Unsung Heroes

I was going to write exclusively about the Grand National in this week’s blog but, frankly, the subject has been done to death and I have, many times over the last year, stated my views on the race.

Nothing that happened this last weekend has made me change my views, indeed it has merely served to strengthen my opinion.

It gives me no pleasure to say this but this year’s renewal, apart from the near dead heat, panned out more or less as I expected. I had even predicted Synchronised’s fate to one or two friend before the contest.

The only other comment I would make is “Racing PLC” really does need to sort out it’s PR, circling the wagons, making crass statements about people not having to watch the race if they don’t like it and simply concentrating on portraying Animal Aid and their ilk as extremists is all counterproductive.

Yes, Animal Aid are idiotic extremists and should be exposed as such, but racing seems to use that approach as its main defence and it is not good enough. It should also be acknowledged that Animal Aid has a far superior PR setup than racing.

Anyway on to the main theme of this week’s epistle and I want to pay tribute to some of racings unsung heroes, the paramedics.

We all know the risks to horses and riders in our sport, especially in National Hunt racing. I think I read somewhere that a jump jockey can expect to fall every one in ten rides.

Most of the time they are quickly on their feet and bouncing back, occasionally the falls are more serious.

In recent weeks we have seen horrific falls for Philipa Tutty, Noel Fehily and Nathan Cook and it is the paramedics who look after and assess them.

When I was younger all ambulance crews did was “scoop and deliver”, now they are highly trained and, frankly, in emergency situations they are better equipped to deal with the situation that most doctors.

Theirs is a role which often goes unnoticed, yet when Nathan Cook had his terrible fall at Ffos Las, if you didn’t see it, he was unseated whilst leading only to have the eventual winner trample on his head as he was on the ground.

The paramedics were there almost immediately and were still treating him on the ground almost half an hour later, when an air ambulance arrived. The air ambulance crew then also treated and assessed him for some considerable time before eventually flying him to hospital.

There is no doubt their quick intervention meant he received prompt treatment but they also ensured he was quickly immobilised preventing any further injury.

Luckily Cook only suffered concussion and he was released from hospital later that day and he expects to be back at work later this week.

There are plenty of television programs like Helicopter Heroes and Emergency Bikers which show paramedics at work but, by their very nature, they only show part of the story.

Yesterday evening I had the fortune or, maybe – depending on how you look at it, the misfortune of experiencing their work first hand and I have nothing but praise for them.

It was 18:45, dinner was in the oven and I was about to serve it up, and I was sitting at my computer when I got this terrible pain in my chest, which then spread up my neck.

Thinking nothing of it I tried to “walk it off” – even getting dinner out of the oven ready to serve.

As I sat down to eat dinner the pain was not easing and I realised it was possibly a case of “Houston, we have a problem.”

Impressively, within four minutes there was a paramedic car parked on the drive.

The paramedic walked into the front room carrying more kit than a Nepalese Sherpa on an Everest climb and within a few minutes there was enough equipment set up to rival an intensive care unit.

All the time he was reassuring, whilst at the same time he was trying to get me to “relax” which was much easier said than done coming from my position.

Before I knew it he was attacking my chest with a razor and I was soon attached to a heart monitor which, thankfully, showed I wasn’t imminently about to shuffle of this mortal coil, which was actually quite a relief.

Despite the “good” heart trace he still insisted I chew the most foul tasting aspirin ever made.     

More tests followed and he was soon joined by two more paramedics, all of whom were thorough but, all the time reassuring.

By now the pain had gone and I actually felt a bit of a time waster but they still wanted me to go to hospital to be checked out.

Even when I was on board the ambulance it wasn’t just a case of taking me to hospital. They probably spent another 20 minutes doing more tests and traces and even sprayed some stuff under my tongue which was, at least, much better tasting than the aspirin.

By this time I was relaxed and even cracking jokes with the duo, in between apologising for having them called out and them telling me off for apologising.

That I was relaxed was wholly down to the paramedics and their manner and approach, they certainly showed to me they are the ones to have around when you need help.

Something, I’m sure, many of our jockeys (and of course stable staff who take falls on the gallops) well appreciate.

(By dint of the fact I am writing this some 21 hours later it’s obvious I’m still here. After a thorough “going over” at the hospital they believe the pain was the result of the infection I’ve had for the past six weeks. I was back home, finally eating some dinner, just before two this morning)   



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