham who was wet, muddy and far from impressed. “They keep telling us to exit the vehicle backwards, Graham” he said. “Maybe if you had you wouldn’t be in such a mess now.”

Bill was fairly wide of girth compared with his crew partner Ben, and this was why they were always arguing about which one would survive the longest if they fell overboard and ended up in the North Sea on a winters night. This was rather a futile discussion considering neither had any intentions to go cruising or joining what Bill referred to as the gin Palace Brigade. Aside from the perils of the deep, they would also discuss the hazards associated with patient’s houses and how Ben might not notice the odd vase or planter on the stairway. Bill had become quite tactful in the way he related his concerns to patients and their family members, when asking them if they minded while he moved them out of harm’s way. Neither of them had encounter a Monet hanging on the wall or a Greek Urn on the stairway, but as Ben always reminded Bill, “It’s not the financial value I am worried about, it’s the sentimental value if it gets broken” to which bill invariable replied “Yes, and the increased risk of snagging the carry chair on it or worse still if we trip over the Greek urn”.

Thelma and Louise continued to use the handling aids but misjudged a bend and drove off a cliff

Marty met up with his mate Emmet and designed equipment to reduce accidents in the future

Anthony failed to shut the ambulance door fully and was ejected during a high speed run

Pete toed the line with regard to safety and became an instructor at the ambulance training school

Bill and Ben took early retirement and secured employment with Pickford’s removals. Neither have yet encountered an unknown Picasso or Monet.

Graham and Chrissy have got their act together and still refer to the past as Madness

Marty returned to front line duty but has never driven faster than 88 miles per hour, especially if it’s raining and there is a risk of thunder or a lightning strike.

“What’s a Greek Urn?” asked Bill one day; “About two drachmas a day, retorted Ben”.