Saturday, 12 April 2008

Kicked before breakfast

Eight calls; one arrested, one left in police custody and six by ambulance.

An early call for a 67 year-old man who’d been run over by a van and I was speeding towards the little street in Soho thinking about how bad it might be...or that it was nonsense. I arrived to find a couple of Chinese men standing over an elderly gentleman, who was lying on the road with his trouser legs rolled up. He didn’t seem to be in any pain and the Chinese men weren’t particularly fussed about the situation; one of them was still on the phone to our 999 Control and I had to ask him repeatedly what had happened.

The man on the ground was an Italian barber shop owner who was on his way to work. As he crossed the road, the van (above), driven by the two Chinese men, knocked him down as it reversed. It continued over his body as he shouted and struggled to get out from underneath. The axle and exhaust made contact with his knees and he had grazes and burns to them. He also had superficial burns to his hands, which had made contact with hot parts of the vehicle as he tried to save himself.

It took ten minutes to get the story straight because the Chinese men were completely unaware that they’d hit him and the Italian man was too angry and upset to communicate the incident clearly. By the time I had it sorted, the police and a crew had arrived and the mechanism for injury changed from minor to possibly not so minor – so he was collared and boarded as a precaution.

I got assaulted a little earlier in my shift than I’m used to and I was in no mood to take a booting from anyone, particularly a stupid drunken Ethiopian. He was asleep (or ‘unconscious’ if you want the bus driver’s universal phrase) on a bendy bus and I found him in the middle of the floor, sprawled in the aisle. At first he was difficult to rouse then he opened his eyes as I badgered him to wake up and get off the vehicle. He gave me a long hateful stare and I knew immediately that I was dealing with someone who was potentially violent – it was that kind of look. I had to get him off the bus quickly and peacefully if possible. Usually the police are called for these jobs but not this morning.

He became verbally abusive and shoved me a few times but that’s par for the course, so I let it go and continued to be the cool professional I’m supposed to be, even in the face of this rubbish. I told the bus driver to stay away from him and I called Control for police backup to help me remove him. I asked them to warn the crew that he was aggressive.

I went back and tried again with him and this time he moved a lot quicker than before. He snapped awake and shuffled himself to the doorway of the bus, allowing his legs to dangle over the edge of the floor. He swore at me a number of times and I continued to insist that he leave the bus. This annoyed him and he lashed out with his feet, without warning, kicking me in the stomach with some force. As I said, I wasn’t in the mood and much as I’d love to have stepped back, smile and apologise for being in his way (like a true professional), I didn’t because it’s not me at all. I used reasonable force to restrain him – I launched my body weight onto him and pinned his arms to his chest, all the while warning him that he wasn’t going to get away with that again. He looked shocked.

As I told him to calm down and prepared to let him go again (without being absolutely sure of his reprisal plans), the police arrived. They talked to him and tried to persuade him to get off the bus too but he was stubborn and aggressive towards them as well – he had to be thrown to the ground at one point as they tried to assist him to the ambulance, which had just pulled up. Understandably, the crew weren’t overly eager to have him but he would still need to be checked out. I wouldn’t want to find that he was a diabetic and I had over-reacted.

Inside the ambulance and even with the police present, he attacked the crew and I saw him land with a loud thud onto the floor as the officer restrained him yet again. Oh, and he wasn’t having any diabetic problems – he was just drunk and disorderly and possibly one of the most hateful ‘guests’ to our country I’ve ever come across.

He was arrested and taken (by ambulance for speed) to the police station. They knew him there; he was notorious for drunkenness and violence. Not the best start to the day for me and I spent an hour getting back up to speed.

A 20 year-old tourist having an ‘allergic reaction’ to food was suffering the effects of a stomach virus, I think. She had a high temperature, nausea and stomach cramps. She misunderstood her symptoms and associated the illness with something she’d eaten. This had the Gallery staff a bit nervous and I reassured them that nothing she’d eaten there had caused this because she’d had these symptoms for a few days now. Her older sister was with her and, to be honest, I thought she was her mother. Luckily I didn’t try any complimentary jokes.

I was back at the police station where my violent bus buddy had been taken for a 29 year-old man who had a low BM and was behaving abnormally, according to the police doctor (FME) on scene. The doc thought the man may have taken drugs because he was uncommunicative and confused. I looked at the patient out in the custody area and carried out a few obs. His BM was fine and he spoke to me without too much difficulty. He was a tall, thin Somali man and he sat on the bench in the custody room, looking depressed. He had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly and he freely admitted drinking an entire bottle of vodka but denied any drug taking. I believed him.

‘Do you have any medical problems?’ I asked him.

‘Yes, I’m homeless’, he replied with sad eyes.

I felt instantly sorry for him and I think that was because I believed him. He wasn’t trying it on and he looked genuinely lost. I continued to talk to him until the crew arrived and I promised that I would do something to get him off the streets. We work closely with an organisation called London Street Rescue – we can refer vulnerable people to them and they will get them off the street and into safe, secure accommodation. To date, we have referred dozens, perhaps hundreds of individuals.

He was so grateful that he started to cry. I’ve never seen a grown man cry in a police custody area before and it made me feel even sorrier for him.

