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As some of you know, I haven't read a 'proper' book since my son was born a couple of days before Chrimbo. He's the lightest sleeping baby I've ever come across, so I can't have even a lamp on in bed to read - a nightmare situation as over the years I've got into such a habit of reading when I go to bed, it was hellish to have to go straight to sleep. So I downloaded both Kindle and iBooks to my iPhone, determined not to start paying silly money for electronic books as I know I'll definitely go back to paperbacks as soon as possible.
I came across a few decent free books on Kindle, but turning my attention to iBooks I've found one of the best books (relatively speaking) I've read in a long time. Blood, Sweat and Tea is a highly entertaining read based on a blog written by a real-life member of the London Ambulance Service. Going under the pseudonym of Tom Reynolds, Brian Kellett gives a brilliant account of his experiences visiting the sick and malingering of Newham.
The 'chapters' (if you can call them that) are short and snappy, typical blog style but the entertaining way in which they're written just captured my attention from the very first few words. I hadn't really known what to expect when I opened the book, actually based on the cover I was expecting an American detective novel, but once I got into it I couldn't put it down.
There's no plot, it simply is Tom's jottings and thoughts on his important role. He has a very engaging personality and the kind of dry sense of humour that I love; he shows such a human side that I found myself falling a little bit in love with him. He's a no-nonsense kinda guy with no sympathy for alcoholics who have called him out for nosebleeds, but if there is something really 'wrong' with this same drunk then he'll get the same life-saving treatment as anyone else.
Tom is very self deprecating, he actually comes across a little egotistical to begin with but I soon realised this is probably his way of coping with both the regular death he sees and the internal politics within the NHS. Despite the humour in Blood, Sweat and Tea, there is a lot of seriousness in there too. How horrible it must be to go into a property and meet a seriously ill (but alive) person, only to have them die in front of your eyes minutes later even after you've tried your hardest to save their life.
In most cases discussed within the book there isn't enough personal information to really upset the reader (and anyway, most cases revolve around 'two year olds with a runny nose), but occasionally something specific has obviously upset Tom as he will launch into a diatribe about the case/situation/patient. One which stands out to me is a short piece about the death of an eight year old asthmatic, a passage reads:
"There are jobs that haunt you. This was one of them. Try calming down an 8-year-old girl who is dying [a frightening and painful death] in front of you because they can't breathe. Then try and forget about it. I did a cot death once, next to the cot was a full ashtray. Sure the parents are punished by the death of their child, but that doesn't help the child..."
That was part of a ranting post entitled Why I Hate Smoking Parents - which (as a smoking parent) did seem very judgemental until I realised that this man is entitled to be judgemental as he's the one who is,figuratively speaking, scraping these kids off the floor because their parents are too lazy and selfish to smoke outside. As I honestly ALWAYS do.
Thankfully there are too many lighthearted moments in Blood, Sweat and Tea to make these tragic tales turn it into anything like misery-lit. Tom doesn't dwell on the deaths he sees, his main issue with the public is that so many people call ambulances for pathetic reasons. I'm not the most sensible adult in the country, but how anyone can justify dialling 999 for a sore throat or swollen finger is beyond me!
One thing I would say is that if you're part of the PC Brigade you might find Tom's views a bit near to the knuckle. I live in Birmingham, I'm allowed to snigger at his comments about it usually being a seven year old girl translating for an entire Bangladeshi family - if you happen to be a Bangladeshi reader you might not find it so amusing. Newham is obviously very much like Birmingham, although Tom points out many times that despite his comments regarding the ethnic groups of London he is not a racist - he hates everyone equally. You couldn't do that job as a racist anyway, but he charmingly puts into words what many of us think but never get the outlet to actually say! Still, his comments may well upset the sensitive types (and you'll know if you're one of those or not!).
I could go on all day, but I won't. What I will say is that Blood, Sweat and Tea is an engaging and entertaining read, one that actually made me laugh out loud at times. This doesn't happen very often for me as I don't usually 'get' written humour, but Tom's dry delivery had me in stitches at plenty of points through the book. Thanks to the very short chapters it makes for a very easy read, I finished it in three days of intermittent reading and loved the way I could call the book up on iBooks and read a quick couple of anecdotes any time I had a free minute or two.
I highly recommend Blood, Sweat and Tea for anyone who is either interested in the inner workings of the London Ambulance Service or just wants to read a comical account of the medical misfortunes of the people of Newham.
For anyone who is interested in how the Ambulance Service works - and I mean REALLY works - this book is for you! It is a fabulous, and incredibly accurate diary from someone working on the frontline of the service.
I used to be an EMT and I found that this book was perfect at describing some of the weird and wonderful jobs that we've all been to. Reynolds does not let emotions get the better of him, his writing is always articulate and detailed. he gets his point across with great ease.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about joining the service, especially as an EMT or Paramedic - read this before you sign up. It tells about the mundane jobs, the waste of time calls, as well as the jobs that make you wonder what life is about. But it's not all doom and gloom, Reynolds recounts the times when you realise what a worthwhile and great fun job it actually is.
