Motion sickness

“Don’t you end up always feeling sick in the back of these things?”

My patient asked this whilst sat on the edge of their seat trying to peak through into the front driver’s area so as to focus on the road ahead.  And not be sick.

I stopped writing and thought about it for a moment.  Still staring at my document I realised I wasn’t sick.  Not even close.  Not any more.  I’d even managed to subconsciously compensate for the erratic movements the new service vehicles provide . . . you only have to run over a small slug and the result could possibly dislocate the neck of femur in the sturdiest of patients.  And the reverberation of any bump is felt round the ambulance for the next five minutes.  When you mention “bouncy castle” to anyone who’s been in the back of the new trucks they know what you’re talking about.

But you get used to it.  Over time.  I mean, when I was a kid I used to get really car sick . . . and it stayed with me into adult hood.  In fact, I still get nervous about long distance drives if I’m a) not the driver or b) not in the front passenger seat.

When I was a kid I was constantly mocked, “It’s all in your head dafty”.  I hated that.  It was never in my head.  And it certainly wasn’t in my head when we had a long drive back from Eastbourne one time.  No, it was over the back of the driver’s head – in a very large quantity.  With carrots in it.  And peas . . . I think.

So, when I started in the LAS the ‘motion sickness’ came back with a vengeance.  It was a hot summer when I was first thrust into the back of an old LDV ambulance with an ill patient.  No windows to look out of.  No air conditioning.  And no mercy from the driver . . . an old school medic who’s concept on careful driving, for the benefit of the patient, was about as misplaced as the poll tax was to the working class.

I remember our patient had inadvertently drunk 10x the amount of liquid morphine as they should have.  On top of this, they had a heart arrhythmia, chest pain and very poor obs.  They were genuinely sick.  So you can imagine how utterly mortified I was when, en route to hospital, our patient turned an exhausted head toward me and asked with sincere sympathy in his eyes;

“You want . . . to swap places?  You look worse . . . than me”

However, at the time I couldn’t even manage a smile.  Sweat was pouring from me, my extremities were tingling, my stomach churning and my colour was white as the sheets on the bed.  The fact that the old LDV’s felt like they had the exhaust ports channelled directly into the back with us made my car sickness feel so much worse than it was.  I honestly thought that any moment my hapless patient would receive the contents of my stomach as a gift for his kind thoughts.

By the time we dropped our patient off at hospital I was a mess.  As he was led in by my crew mates, I remember him touching my hand, reassuring me with a wink;

“You’ll be alright son”

I promptly ran off to the toilets and threw up.

So, this one goes out to all those who’ve suffered similar sickness, or worse.  It also goes out to those about to be exposed to this sort of thing for the first time*.  Sadly, I have no advice . . . all I can say is, it gets easier.  Honestly, it does.  And eventually you will be speeding around, bouncing over speed bumps and racing over hills, your patient being constantly thrown off the bed in the ensuing madness.  And you won’t even bat an eyelid at how sick you should be.  You’ll get to the point where you can sit through all the wildest rides and complete your patient report form with the gentlest of ease before arriving at hospital.

Most times at least.


*you know who you are


2 thoughts on “Motion sickness

  1. In a totally new area, we get sent to transfer a patient between hospitals.
    No one thought to mention to me there was a windy mountain range we had to get down.
    I was thankful my patient was unconscious. And my new crewmate apologetic he didn’t think to mention the track we had to go down (and that I was only working in the area for a weekend as they were very short staffed).

    Cold sips of water help. We have fridges in our ambulances that makes this possible. Adrenaline of a big job also helps, although means you usually are done for at hospital as soon as you handover.

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