Page last updated at 07:00 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Snow Diary: British Red Cross Volunteer

British Red Cross Ambulance volunteer Chris Jefferies, 18, writes for the BBC News website about his shift on call in Surrey during the UK's icy conditions.

Chris Jefferies
Chris Jefferies before his shift started

I'm just about to take off on an eight-hour ambulance shift with the British Red Cross.

We're supporting the NHS ambulance service in these severe weather conditions.

We've all undertaken training in first aid and extended skills such as using medical gasses and managing trauma.

This allows us to work on a British Red Cross ambulance and respond to emergency calls.

During the past few weeks working as a volunteer I've already had to deal with a number of incidents including suicide attempts, falls and suspected strokes.

Our training prepares us well for these situations; however I confess it can be a little daunting at times.

'Extreme pressure'

It can be an amazing experience, though, and definitely not your normal "hobby".

Our support to the ambulance service was meant to finish this week.

However, the horrendous weather conditions have resulted in extreme pressure on the emergency services and as a result, we've been called out again.

This time, however, we'll be driving our specially equipped 4x4 vehicles.

These allow us to reach patients which normal road ambulances may be unable to get to.

Also, we may be called upon to transport paramedics and other key healthcare professionals to their workplace.

We're not quite sure what to expect this evening - apart from the fact it's going to be hectic.

A31: 1630 GMT

We've been moved from Guildford to Farnham to provide cover and we're currently battling our way down the A31.

The situation on the roads is utterly treacherous, visibility is down to a few metres and we've already passed some abandoned cars.

As darkness falls it's going to become a lot more dangerous. Obviously, in these situations it makes responding to emergency calls a lot harder.

If people do see an ambulance behind them they should safely pull over to the left when they can and not panic.

Also, if you do have to dial 999, please give clear precise information and try and send someone to meet the ambulance.

It makes our job so much easier and will save valuable time.

British Red Cross ambulance
The crew are out and about in Surrey

We've just completed our first emergency call of the night. Ambulance control sent us to a one-year-old baby in Guildford who'd fallen and cut her head, which was bleeding quite seriously.

We managed to make our way through the snow and find their address.

The child was obviously quite distressed with a nasty gash on her head.

I cleaned and dressed the wound as well as checking that there were no other serious injuries.

It's always important never to 'laugh off' a head injury, however minor it may appear (especially in babies and children).

As a result, we took the child into the local hospital to be checked out.

There we met some colleagues from the ambulance service who all had stories of battling through the wintry conditions to get to patients.

There also appear to be quite a few sledging-related injuries coming into the hospital.

The snowy conditions do make it harder to respond to these calls and we're having to drive slower than normal.

However our 4x4 is coping well in the wintry conditions, especially down the smaller side roads where gritting vehicles haven't reached yet.

We're now on standby in Guildford awaiting our next job - at least the snow has stopped for now.

Non-emergency Red Cross vehicle
The Red Cross has been helping hospital staff get to work

We've just met some British Red Cross colleagues at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford.

They're working on one of our non-emergency 4x4 Land Rovers.

Their job has been to ferry vital equipment and healthcare workers between hospitals and health centres.

With the icy conditions, it has made it difficult for many hospitals to have sufficient staff, so my Red Cross colleagues are doing an invaluable job.

As I've been writing this we've just received another job.

We're currently heading to Leatherhead to transport a patient with pneumonia into hospital.

Because of the snowfall, conventional ambulances have been unable to reach her, so we've been called in.

Pneumonia can be a serious illness, so we don't plan on wasting any time.

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