so that happened · travel

Unplanned Paramedicine in Paris, France


We had just stumbled out of the Parisian bar Le Comptoir Général when it happened.

As I reached the bank of the canal to join my friends, I went to glance back at the bar and turned just in time to watch a little hatchback brake suddenly, sending a pizza delivery guy smashing straight into the back of him. The scooter and the pizzas skidded sideways across the road. The driver was flung up in the air. Everything slowed for an instant and then sped up.

He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.

Half-drunk and without thinking, I immediately ran over to the unconscious figure sprawled across the tarmac and when I reached Pizzaman, I leaned over him with my hands on my thighs, cocked my head and said, “Hey! Are you okay?!”

Obviously, Pizzaman was not in a position to answer.

A stocky passer-by with grey hair and a glorious moustache joined us. Without a word, he bent double with an audible wheeze and started fiddling with the helmet clasp under Pizzaman’s chin. My brain, struggling to process this abrupt turn of events after having spent the past five or six hours marinating happily in vodka cocktails, slowly chugged to life. It half-heartedly scrabbled around for some useful information.

What would Sunscreen advise?

I blinked blankly before sending my brain back to look for something a little more helpful; even Sunscreen has its limitations. Emergency first aid is one of them.

What would Scrubs do?

I pulled at the loopy, lazy string of thoughts in my head until it pulled tight into a somewhat coherent plan:

  1. Don’t move Pizzaman.
  2. Call an ambulance.
  3. If there is a wound, apply pressure and wait for paramedics.

I made a garbled noise of indignation at the man tugging at Pizzaman’s helmet and told him to stop what he was doing, but by now Pizzaman had regained consciousness and was pushing at the helmet with weak but frantic motions. The middle-aged man with the moustache looked at me smugly as if to say, ‘You see?‘ and pulled the helmet off without so much as a second thought.

I mean, I say he looked at me smugly but he was French, so that could just have been his face.

I calmly accepted the fact that the first bulletpoint on my plan had gone to the dogs, and pulled out my phone. I dialled 112 and knelt on the ground next to Pizzaman as it rang. I asked him if he was hurt. He gave a tiny shake of his head (good sign, I thought, at least he hasn’t broken his neck) and lay there, gasping like a fish, staring straight up at the sky.

I searched his body for any sign of injuries. A remote part of my brain wondered if I would have to shimmy under a car to locate a runaway finger.

  • Head – check.
  • Torso – check.
  • Arms – check.
  • Hands – check.
  • Pelvis – check.
  • Thighs – check.

And then I realised what had been disguised by the darkness; his jeans were slick with blood, and there was a glistening whiteness jutting proudly out of his lower leg, ready for its fifteen minutes of fame.

It was a …………….. *drumroll please* ………………. surprise appearance from his tibia!


As my brain fumbled drunkenly from uh oh, blood! to uh oh, bone! to finally just a general UH OH! the emergency call operator finally answered the phone.

In French.

Which is when I conveniently remembered that I do not, in fact, speak French.

I looked up to find a ring of curious onlookers keeping their distance. Exasperated, I held my phone out to them as if these 2am stragglers were my personal secretaries, and waggled it impatiently in the air until someone stepped forward and took it from me.

“AM-BU-LANCE” I said, loudly and clearly. Then I thought for a second, and added, “AM-BU-LAN-CIA” just in case Spanish was somehow their second language. I watched, gimlet-eyed, as this stranger put my phone to his ear. Once I was satisfied he had understood the brief and was taking of business, I turned my attention back to Pizzaman, who still looked like he was floating through another dimension on waves of pure shock.

Having successfully checked the second bulletpoint off my list, I turned to bulletpoint three and felt the warm blood coat my bare hands as they came into contact with his leg. I tried to make the gaping hole smaller before pressing both hands over the bone and leaning heavily on his leg to stem the bleeding. I crouched there and turned to Pizzaman, who was gazing at me with glassy eyes.

“Do you speak English?”


“How do you feel?”


His eyes rolled skyward again. I chewed the inside of my cheek. It’s hard to be conversational when you don’t speak the language and you’re casually leaning on their legbone.

“Is there anybody you want me to call?”

His eyes tracked back to my face slowly. He stared.

“Phone? Should I phone anybody? On the telephone? On the mobile?”

He stared.

My nose itched. I wondered should I try sound effects. Or sign language. Or Spanish?

The silence stretched as his brain, which had clearly been concussed into scrambled egg, deciphered my question. After a pause that felt about ten minutes long, he mumbled, “Oui, oui.” I looked up, searching for my emergency P.A. and found him standing awkwardly by, staring at my hands, my phone dangling from his fingertips. My eyes narrowed.

