Paramedics in the U.K. were responding to a serious case in Birmingham, about 100 miles northwest of London. They had arrived at a drug and alcohol rehab center called Livingstone House to treat one of its recovering addicts. However, when they returned to the hospital they found an angry note pinned to the vehicle’s windshield.
The West Midlands Ambulance Service posted on Facebook, “Sometimes we just don’t know what to say […] At the time, the crew were helping a man who was extremely unwell after vomiting blood. [Paramedics] took him on blue lights to hospital where he was in critical condition.”
Unfortunately, the paramedics’ efforts were in vain, and the man later died in hospital. It meant that the note lambasting the medical technicians left a sour taste. Then, when the note was later posted on social media, it drew a hostile reaction from readers.
This all occurred at a time when ambulance drivers and paramedics are already the target of violence in the U.K. The number of reported attacks on medical professionals by members of the public has increased dramatically. Indeed, it has now reached the point where there are six assaults on ambulance crews every single day.
A nurse consultant for the rehabilitation center, John Hagans, said, “We are completely disgusted by the note. Words fail me. [The patient’s] condition was so severe they could not move the ambulance for half an hour because they were fighting so hard to save him.”
The note posted on the ambulance read, “You may be saving lives, but don’t park your van in a stupid place and block my drive.” Whoever the furious author was had been complaining about not being able to get their car out.
One of the medics took a picture of the note and posted it on Facebook. Subsequently, the image was shared thousands of times, with most people roundly condemning the message’s tone and contents. On the other hand, though, some people thought the writer may have had a legitimate grievance.
That’s because the neighborhood appears to have something of a parking problem. There are several schools and a local hospital in the area, and people often park in this particular vicinity to get around paying parking fees. As a result, locals often find their driveways blocked, or that they have nowhere to park themselves.
The author of the note isn’t the only one in his neighborhood to tire of the situation. Signs have appeared outside houses asking motorists to stop parking across driveways. One councilor said that the ambulance did the right thing, although he did acknowledge there was a wider problem.
Mohammed Aikhlaq from Birmingham City Council said, “Parking is atrocious. It’s something we discuss at our ward meetings on a regular basis because there’s a hospital and a few schools which bring in traffic. They all just park anywhere. It’s a huge issue.”
Aikhlaq added, “Around school time we get complaints from residents of people blocking driveways. They are so annoyed. This is someone who’s probably had their driveway blocked before.” Surely, though, this was the wrong time and the wrong place to complain.
Initially, no one knew the identity of the note’s author. However, it was eventually revealed to be local teacher Hassan Shabbir. In this case, Shabbir had returned home after work to discover the ambulance blocking his driveway, leaving him unable to park.
Shabbir later regretted his actions. “What I did was monstrous, but I am not a monster,” he said. “There is no justification for what I did. I am deeply ashamed at my actions, even before I found out the poor man had died.”
Shabbir continued, “Now I know that [he died], it makes it even worse, and my heart goes out to his family. I feel truly sorry and I completely regret what I did. I just snapped […] I scribbled the note, rushed out and put it on the windscreen.”
Shabbir says that he suffers from a disability which requires regular medical care and was not denigrating the work of paramedics. Furthermore, he claims that he’d already been waiting for 20 minutes before he left the note. But this was of little comfort to the dead man’s grieving family.
Shabbir explained, “I am someone who relies on the NHS, I suffer with a life-long disability, I know the truly amazing work the NHS does […] Words cannot express how wonderful the NHS are, and like I said it was a foolish mistake, and if I could take it back I would.”
Despite his contrition, though, it seems Shabbir’s apology made little difference. Hagans said, “[The family of the deceased] are absolutely horrified. They said it’s hard enough as it is, with the loss. This has just made it 50 times worse.” Poignantly, the patient had been three months sober when he died.
Hagans acknowledged that the street where the center is does have problems with parking. But the severity of the situation should have warranted more patience, he stressed. “In that situation, no ambulance crew should have to worry about annoying others because of parking. It’s ridiculous,” he said.
Coincidentally, this event occurred on the same weekend as another incident where paramedics were confronted by angry members of the public. Notably, the circumstances were very similar. In the second situation, the ambulance was the target of ire because it was blocking a vehicle’s path.
Again, West Midlands Ambulance Service were moved to comment on social media. Their post read, “Just heard from one of our staff that two crews were treating a cardiac arrest today – the most serious case we can attend – and someone banged on the side of the ambulance asking them to move as they couldn’t get their car out!”