This book will make you gasp, sign, laugh and cry. You really will explore every emotion. Reynolds has a fantastic style of writing, it's no wonder his blog was truned into not one book - but a sequal that has just been released in May this year.
You can usually get this book, and it's sequal, online at discounted rates.
Blood Sweat & Tea
Working with the Scottish Ambulance Service, I have always had a keen interest in blogs about the ambulance service whether than be London Ambulance service or Scottish Ambulance Service. I stumbled across a Blog written by Tom Reynolds an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who works with the London Ambulance Service (LAS). Tom wrote fantastic blogs and always had you checking back for more updates until one day I went on to the site and seen a post " Read my stories in a book" . I think back then you could pre-order the book. But I waited until the price came down and then ordered it.
Cost and availability
I know that many of you will either go over to his blog and check his work out or even order the book, so here is a quick rundown of prices.
All prices are for online and brand new
Amazon - £3.99
Play.Com - £5.99
Waterstones - £5.99
A little about the author/blogger
We are all under the impression his name is Tom Reynolds, when in fact that is not the case at all. His real name is Brian Kellett 36 years old who is a qualified technician with the LAS. Tom began working with the NHS back in 1998 where he worked as a staff nurse at the Chase Hospital in London, which would lead him to work for the LAS. He joined the LAS 2002 were until today he remains as a Technician.
The format of the book
This book is ideal for anyone that enjoys reading short stories/paragraph. Often the stories last only one page, however it is very easy for you to put the book down and pick up from where you left off. The format is very easy to follow and the stories are all broken up so you know you are starting a new story. It is basically paper version of his blog without all the dates and times etc.
The author gives you a real insight to the on goings of an EMT within the LAS, and to be honest I strongly believe that his account is a true reflection of most if not all ambulance services around the United Kingdom. Written in such a way that you feel as though you are part of the actual story it is the author has you gripped from the word go. This particular book covers Tom's career from 2003 to 2006 inclusive.
Tom paints a picture in your mind that when you see an ambulance racing through the streets under emergency conditions that its life threatening. Well that is far from it as detailed in this truly superb book. Dealing with drunks is a regular occurrence for any EMT, but we can all forget about the smells and abuse what they have to deal with. Well Tom reminds you of all the details and often in graphic accounts.
The book details how the LAS deal with relief staff, when any new member of staff come "On the road" they are placed in relief which means they worked with different partners most shifts and can be placed at any station within the division. Tom continues to tell the reader how when he is singled crewed all he does is sits on station, this seems bizarre to me that an EMT who has no partner is not allowed to respond to emergency calls on their own!
Throughout the book Tom does cover some of the most interesting facts of the LAS, often out spoken and controversial with what he writes, but all credit to the author he always back's his argument up with some sort of evidence.
There are many highs and lows within this book, but we do have to remember that this book is based on real life events, often life changing too. Tom describes dealing with children in cardiac arrest (Death) which is very harrowing to read, but within a few pages its back to dealing with drunks and regular callers. Your emotions will be all over the place with this book that's for sure.
During reading the book there are pages you really will laugh at, Example. When Tom and his partner arrive at an emergency and have to park the ambulance on the street causing an obstruction, cars blast there horn and one person even goes up to the rear of the ambulance asking them to move. Now let's think about it, there could be someone fighting for their life, being given emergency life saving treatment and some toffee nosed person bursts the doors open. Luckily that was not the case and Tom taken longer before he moved away just to annoy the person even more.
There is also a section within the book that covers "ORCON" which is the government standards for response times, every life threatening emergency should have a ambulance, First Responder or qualified personnel on scene within 8mins, but if the crew get on scene 9 mins after the call came in and successfully resuscitate a cardiac arrest patient who survives that's a failure!!!
Tom shows how he is dedicated to his job as an EMT and he is now a full time member of the LAS on a rota, so he works with the same partner every shift unless there of sick.
What do I think
This book is truly remarkable account of what really happens with the ambulance service; Tom writes very well and has a fantastic way of describing certain incidents. The book is written in such a way that you will feel angry, sad and happy all within a few minutes. I really believe that this book should be given to all new recruits to any ambulance service as it reality.
I am someone who does not read a lot but I can assure you that I have enjoyed the 288 pages of this book several times. It taken me only two days to read the entire book.
Point- This book is graphic and certainly not for all to read, I would not advise any children to read this book.
For more information on the author please check out his blog, Tom is currently of work sick and still updates his blog on a weekly basis.
This book was published by - Friday Books - Release date 2006
Next book is released 28th May - Pre ordering available @ Amazon.
Thanks for reading my first ever book review
Also posted on other review sites.
For the last two years I have been reading an online blog written by a member of the London Ambulance Service. So when I saw that his posts had been turned into a book I was straight onto Amazon.co.uk to add it to my wishlist as I find his blog well-written (quite unusual for a blogger), funny, touching and totally compelling. I finally got around to ordering it and when it arrived yesterday I sat down and read it straight through, reading bits out to my husband periodically and stopping quite often to catch my breath or just rant! I am rereading it now which is totally unknown for me, but I have taken a break to write this review.
