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Drumochter, originally uploaded by ccgd.

December 2006 - A' Mharconaich and Geal Charn, from an A9 layby. Freezing windscreens meant frequent stops to clear the frost and crud....

Which strangely enough leads me on to part three of my ambulance saga.

"Twenty five years forward or back – you choose.

I was in an Ambulance that one other time. It was shite.

I hated it, and I was miserable. No fun whatsoever, just survival, just getting through the next few minutes, and the next few, and the few after that until I hoped that a hospital bed, some powerful drugs and a surgeons needle would go some small way to sorting my immediate problems.

And the promise of the company of Ruth, back in Inverness, that’s what kept me going.

I wasn’t looking any further than that. I didn’t think I was going to die, but I wasn’t looking forward to the X Rays.

Blood, pain, ripped flesh, some very worrying vision problems. Chest pain and head pain – lots of head pain. This was way worse than any hangover. Different league to anything I’d ever had before, and I was a long way from anywhere.

The story?

Well - the A9 in December, the major trunk road that links the Highlands with the Central belt. The middle of nowhere, the highest point of any A road in the UK.

Bad bad weather, an RTA, and me.

Or to put it another way, the Drumochter pass, snow, ice, serious sub zero temperatures, glowering mountains, a wrecked car.

A story familiar to regular travellers, and listeners to Radio Scotland’s travel bulletins in winter. Me – with what turned out to be fairly serious head injuries. (I was actually reported as dead on a Glasgow Radio station, causing a few friends what they said was a difficult 24 hours before they found out that reports of my demise were greatly exaggerated).

So a long ambulance ride back to Inverness, and the previously mentioned Raigmore Hospital. This was just before Choppers were introduced exactly for just this kind of event, and of course I’d managed to get injured in about as remote a spot as possible on a Major road in the UK. It took the ambulance at least an hour to get there, from a local depot, as I sat miserable and suffering in the back of a Police Car. Even the Bobbies took thirty mins to get there from the nearest town after answering the 999.

I remember the event clearly, the crash, the aftermath, the policemen, but not the physical details of the ambulance man. I do remember his kindly manner, (I’m pretty sure he was alone – a common practice in the Highlands in the Mid 80’s), his professional checking of my physical self, and a quick confident confab with the Bobbies just before we set of back North.

I’ve no idea what his van looked like, or whether he was milkman or a star wars pilot. Or even a melange of the two.

Head injuries do that to you, you know. (Yes I know you know, but you know what I mean……….)

It was an hour and half back to Inverness. An hour and a half of broken blood vessels bleeding into my sinuses, nostrils blocked with crusted blood, just endless bleeding throughout my whole nose and throat system. The kind of bleeding that pours down the back of your throat no matter how you sit or lie. Misery, head injuries, shock, lots of pain, nausea, you get the picture.

But I was young, and trying very hard to be brave, and when the gauze I had been given to stanche the blood flow quickly gave up the very soggy ghost, I just sniffed and swallowed.

Blood. Lots of it.

I was far too polite to ask for a new hanky, and far too polite to spit blood on the floor of the nice man’s ambulance. So the inevitable happened, just as we pulled of the main A9, on the last half mile to the A&E doors.

A serious Technicolor yawn. Explosive vomiting. I brought up what seemed to the contents of a butcher shop’s worth of German blood sausages. I comprehensively proved the point that a little blood goes a long way. Or in my case a lot of blood, goes a long long way.

After a horrified glance over his shoulder my man drove the last 500 yards at a speed that even I thought was a little bit excessive, (and remember that one thing in the world I wanted was to get out of this rolling, smelly, uncomfortable ambulance and into a nice cool hospital bed, hopefully with some seriously good painkillers, where I could sleep all this pain and trauma away, and wake up and it all have never happened.)

So we pulled up at the A&E, and he ran back to open the doors. He picked me up, ( I was at the hopeless, drooling, blood covered stage, almost past it) checked me out, as the nurses and doctors came out with the trolley, and I saw three quite different emotions cross his eyes in quick succession.


“Shit, he’s vomiting blood, mmmmm not serious though - I think “

And then,

“I’m glad we are at A&E now, if there is a problem, he’s their problem.”

And to his eternal credit, this was third and last thing that I saw in his eyes.

“Oh and F**k – he’s just puked blood all over my ambulance.”

Stunning photo! Reminds me of our own Mt Ruapehu :-)

And we picked up your stuff as we headed North....and as I now go over that pass, see that view, I always think of you.
You and Mr Churchhill!

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