“YOU!” His head snapped back. “Do you speak English?”

“Yez, yez,” he said, nodding vigorously. “Yez.”

“Okay, can you find his phone and call someone please? Maybe home, or a recently dialled contact, or ‘mama’ or someone.”

“Yez, oui, of courze.” He stood dumbly for another moment.

“It’s probably in his pocket or in his bag?” I prompted.

He jumped into action then and located Pizzaman’s mobile, which had somehow managed to stay in his pocket despite his earlier aerial somersault.

Now, I am not an organised person. I am crap at delegating. I like to do things myself, and I tend to do them in such a haphazard manner that if I even tried to delegate it would be a total shambles. With this in mind, it was somewhat of a surprise to discover that the injudicious application of alcohol turns me into a tiny Miranda Priestly.


I kept one suspicious eye on the man calling Pizzaman’s mother, and one wary eye on Pizzaman himself who was starting to look a little grey.

“Do you feel pain?” I asked.

“Non, non” he mumbled. My eyes flickered to his leg where the white of his bone was still visible between my fingers. My hands were wrist-deep in blood. I smiled at him.

“Great! Everything is fine! Just relax. The ambulance is coming.”

“Oui,” he mumbled. His head lolled.

We stayed like that for another ten minutes. I peppered the air with cheerful, meaningless phrases like, “Everything is going to be okay!” and “Don’t worry!” and “You’re going to be just fine!” Pizzaman gazed blankly at the stars while making small noises every so often to show he was at least hearing me, if not understanding me. The moustachioed meddler had disappeared, leaving the helmet on the kerb, and my emergency P.A. was absent-mindedly pacing in tight circles. He had the phone pressed against one ear as he spoke to Pizzaman’s mother, and one finger pressed against the other ear to block out the music from the club.

Finally, both the ambulance and the police arrived.

One of the paramedics tapped my elbow and gave me the nod. Relieved, I lifted my hands and watched the tibia bob back up through the blood like a skinny iceberg. The paramedic took over from me then, his large white gloves looking far more competent than my gnome-sized hands, and I stumbled to my feet as the EMTs put Pizzaman in a neckbrace.

“Is he going to be okay? Will he be okay?”

One of the EMTs looked at me and smiled reassuringly. “Yez, he will be fine. Don’t worry.”

A tall policeman crooked his finger at me and I dutifully walked over, my hands held stiffly out at my sides so as not to drip blood all over my clothes. He asked something, and I blinked at him. I looked around, searching for my P.A. who immediately appeared at my side as if by silent summons.

“He iz azking eef you saw what haz heppened?” He helpfully translated.

“Yeah, yeah!” I turned to him and explained, quickly and incoherently, everything I had seen. He obediently translated, and the policeman looked from his face to mine with a barely disguised expression of martyr-like forbearance.

Although, he was French, so again, that might just have been his face.

When he was done jotting down notes in his tiny notepad with his tiny pen, he gave us a sharp nod and walked away. I turned to my P.A. and thanked him. He gave me a shy smile, offering me my phone back, and I held up my bloody hands, looking like I’d just murdered somebody in cold blood. “Can you put it in my pocket please?”

He flushed, nodded, and hurriedly tucked it into the pocket of my jeans. I thanked him again and he muttered, “No problem,” before turning on his heel and disappearing into the dark.

After washing my hands in the bar’s unisex bathroom (and completely clearing it out in the process), I rejoined my friends and spent the next two hours wandering from crêperie to crêperie, explaining that we should get free crêpes because I was practically a national hero. It was 3am so most places were shut, but we did manage to score at least one free crêpe, and one place that had closed the kitchen decided we had earned ourselves multiple shots of alcohol and unlimited crêpe toppings, which we (perhaps unwisely) took them up on.

After clearing them out of their stash of mini Smarties, we stumbled home through the Paris streets, keeping a watchful eye out for unpredictable hatchbacks.


Hello! Just a note to say if anybody wants to enter the giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment below. Giveaway entry closes when I publish a new post on Monday, and if you win you’ll have to be okay with e-mailing me your address! I promise not to show up on your doorstep. It’s open internationally, and I’ll just number the comments and use one of those random number generators to pick a winner. Don’t get too excited, I’m not giving away any iPads, but it will be a fun little box of stuff so if you’re interested, you know what to do!

NOTE: I’m only joking about French people – they’re lovely. Especially that guy with the crêpe stall on that street that let me make my own crêpe that one time. He’s especially lovely and his crêpes are delicious.

