Ambulance memoir: Little old lady

Ambulance memoir.

  • I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I’ve changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
  • Swearing happens. I have used, and will use, some words that some people may find offensive.


I was working with Matt when the call came through; it was a Section under the mental health act. This meant that the patient had to go to hospital whether they wanted to or not; forcibly if necessary.

We trundled down the road with Matt driving. The address was over on the other side of town in a row of neat terrace cottages. It was just a doctor’s admission, so there was no need to rush.

The little cottage loomed into view, ivy clad with a pretty front garden. You could tell it was well looked after by the owner.

We got out and I banged on the door. It was answered by a harassed looking woman who thrust a piece of paper at me.

‘I’m the social worker and this is the order, the doctor has just left. She’s all yours now, and good luck. She’s driving me up the wall.’

Matt and I entered the house and followed the woman through to the kitchen where we met our patient. Florence was in her eighties, a tiny thin woman with gnarled looking hands, showing a lifetime of hard physical work. She wore a pinny over a skirt and blouse.  She looked up as we entered and then dismissed us and carried on washing up. She was talking to herself all the time. She placed the cups and plates on the draining board and then turned and wiped her hands. She then turned around, re-filled the bowl and began to wash everything again. Apparently this had been going on for quite a while.

Matt stepped forward and touched Florence on the arm. ‘Come on love, we have to take you to hospital,’ he said gently.

Florence turned her head towards him and let out a blood-curdling scream, right in his face. The shock made him take a quick step back and he banged straight into me, treading on my toes. She then turned around again to do the washing up as if nothing had happened. Matt shook himself and then turned towards me.

‘I think we may have a bit of a problem here.’

‘She does that every time someone touches her,’ informed the social worker, now standing at the door.

Matt looked at her. ‘Thanks, you could have told us that before I touched her!’


‘It’s all right, at least we know now.’ He stepped towards Florence again. ‘Come on love, put that down and come with us, the doctor wants you to go to hospital. The quicker we get there the quicker you’ll get back.’

The scream rent the air again, this time of a higher pitch that set the eardrums jangling.

‘I think we’ll be here all day at this rate,’ said Matt, with a sigh. ‘The best thing to do is for each of us to grab an arm and frogmarch her out. Go and open the back of the motor so we can get her in quick.’

Even though I was attendant I was still fairly new at this lark, so Matt was taking charge. I did as he said and came back into the house, to be greeted with yet another scream. Matt was getting exasperated now.

‘Everything ready?’ he asked me.

I nodded.

‘Let’s go for it then,’ he said.

We each grabbed an arm and lifted her up. As of before she let out a scream, but this time she turned her head to scream into each of our ears one after another, and she carried on screaming as we took her out. What the neighbours thought was happening I just did not know and at that point I didn’t really care. My ears were being assaulted by a banshee!

As soon as we got her in the motor Matt jumped out and shut the door. I sat her down and put the seat belt around her, and as if flicking a switch, she shut up. She just looked around at her new surroundings and then looked at me as I sat opposite her on the stretcher. If looks could kill I’d be six foot under.

Matt jumped in the driving seat and off we went. We had a few miles to go because the hospital was in St Albans, an old Victorian edifice which served as the mental hospital for the area.

The journey was fairly calm to start with, considering the amount of screeching and screaming that had begun it. The only problem was that Florence kept undoing the seat belt and I had to keep doing it back up. This went on for quite a while and each time I re-attached it she let out another scream. She undid it yet again, and again I performed my task; silence this time, she just gave me the evil look, stared at me as if I was the devil incarnate. I noticed her hand reaching for the buckle and she flicked it open, at the same time I noticed her other hand reaching into the pocket of her pinny. The next few moments went into slow motion for me. Her hand came out of the pocket holding onto to something that I couldn’t quite see; she then looked at me as if gauging the distance. I started to bend forwards to re-do the seat belt when suddenly she lunged at me, screaming, the object in her hand now obvious to me. It was a pair of long, very sharp pointy scissors. They were about seven inches long and shaped like a stiletto and they were heading, point first towards my stomach! Somehow I managed to get my arm up in time and deflect her hand, but then her other hand came up and she tried to scratch at my eyes. I felt the motor brake suddenly as I held onto the arm holding the scissors and trying to get my head away from her claws. Eventually I managed to hold onto to both her arms and pin them back just as Matt jumped through from the driving seat.

‘You all right?’ he asked in a slightly panicky voice. ‘Shit, I wasn’t expecting her to do that!’

‘Neither was I!’ I replied, the terror evident in my eyes apparently.

The rest of the journey was spent with me leant forward and pinning her arms back, and when we got to hospital, needless to say I was grateful to get rid of her. Never again would I look on a little old lady as just a harmless little old lady!

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