Thursday, 15 May 2008

Balconies are no fun

Eight calls; two false alarms, one treated on scene and five by ambulance.

Allergies to penicillin are common and my first patient, a 32 year-old woman with this problem was given amoxycillin by her doctor. Unfortunately, her body didn’t like that either and her face and hands puffed up in protest. She was stable otherwise but needed to go to hospital for antihistamine treatment.

Then a call to a ‘building collapse’ which was subsequently cancelled and reinstated just in case there were people trapped inside. The building, a shop in Oxford Street, hadn’t actually collapsed at all – a balcony overhanging the pavement had started to fall apart and a large chunk of the bottom part had fallen onto the street without warning (see photo). There were no casualties because luckily, nobody had been walking underneath it when it came down. Plenty of fire appliances had been called to the scene and I was impressed by the array of equipment that the LFB had at their disposal for such an occurrence. I waited with a crew in case the danger increased but the rest of the balcony remained where it was, hanging precariously from the wall of the building.

The British ex-champion boxer Chris Eubank was driving around London in his big rig truck today and I caught sight of him as he went past the British Museum. He frequently sounded his horn so that people would turn around and recognise him – he loves that sort of attention and is famous for doing it in Brighton, where he lives. On a street full of tourists, it was unlikely anyone would smile and wave, however, so he moved on to more familiar territories for adoration.

I went back to the British Museum later on for a 6 year-old female who was ‘reacting to food’. She wasn’t and her parents had simply panicked because she spat out a piece of sandwich that she obviously disliked. Her screwed up face and violent dismissal of the food led her Italian parents to believe their child may be dying. My MRU colleague reassured them that this wasn’t the case and we left the scene.

A 38 year-old private taxi driver had a collision with a bus on Aldwych and I arrived first to find him sitting in the driver’s seat with neck pain. That meant I had to sit in the rear seat behind him and hold his head still until others arrived to help me. He had two passengers on board and, after checking they were okay, I sent them out onto the street to wait. It didn’t take long for a MRU to show up and assist. A crew followed a few minutes later and chaos developed as the traffic began to snarl up in the lane, which was blocked by the car, the bus and the emergency vehicles.

The driver was collared and slid out onto a board through the passenger door. It takes a few of us to do this effectively, so a bit of time was spent planning it properly before moving him. I think he was suffering nothing more than minor whiplash but all the usual precautions were taken with him and he was conveyed to hospital within 30 minutes of his crash.

A run to Elephant & Castle in the south for a 71 year-old woman with chest pain which developed as she entered a bingo hall for a bit of light gambling. I arrived to find members of staff from the establishment chatting to her as she sat in a wheelchair. I still don’t know if it was her wheelchair or it had been provided as a first aid tool. The pain had gone by the time I got to her and she was taken by ambulance to have an ECG done.

Small parks are ideal places for drug addicts to get together for breakfast or lunch…or whatever and one or two of them are ambulance magnets. Sometimes the addicts fight among themselves and I was called, along with my MRU colleague, to an altercation I which a 40 year-old man had allegedly been assaulted by four or five others. His head had been stamped on a few times as he lay on the ground after his initial beating and this had all been witnessed by other drug addicts in the area. So, reliable witnesses then.

The man had a bruised head and was heavily drunk (or drugged), so it was difficult to make an accurate assessment of his state of mind and he was taken to hospital, even though he seemed less than keen. His dog was left with a fellow heroin lover, which was a relief because it wouldn’t stop barking as we poked and prodded its master.

I was on top of the next call, for a 35 year-old male having a fit at a bus stop, when I was cancelled within sight of the patient because a MRU was apparently on scene. I couldn’t see one, so I carried on and let Control know I was there. The invisible MRU was nowhere to be seen, so I got out of the car and went to the patient, who was lying on the ground after having a witnessed seizure. There was a family of tourists dealing with him and I could see he was post ictal; confused and agitated. An ambulance arrived 3 minutes later and by then he was a little more lucid, although he refused to have an oxygen mask put over his face, which is common enough.

