Friday, 9 November 2007

The weeble guard

Twelve calls today – two refused, on false alarm, one assist-only, two conveyed and the rest went by ambulance.

I scoot between Waterloo and the West End via Whitehall in the early mornings and this gives me an opportunity to flick a wave at the guard standing at the entrance to Horseguard’s. They start their shift early, just like me, but for the life of me I can’t work out what they are guarding against at that time in the morning. Anyway, one of them has been sneaking a nod in my direction when he sees me and it’s nice to be able to communicate, even if that’s as much of a conversation as we can achieve.

This morning, my friend was nowhere to be seen and another young lad was standing at the gate. Well, he was mostly wobbling at the gate. He must have been out the night before because he looked in imminent danger of falling flat on his face. He kept startling himself into a rigid posture, only to relax again and drift towards weeble-land and an inevitable drop. I had the opportunity to watch him for a minute or so as I waited at the traffic lights but I continued my journey and didn’t see what became of him. I don’t know what the drill is if one of these guys falls. Do they get disciplined?

We weren’t called for him so I’m guessing he sorted himself out in the end. Just as well because the horses come on duty later in the morning and they wouldn’t have approved.

My morning started off with a call to a 38 year-old male, ‘vomiting blood’. He claimed to have lost about two and half litres of the stuff and I was more than a little wary of his estimate. He was HIV positive and he told me he had never had trouble like this with his health before. It looked like trouble was catching up with him. His bathroom was spattered in blood and he had a recent history of passing tarry stools. Ominous though the signs were, he remained fully alert and was able to walk himself out to the ambulance when it arrived (he had initially walked out to greet me when I got on scene but I took him back into the house).

Then a 34 year-old pregnant woman who fell down stairs at a railway station, injuring her ankle. I had to reassure her that her baby was fine and that her ankle was a long way off her womb. When the crew arrived, the kind rail staff provided us with one of their electric buggies to convey her to the ambulance in. I hitched a free ride and watched my colleagues walk back. Well, I did offer.

I was cancelled on scene for my next call, to a 40 year-old male with lung cancer who was coughing up blood. A crew were already there and I would have been excess baggage.

A strange call to a 30 year-old woman after that. She worked in a posh(ish) hotel near Trafalgar Square and collapsed with a numb arm whilst going about her duties (cleaning rooms). She had no history of illness and hadn’t taken anything (drink or drugs) recently. A Motorcycle Response Unit (MRU) colleague was on scene when I arrived and we cancelled the ambulance; I would take her to hospital in the car because she didn’t seem to have any significant medical problems – just this numb arm.

When I got her to hospital, the nurse noticed that the affected arm was also slightly swollen. I hadn’t seen this to be honest and I don’t think the MRU medic had either. The swelling wasn’t massively obvious but when it was pointed out, it became noticeable.

I went back to check on her later in the day and was told that she had been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

I wasn’t required for the next call. The crew had already arrived and were dealing with a 20 year-old female who felt ‘dizzy and sick’ but I was required for the call after this one – a 19 year-old female who bumped her head and was emotional. I conveyed her myself because she really didn’t need an ambulance. She travelled with her friend and work colleague and as we chatted I got to know how fragile she was.

She had fallen after going to the loo and bumped her head on the tiled floor of her workplace (a dental hospital). She had no serious injuries; not even a bump on her head, but she was shaken up and a bit teary-eyed. She insisted on being taken to hospital and I sensed that she probably needed the reassurance.

I discovered during the trip that she didn’t drink, smoke or have any tattoos on her body (although quite how that detail got into the conversation I can’t recall). I found this unusual. It’s rare these days to find a female without a vice, or who hasn’t marked themselves. Maybe she was a nun, I thought. Still, she was a pleasant young lady and she was delivered to hospital in a much better frame of mind than when I first saw her.

Later in the shift, I was sent up into the north (of London) for a call to an 80 year-old man who had fallen out of bed. I found him slumped on the floor with a couple of nasty looking cuts to his head. He had fallen hard and it looked like this wasn’t the first time. His carers were on scene as well as a neighbour who had known him for decades. The neighbour was more concerned about his condition than the carers, I have to say.

The man had suffered a stroke before and was now unable to communicate properly. He’d shout ‘No!’ every now and again but that was the extent of it. He was also quite unable to fend for himself and couldn’t get off the floor without assistance, so I propped him up a little and tried to get to the bottom of what had happened.

Apparently, he had pressed a button on the control panel of his specialised bed which lowered a guard rail at the side. Then he had simply fallen over the edge when he got too close, landing heavily on the wooden floor.

‘Why is the button so near him?’ I asked the carers.

They both shrugged their shoulders. I rarely get any clear information from home carers and I have no idea why.

‘Don’t you think it’s unsafe for him to have any access to this panel?’ I suggested.

Again, blank looks. I wondered if they spoke English at all.

We had no idea how long he had been on the floor. He could have lain there all night. His neighbour was not impressed by the level of care he was receiving and when I asked for his diary ( a document which records the day-to-day activities of the carers) nobody seemed to know what I was talking about. It was produced eventually, when the penny dropped.

The crew arrived and he was carefully lifted onto a chair and then out to the ambulance. His head injuries needed attention and as I walked back to the car I wondered how long it would be before we were called again to the same address.