47 thoughts on “Unplanned Paramedicine in Paris, France

  1. I’m honestly loving your blog of late. I’d floated out of the scene and you’ve pulled me back in. What a adventure this was. Hero. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Quinn/Wonderwoman, you really don’t need that manual you’ve been waiting for you, you are a hero!! I often wonder how I would act in these type of situations (I’m usually on the Pizzaman end of these encounters) I imagine I’d freeze or choke. We were camping on a Loch side once and I saw a little kid fall in the water. My first reaction was to scream ‘KEVIN save that kid!’ which he did thankfully but afterwards I was like, what? why didn’t I just save him? I saw him? Why wasn’t my reaction to jump in after him?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! I’m telling you, If you’d had five vodka cranberries you’d have been jumping into that water without hesitation! I think I was just so drunk I didn’t stop to consider pesky inconveniences like bodily fluids, gore, the language barrier… anything really!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this story! My boyfriend once fainted on a metro in Paris in the early morning scrum to work and college and his friend left him there! Someone like you would have been useful! A pompier eventually came and smelled the whiskey on him and actually asked him are you Irish? When the bf said yes the pompier helped him up and told the whole carriage he was an Irish man and that he would be fine!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It makes you wonder; are all the drunks of the world secretly super heroes waiting to jump into action?

    And… HOLY SHIT!! You were holding a man’s bone in place!? That’s nuts. So what was your answer when you returned home from your trip when people ask, “So how was your trip?”

    There have been a few occasions where I have jumped into action and may have saved the life or two, but my instances have all been where I am the sober party and the people I have saved have been intoxicated in some form or another. I wonder what I would be like if I were slightly impaired in these types of situations…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well at that point I wasn’t getting any more free crepes for being a national treasure so I told them I had a great time and got to touch someone’s tibia! I think you’re much braver for jumping in sober – I’d definitely have hesitated and started overthinking (WHAT IF HIS BACK IS BROKEN? WHAT IF I CAN’T FIND SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH? WHAT IF HE HAS AIDS AND I HAVE A CUT? etc.) if I’d been sober, to the point where I’m not sure somebody else wouldn’t have done the necessary thing before me!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you’re brain is running on full cylinders in an intense situation like that sober, then good on you! I once jumped into a rapid flowing river to save some drunk guy who was face down in the water. I didn’t think about the what ifs- I saw a guy who needed help and jumped. Looking back, yeah, it was a bit crazy, but I helped save the dude and he hit on me as a result. Woo!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha of course! You were basically his Ariel! To be honest I’ve never been in a situation like that sober so I have no idea what I would actually do 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Well done , I was reading a post this morning & it was about people not helping in cases like this ,… it seems people don’t bother or just rubber neck .

    My experience with French is not good but that’s another story 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Okay, so, I do understand it’s a life at risk and I do pray that he’s fine by the next month and continues to live his life to the fullest. But, I might still go to hell for this, what happened to the pizzas in his bag?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I would have died. You know when there was that video of a gymnast snapping their leg in half all over social media. It feels like that. I. Can’t. Handle.


  8. I’ve had some fun first aid situations before; most memorable was the girl who had driven her car into a ditch, then a tree, all at about 70mph near Mrs Astro’s parents’ house. Total mess, nobody knew what to do and stand there gaping until you actually tell them. Never had to do it somewhere I don’t speak the language though, that’s tough!

    Apparently, the most comforting sound a person can hear is their own name. Find out what it is and as you talk to them, use it. A lot! Really helps calm people down…


  9. A great piece of story, a great gesture of helping someone in need! Ever since I came across your blog, it’s always a pleasure reading your stories! Have an amazing week, Quinn! 🙂


  10. Gal in my lastest response comment to you on blog post I wrote “you are a kindred spirit”. And while I stick solidly to that.
    In this circumstnace…ummmm not so much.
    I AM, however, in total and complete awe of your wonder womanesque ability exhabited.
    And you most definitely earned that crepe and title as a national hero extraordinaire!


  11. “I lifted my hands and watched the tibia bob up through the blood like a skinny iceberg” is A+++ imagery! If I’m ever in dire need, I hope you’re nearby Quinn


  12. I honestly have never been in a situation where I had to act fast. But I’m proud of how you handled things. Even with my infantile knowledge of what to do in moments like that, every bone in my body tells me I would forget everything about applying pressure. Hell, I’d probably forget my own name. But damn, becoming Miranda Priestly sounds like a pretty perfect thing to happen.

    So France, huh? God I’d love to go:)


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