We found out that he was epileptic and that he hadn’t fitted for some time. His sudden collapse had scared the crowd around him and I was glad I’d stopped instead of carrying on when I received the cancellation – they had all seen me arrive in the area and it would have looked negligent to have continued on when there was nobody else there to help. I found out later on that the MRU had been diverted en route.

I’ve never wondered how fire-eaters get trained but I stumbled across what looked like an ad-hoc lesson going on in an alley in Holborn. A number of people were gathered around an ‘instructor’, who was showing them how to blow flames from their mouths. It was a strange and interesting thing to watch and I guess they must have thought I’d arrived on stand-by for their benefit!

While I watched I was sent another call for a 50 year-old man who’d dialled 999 from a callbox at the tube station just up the road. He’d developed a headache. Its easy for cynicism to kick in when you get a call description like that, especially when it comes from a callbox at a station notorious for being the origin of nonsense calls, but when I arrived it evaporated because the Italian man’s family explained that he was normally fit and well but had suddenly complained of a left-side headache which was increasing in severity and was making him feel quite unwell. He genuinely looked worried about what was happening to him and a TIA can never be ruled out, so an ambulance was called and he and his little family group were packed into it for the short trip to hospital.

It was a fair shift with nothing much going on I have to say and it ended with a 13 year-old boy having an asthma attack on an estate in the south. The crew were on scene just after I arrived and we went up to the flat together. The boy was mildly asthmatic and hadn’t replaced his inhaler, even though a prescription for a new one had been provided a while ago. The crew knew him and had dealt with a more severe attack earlier in the year, so he hadn’t actually learned anything from it. If you’re genuinely asthmatic you should always carry your inhaler and replace it when it's running low.

Mum had about a hundred kids – they were everywhere. Well, they were either all hers or she was hosting a party for every kid on the estate, so the little flat was busy with tiny people coming and going. I left it to the crew and returned to the car for my trip to off-duty land and home. It was the end of another warm London day and it was my last shift for a couple of days, so I wasn’t in a rush.

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

Funny thing is, there is no way to tell if your salbutamol inhaler is running low without counting the number of times you use it.

Practical for a 200 dose inhaler, no?

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog a few days ago. I was wondering if you are married or if you are leaving your personal stuff out of this blog? And also a few posts ago you said a guy smelled of cheap alcohol and fags. I was wondering if fags meant the same thing to you as they do to me?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:02, fags = cigarettes. I'm guessing you're an American. :)

sonjita said...

A good way of telling how full your inhaler is to shake the canister inside, you can hear the liquid sloshing about inside. With practice you can tell when you're running low.
Another way is to drop it in a glass of water, if it floats - it's empty.
I always have two inhalers, when the first one runs out I order another one and use the second one. Overlap them like this and you'll never run out.

Anonymous said...

Whew, that's a relief! I can figure out most of the things you guys are talking about, but I don't smoke, so I never even thought of that one.:) Yep, American. Another one I can't figure out is how much a stone and a pound are?

Anonymous said...

Lol lost in translation! Love the blog.

A very happy Swambo prancing about in his new green uniform shirt

Anonymous said...

Americans weigh in ounces and pounds, don't they? If they don't, a pound is 16 ounces. A stone in weight is 14 pounds

Anonymous said...

TIAs don't cause headaches as a rule. And they don't cause dizziness or nausea without focal neurological signs.

Xf said...


I leave my personal life out of the blog as much as possible, although I think you were probably fishing when you asked if I was married and what 'fag' meant :-)

I am married, as a matter of fact and fag means cigarette, as my reading friends have pointed out...

Xf said...


TIA's: please qualify your statement because I'm sure you'll find a LOT of sufferers will completely disagree with you as a TIA is a stroke...only for a shorter duration.

Since the mechanism for TIA is the same as for a CVA, the signs and symptoms are, in fact, the same. This includes headaches, dizziness, nausea and well as other neurological signs.

Anonymous said...

My mother had a TIA which luckily she recovered from with brain surgery.
She DEFINATELY had a headache and had ignored it.