I spoke to the doctor and told him what I’d found. He walked out of his surgery and spoke to the man himself. I had asked if he could go to hospital because he was vulnerable but because he had been arrested, the doctor would have to make a clinical decision about whether he needed to go or not. I really thought that he’d asked me to come down so that he could get the man to hospital; I thought that was actually the plan. Instead, he coldly stared down at the young man and barked commands at him, ordering him to stand up and walk forward, so that he could test his coordination and GCS. Now I knew why he had become a mute – if he’d been treated like that by a medical professional as soon as he arrived in the place, it was no wonder he had become reluctant to communicate.

Then the FME said ‘he can stay here’. I thought it was a heartless decision and wholly at odds with the intentions I thought existed. Now it would be much harder for me to get help for him because the link workers don’t go to police stations; they visit people in the street or in hospital. By the time I’d got through to them, he’d be out of jail and lost on the streets somewhere. I would be yet another uniformed pereson who'd lied to him. If it continued, he may become the type of man who attacks uniforms without warning.

Drug addicts have lots of tricks for getting the fix they crave and one of them is to call an ambulance for a fictitious pain and hope that morphine is administered, either by an inexperienced paramedic or junior doctor. My 47 year-old patient complained of such severe back pain that he couldn’t even walk to the toilet down the corridor in his hostel. He told me he’d pee’d in the sink in his room as a result. Not only did I find that disgusting but I also knew he was lying because he moved around quite well during his conversation with me, he even dressed himself fully as he explained his agony to me. He wasn’t aware of this because he was lying so automatically that he clean forget to act the part.

He hadn’t taken heroin for a few days, he told me, and the pain had kicked in during the night. If he had any pain, it was most likely part of his withdrawal, I reasoned. I wasn’t happy to take this man to hospital because nothing about him was true but the crew were downstairs and about to lug a chair and all their equipment up because the call had originally come in as ‘unconscious male’. It had been deliberately elaborated in order to get an emergency response.

‘Can’t you just give me something for the pain?’ he asked, ‘the last time I went because of this, they put a needle into me and gave me something, I’m not sure what, and it helped a lot but they made me wait an hour at hospital, so I just left.’

In other words, he had has fix and scarpered. His story about not knowing what they gave him was supposed to lull me into thinking he knew nothing about drugs. This is a guy who uses class A drugs almost every day; he’s an expert!

I asked him to try walking and I chatted to him as he went, making him forget what he was doing. Without knowing it, he walked along the corridor and all the way down three flights of steps without a single spasm. He was such a bad liar that he just couldn’t get his body to comply with the fraud.

The crew met us on the ground floor and I explained the situation – they understood and took him away. He’ll get no morphine from us, that’s for sure.

A crew arrived just ahead of me for my call to a 25 year-old man who’d collapsed in a restaurant. The report stated that he’d taken cocaine and ecstasy the night before, so I already had no sympathy for him, which was irrelevant because I didn’t have to treat him.

Again, myself and the crew assigned to a 60 year-old male with chest pain at a Boots’ store were beaten by the MRU, who’d not only turned up before us but he’d gone to the correct address. There are a number of Boots’ chemists in Oxford Street; two of them are so close together on the same side of the road that it’s easy to land at the wrong one – I’ve done it myself. This time, I wasn’t convinced of the branch we’d stopped at, so I told the crew when they jumped out. I waited and sure enough, we had to travel another hundred yards down the road. The bike was parked outside.

A family of London visitors called us to the aid of a 50 year-old drunken Lithuanian man, who’d fallen (not for the first time judging my his scarred head) and cut his scalp open on the pavement. They took him out of the rain and supported him until I arrived. One of them windmilled me to the spot where he sat, fully conscious and unwilling to receive help.

I thanked the family as I talked to him and twice persuaded him to sit down again when he decided to get up and walk; (stagger and fall). The crew recognised him – he’d been admitted to hospital earlier – he just wasn’t capable of walking around, so he went for his second visit that day.

I went home after my shift wondering how bad things would have to get before I decided the job was just too dangerous to continue. I think if a weapon is used against me, I’d reconsider my options.

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

Did you report the assault on yourself Xf?

I know it would take a bit of time you probably feel will be wasted but it's only through emergency service workers such as yourself reporting that these assaults are occuring that the bean counters will finally ever be convinced there's a problem...

I can assure you that as a cop I will more than happily spend as much time as required doing the necessary paperwork and trying to secure a conviction as nothing winds me up more than idiots attacking fellow members of the emergency services.

Xf said...


No. I was asked by the officers on scene if I wanted to press charges but I thought of the paperwork and wasted time and, although I understand what you say about the number crunchers and pen-pushers, I have no faith in them anymore, so I take care of myself.

At the end of the day, it's become such a common occurence that I expect to get hit sometimes and I guess I've made it a personal occupational hazard.

So long as I can move faster than my opponent, I should be okay.

It's only because I know I can usually rely on a quick response from the Met and BTP that I take any risk at all.

Thank you for your comment and support.

Anonymous said...

My dad is a paramedic in the North West and he has been assaulted on numerous occasions. It’s a disgrace as you are going to help someone and this happens.

He's been doing the job for over 35 years and due to retire in the next few months. He says it has got worse over the last few years with all the drunks and general attitude of some patients.

You all do an amazing job in some very difficult circumstances; don't let one idiot make you think you don't