"Education is the best provision for the journey to old age." - Aristotle.
Secondly - I was going to tell these kids all about the hows, whys and wherefores of the ambulance service.
Now that's something to be nervous about. I've done this sort of thing a couple of times before and found one thing is certain. Whatever you plan will go straight out the window. Go with the basics prepared in your head, and then just flow with whatever happens thereafter.
So I went to work, brought back dozens of items that we use on a daily basis, and laid them out on a table for them all to see.
There were masks, splints, collars, bandages, hi-vis coats, bags, extrication devices, even cannulas. Packaged of course. I had one aim in mind, and didn't really care how we got there. My aim was to ensure that by the end of the session, these kids would know when to call us and what we do, and that there's nothing to be scared of when the green-dressed strangers walk in to their lives.
After a brief introduction, I relinquished (some might say lost) control and let the kids take over, which was fine by me. They wanted to tell stories of when they'd been in an ambulance, they wanted to show that they knew what some of the pieces of kit were for, they wanted to play with the bits that they'd never seen. Not one of them shied away. Even the cannulas didn't scare them off. OK, so I cheated when they asked me why they were different colours and I told them it was pink for girls, blue for boys, and the other ones for adults according to what they were wearing, but then quickly told them the truth.
They were curious, they were interested, they were excited, and not one bit scared.
Part one of my aim successfully achieved.
Part two I thought was going to be somewhat more difficult. When to call us. As they sat in a circle on the floor, I decided it would be easier if they told me when they thought you should or shouldn't call for an ambulance. One child would tell me a good reason to call, the next would tell me a good reason not to.
"A broken leg." Good call.
"A splinter." They all laughed and agreed that was a bad call.
"If you see a car crash!"
"If you stub your toe." They all laughed again.
"If someone falls down the stairs and hurts themselves."
"If you fall over and graze your knee."
"If you can't breathe properly."
"If you're hungry!"
"If someone's having a pain in their chest." I thought that was particularly astute for an eight-year-old.
"When you get a paper cut!"
"If someone is bleeding a lot."
"Prank calls." I concentrated on this one a little longer.
On and on we went, until the every child in the circle had had their say. And as I listened to their answers, I was struck by the fact that all the suggestions they had given for when would not be an appropriate time to call an ambulance were situations that I had come across. I'd been called for a paper cut, for someone wanting breakfast, for a stubbed toe and even a grazed knee. It would seem that these kids had a better idea than some adults that I've met over the years.
I wish I could do more of these sessions. Teach the young ones about what we do, when we do it, what we're really there for. Show them the things they may come across if they call us. If the first time you see a collar is after you've just been knocked off your bike, you're bound to be a little more traumatised than if you'd seen one in a classroom, had the chance to play with it, even try it on some time earlier. Maybe, a few years down the line, it would also make the difference between calls waiting for ambulances, and ambulances waiting for calls.
The next generation might have an awful lot to learn, and we can try to hand them these provisions for the future, but it might be worth remembering that all too often they have just as much to teach.