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Declan Heneghan, Editor, Ambulance Today magazine

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999: True Stories of My Life as a Paramedic
999: True Stories of My Life as a Paramedic
by Lysa Walder
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Insight into Front-Line Ambulance Life, 16 Feb. 2011
'999' Wow! What a great read this was!

Having read pretty well every book written in the last decade on life in all areas of the UK ambulance service I approached Lysa Walder's offering with an open-mind but, to be honest, with relatively low expectations. Was I in for a great surprise! From the first chapter I was bowled over by '999'. Its insights into the realities of front-line ambulance work are effective and illuminating but not overly-dramatized. This is no 'Casualty' rip-off as it frequently includes the often-loose ends and unsatisfying outcomes that every Paramedic reluctantly leave behind them at the end of many of their shifts. Not every patient is saved and not every incident goes perfectly. This is, after all, real life. Lysa herself comes across as a no-nonsense, caring and highly-skilled paramedic and every incident she recounts builds up the reader's understanding of exactly what it is that Paramedics and EMT's actually do during their demanding 12 hour shifts. Next time you see them crouching over a collapsed patient in a supermarket you'll have a far better understanding of exactly what it is they're doing with that strange-looking see-through bag and you may even understand why they seem to be punching an unconscious old man in the chest!

But the main reason I'd recommend this excellent and heart-warming book to any member of the public fascinated by the gritty reality of life on the front-line of the ambulance service is that Lysa achieves something here far more important than merely presenting a string of interesting and/or touching anecdotes. Instead she actually educates the reader on a variety of basic first-aid procedures and facts that most non-medics rarely even think about but which, in reality, we'd all be far better off for knowing! And she does it without once preaching at you!

Throughout her accounts of the many different patient-care incidents she's attended in her 16 plus years as a London-based Paramedic (now ECP) Lysa does one thing that no other chronicler of ambulance life has yet done in such detail - She not only explains the clinical significance of each 'shout' she attends, but puts her explanations of each incident into easily-understood language that helps the reader clearly understand once and for all the basic first-aid principles behind the clinical care that ambulance crews must administer when every second really can count! How to treat a serious bleed and not make a fatal error; Why it's sensible to keep a fall victim warm, and why it never pays to take the first thing a distressed or angry relative says at face-value - especially when you're confronted with a critically-ill grandmother and two ranting hefty sons!

Let's face it, when faced with a medical crisis most of us non-ambulance people tend to react with either ignorance or blind-panic. Why? Because we're human. But read this book and you may just find yourself acting more calmly and more effectively if you find yourself first-on-scene after an RTC (Road Traffic Collision) or if your toddler takes a tumble down the staircase! At the very least you'll finally understand the good you are doing by simply standing back quietly and letting the ambulance crew get on with their life-saving work!

In this book Lysa doesn't try to dazzle the reader with clinical jargon but explains it to you instead. To that end, much of her narrative focuses on simple, common-sense stuff, such as why every young Mum and Dad should understand the vital importance of always seating and strapping their toddler safely before starting every single car journey.

Yes,'999' will give you laughter, tears, drama and excitement. It'll also give you large doses of insight into what life is really like as a member of an over-stretched and exhausted Metropolitan ambulance crew when all around you seem either mad, bad or apathetic. But much, much more importantly, you might just also find yourself learning a few basic life-saving skills that could save a relative or a stranger in an emergency!

'999' is up there with Les Pringle's amazing two books, 'Blue Lights and Long Nights' and 'Call the Ambulance', but, whereas Mr Pringle's masterful gift for heart-warming story-telling rightly puts him up there with modern masters such as Gervase Phinn and James Herriot, this is one book on life as a Paramedic in modern Britain that I'd urge you to read primarily because, not only will you relish every exciting page, but you might just also find yourself performing better in the midst of a medical crisis after reading it! I urge you to read it...You know it makes sense!

Declan Heneghan
Ambulance Today magazine

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