Even during daylight hours, calls to sleeping drunks can be generated by frantic members of the general public. A call for a 30 year-old female who ‘cannot be woken’ on a park bench had me racing a long way out of my area to find a woman slumped across the seat, which was out on the pavement at the park entrance. I walked up to her, shook her twice and woke her up.

‘Do you need an ambulance?’ I shouted.

‘Oi! F**k off!’ she replied.

Did I tell you I have a degree in waking drunks up? I walked back to the car and completed my paperwork. Then I made my way back to my own patch and my own drunks.

A 52 year-old woman with a history of internal bleeding (although we were never told why) called us for chest pain. When I got there I realised she was very depressed. She still complained of chest pain but she had a lost look about her and the crew got very little out of her when they arrived to take her away. She made me feel a little depressed in fact.

My next call was for a 21 year-old female with abdominal pain. She was writhing on the floor in agony when I arrived. She had a history of ovarian cyst and it looked to me as if she was suffering at the hands of an old enemy. The ambulance didn’t take long to arrive and she was quickly taken away. Pain relief was given but nothing seemed to be touching it. I felt sorry for her.

As the evening drew in I was called to a RTC in Camden where a moped had collided with a brand new Porche. Neither the moped rider nor the car driver were hurt but that expensive set of wheels (the Porche obviously) was badly damaged. Not because the moped had struck it but because the rider, a heavily built man, had been thrown onto the boonet before sliding off onto the road. His journey had left a major dent in the car as well as a long, deep scratch in the paint work.

With twenty minutes of my shift to go, Control sends me to a 25 year-old female who is unconscious in a tanning shop. The police were on scene for some reason and the staff were more than a little concerned about the woman's behaviour. She was conscious but looked stoned. She definitely looked as though she had taken something.

'Have you taken any drugs or medicines today?' I asked politely.

'No. I'm fine. Leave me alone', she said.

She was wobbly, disorientated and had slurred speech. I was concerned about her condition and she was adamantly refusing to go to hospital. Neither the police or myself could persuade her and her temper was beginning to fray but it spilled over when the maager of the salon explained to her that, because she had refused treatment, she could not be allowed to use the tanning machines again until an 'all-clear' had been given by a doctor.

I thought that was fair enough but the woman went ballistic and had to be told to calm down or else by the police.

After a twenty minute argument, she stormed out of the shop and I was left holding my bags in the air like a lemon.

I ended my shift by wandering back to my base station via Whitehall. I glanced across at the parade ground entrance. The guards were there but the horses were gone (they get taken away when the light fails) and the tourists were going back to their hotels. London was winding down and so was I. Time to go home.

Be safe.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a long time but haven't posted a reply yet! I'm a shy nurse you see (is there such a thing? lol). Anyway, my daughter is with the Household Calvary (mounted) based in Knightsbridge (if you've been around at silly o'clock when they have been out on the horses at 4am for Trooping the Colour practice you may have seen her!) Anyway, guards CAN be disciplined for falling over on duty, or fainting etc. My daughter could even be disciplined for falling off her horse! I think they use thier judgement tho'. Keep up the good work, you write so well, it's a pure joy to read!

Anonymous said...

"It’s rare these days to find a female without a vice, or who hasn’t marked themselves." Is this really what you are finding in your job? If so, this is scary.

Also scary is what you said the other day about a hospital
refusing to treat further patients which was full of non-urgent
cases. It means many people don't want to help themselves
but want someone else to deal with it, and are prepared to clog
up busy A & E departments to do so. I sure hope the London
Ambulance Service and hospitals don't think we're all a bunch
of helpless wimps like that out there.

Xf said...

anonymous

Nope...I don't know any shy nurses. You must be a one-off :-)

Thanks for the info. I do admire these men and women, as you can tell. If nothing else, they fly our flag and give millions of visitors something to write home about. Oh, and they are also soldiers!

Keep reading..

Xf said...

Anon2

Well, if you look around you'll find very few young women who don't drink, smoke or adorn their skin with art. I just found it refreshing. No slight on those females who choose to do one, or all of those things, of course.

Also, we don't think you are all wimps. The job makes cynics of us, I'm afraid. I try to be balanced about this but a weekend can skew my opinion. Of course there are plenty of sound-minded people out there who drink, become merry and go home. Unfortunately, like the non-drinking, non-smoking, non-tatooed women, they are becoming fewer and fewer.

Xf said...

Anon2

Well, if you look around you'll find very few young women who don't drink, smoke or adorn their skin with art. I just found it refreshing. No slight on those females who choose to do one, or all of those things, of course.

Also, we don't think you are all wimps. The job makes cynics of us, I'm afraid. I try to be balanced about this but a weekend can skew my opinion. Of course there are plenty of sound-minded people out there who drink, become merry and go home. Unfortunately, like the non-drinking, non-smoking, non-tatooed women, they are becoming fewer and fewer.

jkiev1 said...

"Did I tell you I have a degree in waking drunks up?"

That made me giggle, reading back on all of your older blogs gives me a complete colour of the drunks you deal with. it seems you're a true guru on the subject. I'm sure most paramedics are.