Paramedic lifts lid on her trauma after being sexually assaulted by the patient she was trying to help

Heidi, a paramedic who has been sexually assaulted.

Heidi, a paramedic who has been sexually assaulted. - Credit: Archant

She has been spat at, punched, and assaulted – but when a patient repeatedly grabbed her breasts and tried to kiss her, 29-year-old paramedic Heidi decided enough was enough.

The Norwich-based medic has waived her right to anonymity after being the victim of a sexual assault by the very person she was trying to help.

She said the incident had left her feeling devalued as a paramedic and anxious about working.

It comes as new figures reveal a 19pc rise in assaults on frontline ambulance staff, with more than 230 incidents reported across the east of England.


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The assault

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Heidi, who is based at East of England Ambulance Service Trust's Longwater Ddpot in Costessey, endured a nightmare experience on a shift when she was groped and kissed by a 75-year-old patient.

She said such incidents are not unusual and predicted a future where ambulances include security guards to ensure paramedics can do their jobs safely.

Heidi, who did not want to give her surname, said the patient had suffered a head injury after a fall.

He was also intoxicated.

'We had to help him up from the floor and as we were doing that he grabbed hold of my face and tried to pull me towards him to give me a kiss,' she said.

Heidi and her colleague, a student paramedic, moved the patient's hands and took him to the ambulance.

But the patient then firmly grabbed one of Heidi's breasts and repeatedly kissed her hand while she was trying to take his blood pressure.

Heidi said he tried to grab her other breast as well, and then attempted to touch her crotch.

She managed to free herself and retreated to the other end of the ambulance.

With tears running down her face she drove the patient to hospital.

Two weeks later, after being unsure of what to do, she reported the incident to the police and the man later pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

The incident happened in May 2015.

The impact

'It made me feel devalued,' Heidi said.

'We do come across a lot of things like this.

'You have to allow for it in our job because we encounter patients that don't have capacity and aren't aware of their actions.

'At first I wasn't sure if I was over-reacting and that it was something paramedics tolerated or should tolerate.

'I've encountered sexual assaults before and generally they are unreported, but this time it was the fact that I didn't have the situation under control.

'It was as though my cape had been taken off – you go to jobs and you think no one will hurt you because you're a paramedic and you're doing a good job, but this patient ripped that away from me.

'I felt embarrassed about having lost control of the situation and that the patient had got that far.

'I was angered by myself because I'm normally a very confident and very self-controlled person, and I was angry that I'd become weak and hadn't established what was morally right and morally wrong. I lost all self-respect. There are no excuses for behaving like that.'

'I became really anxious coming to work, especially on Fridays and Saturdays when there's a bigger chance of seeing intoxicated patients.'

The message

It took Heidi some time to build up her confidence again and she was given counselling to help her. She is urging the public not to abuse paramedics, who are trying to assist patients in need of help.

'I didn't join this job to be abused or assaulted, sexually or physically,' she said.

'Those patients who assault paramedics put a lot of pressure on staff, and it causes unnecessary stress.

'We work long and hard hours. We always work over our hours, and we don't deserve to be abused or assaulted in any way.

'We want to come to work and assist people when they need help and I don't think anyone should abuse that system.'

The facts

Figures from the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) revealed there were 232 attacks on ambulance staff by patients in 2015/16.

That is a 19pc rise from the year before, when 195 such incidents were reported.

Of the 232 attacks, 42 occurred across Norfolk and Waveney – and throughout the east of England 66 people had criminal sanctions brought against them.

Robert Morton, chief executive of EEAST, pictured, said: 'It is appalling that some people are violent towards our staff when they are trying to help and provide the best possible care to patients. There's no excuse for attacks on our staff.

'One assault against a colleague is one too many and can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families.'

Have you got an ambulance story?

Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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