Jake Jones has been working as a paramedic for the last decade; he’s completed thousands of ambulance shifts and is a veteran on the front line of medicine. Can You Hear Me? is an utterly enthralling, compelling, often funny and sometimes tragic account straight from the trenches. I read it in one sitting.
What struck me most forcibly was how incredibly unpredictable is the behaviour of emergency patients in desperate need of help. Some are docile and grateful; others, even if they’re bleeding to death, are hostile and even violent to the men and women simply trying to save their lives. Drink and drugs are usually the reason, but the ingratitude is nonetheless jaw-dropping. Most of us wouldn’t do Jakes’s job for rubies.
How many times have you seen a really bad traffic accident? Or someone having a heart attack? Or choking to death? This is day-to-day stuff for Jake Jones, and as Richard says the behaviour of people he’s trying to help varies wildly.
The drug addicts who deliberately urinate on the floor because Jake and his team won’t give them a ‘fix’. The badly-injured accident victims who wildly try to fight off the ambulance team all the way to hospital. Of course, there are the co-operative, grateful ones too. But why has Jake stuck at it for so long? Because, he writes, it’s an instinctive compulsion to help someone, anyone, in desperate need – ‘and if the tables were turned, that’s surely what any of us would want done for us, isn’t it?’ Yes. But that doesn’t make him any less of a hero.