Friday, July 22, 2005

The Seeds of Madness

I'm sure that any job becomes tedious after several years of constant repetition spent in the practice of any single given pursuit, but the work of the ambulanceman, never remotely interesting in the first place, can grind down even the most feeble-minded, unthinking automaton in a matter of weeks.

The intellectual stimulus provided by our day to day work is negligible, and unless one can divert one's attention away from the stultifying tedium of one's patients' trivial maladies towards the contemplation of something more pleasant and satisfying, one might very well find oneself in the back of one's own van on the way to one's local lunatic asylum. It's sad to say, but there can't be an ambulanceman in England who couldn't name at least a few of his colleagues who have suffered such a fate. It would appear that the onset of pre-senile dementia, directly attributable to prolonged periods of unrelenting boredom, is an occupational hazard of the ambulanceman; one only has to look at one's officers.

There is hope, however, and England's most progressive ambulance service, the Clapham Ambulance, has been exploring the development of various strategies aimed at the prevention of such misfortunes, and in the interests of the dwindling mental health of our less fortunate colleagues, it might be useful to share some of our research.

Most ambulancemen, when asked what they consider to be the main threat to their sanity at work, will say it is their patients, and while this is self-evidently the case it is actually only a part of the picture. In fact, a greater and far more insidious threat comes from the practice of the mindless repetition of the very actions they are undertaking on behalf of these people: the so-called 'treatment protocols', which are effectively the software used to programme the ambulanceman to perform various tasks without the need for thought; and therein lie the seeds of madness.

Poor Alain de la Tourniquet, to cite a well-known case, was reduced to a quivering husk, unable to speak except to say, "Give him some oxygen, Alphonse, give him some oxygen," so brainwashed had he become after just three months with the Sark Ambulance.

It's clear that we have to start looking at the presentation of illness from different perspectives and begin to explore alternative and complementary forms of treatment. Many of these are well-established and quite reputable branches of medicine; one thinks immediately of acupuncture, homeopathy, herbalism, aromatherapy, and so on, but all of these have been shown to be quite ineffective, and practised only by charlatans. But there are other, lesser-known systems that are worth some consideration.

For instance, on our recent holiday to Matabeleland (now part of Rhodesia), Stan and I encountered one of the local doctors and, under his munificent tutelage, learnt a great many ancient and proven techniques for curing a variety of ailments. Mostly these involve the use of drums and fire and snakes, a lot of shouting and dancing about naked, and that sort of thing, but already the new Stan Tablets Voodoo Clinic is proving very popular with the local residents, both old and young alike.

Just phone for an appointment.