Tom Reynolds (not his real name) is an Emergency Medical Technician for the London Ambulance Service. He has been writing his blog since 2003 at randomreality.blogware.com. This book is a collection of his favourite posts from the blogs, polished up into this 289 page paperback.
The book consists of a series of short paragraphs, occasionally stretching to a page or two. Each section has a small picture of an ambulance or a cup of tea at the top so you know where each new one starts. A section is usually pretty much what was posted on his blog at the time, with the difference that there is no indication of what day, month or even year the section was written. This layout means that this book is particularly easy to pick up and put down, sometimes necessary as the content can be very strong and sometimes disturbing.
Tom Reynolds gives us a real taste of what it is like to travel with an ambulance or First Response Unit and removes that Casualty and ER gloss from the reality. Its exhausting, dirty, demoralising, unpleasant and often disgusting work, working shifts in the cash strapped NHS dealing with frequent flyers (drunks and tramps) and often acting as Materna-taxis for women whose contractions can be measured on a calendar. Yet Tom Reynolds enjoys his job and this is reflected in his writing, so whilst I felt depressed, annoyed and angry in places his enthusiasm (and dry cynicism) and the happier stories pulled me through.
Reynolds views can be quite strident and he doesnt pull any punches, whether it is about government targets, midwives, his views on alcoholism or parents who smoke around their children. It is quite likely that you will get cross with him at some point in this book, but he makes strong arguments for all of his points and I have certainly been enlightened on several issues. For instance I was aware that the government had put targets on arrival times for ambulances they have to be there in 8 minutes. However, thats all that matters; if you arrive at 8 minutes and the patient dies for whatever reason, thats a success. If you arrive at 9 minutes and the patient receives life saving care and ultimately survives-thats a failure! LAS have to hit 75% or they dont receive the same amount of funding and with London traffic and the chronic cash-strappedness of the NHS they sometimes struggle to hit this. Crazy.
There is also material in this book that some people may find disturbing, including the deaths of children and descriptions of bodies/medical procedures. I had to put the book down at one point with tears in my eyes and at another with tears of rage after I read about the death of an 8 year old from asthma after her parents continued to smoke around her. This is an insight into the lives and houses of patients (always anonymised though), from the cardiac arrest to the teenager with hayfever and baby with a cough. Reynolds talks with equanimity and patience (well, more patience than I would have!) of those chronic drunks/tramps who are pushed from pillar to post and return again and again to his ambulance. He even manages to have sympathy for the HIV positive man whose vomit he inadvertently swallowed and the pages following his exposure to the virus are extremely touching and well written as he deals with the possible consequences. Parts of the book are incredibly depressing and infuriating as you read about doctors whose shoddy care means ambulances have to be called, care home workers who couldnt give a damn about their elderly patients and failures of government policy which ultimately lead to ambulance men and women putting their lives in regular danger.
Lighter moments include a section about the perils and pitfalls of being a blogger and occasional glimpses into the life of an unattached shift worker. A particularly well written scene with the ambulance station cat had me laughing out loud, having owned a similarly contrary animal myself I could certainly sympathise! And amongst the horrifying, terrifying and just plain sad stories he tells, there are those that make your heart glow and have that happy ending that we have been hoping for all along, the jobs that went right.
I loved this book and have been recommending it wildly! Its a real eye-opening look into the realities of the NHS and the life and job of someone on the front line of NHS care.
It made me angry, made me sob and made my heart beat faster-especially on a memorable passage describing a high speed drive to a patient. Lasting several pages it puts you behind the wheel of a vehicle rushing to a call through heavy traffic, sirens blaring. Exhilirating and brilliantly written. Whilst not for the faint hearted I think this is one of the most memorable and interesting books I have read for a good while. You can also visit his blog and read some of it online for free (as his blog is the book!) and to also get a sense of his style and sense of humour! I prefer my paperback version however, its easier to fit in my pocket!
I now have more of an appreciation for the work of the ambulance services, the stresses and pressures of the job and an admiration for the people they are. If I ever need an ambulance I hope Tom Reynolds is on board!
***Price and Stockists***
RRP is £7.99 but I got my copy from Amazon.co.uk for £3.99.
Reading the reviews on Amazon, it seems that I am not alone in my opinion of this book!
Tell us: have you ever wondered what's going on inside that ambulance you see screaming past with its sirens on and blue lights flashing? Does it contain a heart attack victim fighting for their life, while trained medical professionals administer emergency treatment? Or have you considered that it might be yet another ?maternataxi? ordered by a woman who can?t be bothered to book a real cab and who then complains she can?t smoke on the way to hospital? Meet Tom Reynolds. Tom is an Emergency Medical Technician who works for the London Ambulance Service in East London. He has kept a diary of his daily working life since 2003, first as a webside called ?Random Acts of Reality? and now for the first time as a no-punches-pulled book. His award-winning writing is, by turn, moving, cynical, funny, heart-rending and compassionate. From the tragic to the hilarious, from the heartwarming to the terrifying, the stories Tom tells give a fascinating - and at times alarming - picture of life in inner-city Britain, and the people who are paid to mop up after it