Monday, 5 May 2008

Children at play

Thirteen emergency calls; one no-trace, four assisted-only and the rest went by ambulance.

This job makes me think of people differently, especially on a weekend when I witness the very worst behaviour of supposed adults. I see them as children but not funny children - stupid children.

The last thing we need on a busy Saturday night is a time waster and that’s what I got first off tonight in Soho when a 67 year-old male called in to say he had heart problems and was feeling sick. I drove to the call box and carried out an area search but to no avail – he’d changed his mind and gone. He’d already been abusive to the call taker, so he probably wasn’t going to be the most pleasant customer I’d dealt with if he’d bothered to stick around.

A crew was already on scene for the 23 year-old woman who’d fainted in a HMV store; she was laying on the floor like she was dead but my colleagues were sympathetically working their way around that and I wasn’t required.

Panic attacks are easily treated, with the right approach, so my 30 year-old patient was walked slowly out of the restaurant where I’d found him sitting at a table, staring into space with a shocked look on his face. His salad lay staring back up at him and would probably never be eaten.

I spent the next twenty minutes resolving his hyperventilation and feelings of stress by quietly reminding him of how common this was and how manageable it could be. He seemed to agree and by the time I’d finished my paperwork, he and his friend, who’d come out to rescue him, were able to continue their night.

A call for a 40 year-old ‘looks unconscious, ? drunk’ next and I found him fast asleep at a bus stop. He woke up immediately when I spoke to him and I carefully pulled him upright. He was on his way back to Birmingham and had gotten so drunk that he’d decided the pavement was as good a place as any for a kip. Maybe in other places but in London, that will just generate 999 calls from panicking MOPs who think he’s unconscious…or dead.

I moved him along and he promptly collapsed somewhere else, just as open, so I wandered over to him and reminded him of the perils of sleeping in full public view. He was nice enough and apologised for the trouble he was causing, then he admitted that he was kind of in the dog house at home. That explained a lot. I left him to figure out where else to go.

My next call looked like being a typical weekend ‘unconscious, has been drinking’ sort of job but the 31 year-old Spanish man, whose friends swore blind he’d only had a few, was very cold; his temperature was below 34 degrees and he was vomiting in the street. He looked quite ill and not in an alcoholic sort of way. I asked him if he’d taken any drugs and he denied this but later, when the crew were examining him in the ambulance, he came clean and admitted to smoking dope earlier – this may or may not have contributed to his current state.

Two slightly drunk teenage girls tried to help a 50 year-old man who was extremely drunk and slumped in a doorway by calling an ambulance and giving him five pounds so he could eat something. I knew the face when I arrived, he is a local regular and the crew, who’d arrived with me, were from another sector so they didn’t know that he could be aggressive. The girls were plying him with sympathy and as we tried to get him to tell us if he needed an ambulance or not, he flew into a rage, pushed us aside and storming off in a drunken huff…probably to spend the poor girls’ cash on more booze.

When I explained that I knew him and that he was always like that, one of the girls shouted after him for her money back but there are no refunds with the gutter folk – no cash-back and no thanks. Still, they learned a valuable lesson I think and they now had five quid less to spend on booze themselves, which may have helped to avoid a 999 call for one of them.

I wasn’t needed for the next call, to a 51 year-old woman with chest pain because the crew were already on scene.

A call to Leicester Square and a drive through the crowds to find a 19 year-old girl who had fainted. She and her very drunk boyfriend came to meet me as I pulled up on scene. She was complaining of ‘pressure’ in the back of her head and multiple faints that night, whilst her partner leaned against my car’s back door and vomited all over the pavement.

She had a history of faints but the headache was new and she looked genuinely uncomfortable. Regardless of the fact that they had both been drinking heavily, she probably had a medical issue that needed resolving. I sat her in the back of the car during my initial obs but she became faint again, so I had to rest her on the back seat of my car as the ambulance fought its way into the square. She recovered enough to get on the vehicle and her boyfriend leaned against that too as he got over his mammoth vomathon.

One of the worst kind of time waster we encounter are those who fake illnesses, especially seizures. We can all tell the difference between a consciously provoked twitch and a genuine clonic event, so don’t try it on or you’ll be embarrassed in front of your audience.

The 23 year-old girl was lying in an alleyway in Soho, surrounding by the local security people, bystanders who thought some entertainment was on the way and her noisy, obstructive and very annoying friend. She’d ‘collapsed’ on the pavement suddenly and had been seen fitting...well, they thought she was. I could already see cynicism in the face of the female member of the security staff.

She wouldn’t open her eyes, despite the fact that I knew she could. She wouldn’t talk to me or comply with any instructions. Meanwhile her mate was getting too close, too often and was ringing my ears like a bell with her God-awful drunkenly slurred comments. She wobbled back and forth demanding to know what I was going to do and offering nuggets of medical information about how I should go about doing it. She was a mine of rubbish information and, try as I could, my brain couldn’t shut her out.

The crew arrived and a trolley bed was arranged because the girl on the ground just didn’t want to play and refused to become an adult. She lay there with absolutely nothing wrong with her, waiting for us to put our backs out lifting her. She was getting no sympathy from me; I simply didn’t care what her life issues might be.

Then she started jumping up and down on the ground, producing the world’s worst interpretation of a seizure. It was certainly the worst performance I’d seen so far and I made a point of telling her that mid-show.

‘She’s faking that!’ screamed her awful friend, ‘I’m telling you that’s not real!’

Yeah, we knew but it was impossible to get this woman to shut up and let us get on with proving it, so we simply ignored her after I’d tried one attempt at asking her to calm down.

The young faker was trundled off to the ambulance and then to hospital, where she'll waste everyone’s time and sober up after a few hours of stupidity. She probably won’t feel any shame or embarrassment about the stunt she pulled and she won’t give a toss about the eight hundred quid of tax payer’s money that went down the drain for her emotional stupidity.

It seemed I was being punished tonight. I was getting shouted at by everyone’s mate’s. The next call, to a 22 year-old female ‘unconscious, fitting’, took me to Piccadilly and a car parked at the roadside. Inside was a young girl, slumped, intoxicated, in the front seat. Outside were the same demonstrative voices, attached to different faces, screaming and wailing the same old stuff. ‘She’s been spiked’ and ‘I know my sister and this ‘aint her’.

The fact is, if she’s been stupid enough to allow someone to spike her drink then she has learned nothing from the years of campaigning to protect people against this behaviour. Don’t let strangers buy you drinks. Keep your drink close to you and keep an eye on it. Also, someone will only spike your drink to try and get to you. It’s therefore unlikely that a girl surrounded by a mob of family and friends is going to be targeted. Where’s the fun in that for the culprit?

She was simply drunk and that’s that. Her behaviour was compatible only with alcohol poisoning her system and knocking her brain out. She was conscious and she understood everything that was going on. Her sister clearly didn’t and practically wanted to start a fight in the street with me about who might be right on this particular medical argument. I want to ignore people like this but unless I say ‘she’s just drunk, don’t worry, everyone says the same thing’, I’ll never get any peace. Unfortunately only the minority of people I encounter believe me. Nobody wants to think their friend or loved one has just bitten off more than they can chew.

A fight broke out between a young Asian man and a blonde girl as I pulled up outside McDonalds for my next exciting instalment. ‘F**k off, white trash!’ I heard the man shout in her face. Now, he’s the sort of bloke a girl would want to love and cherish, right?

Inside the restaurant, another Asian man lay unconscious across four chairs that had been laid out for him – like it was his funeral. His two concerned friends told me that he’d just become non-responsive. Yes, he’d been drinking a lot and no, he hadn’t taken any drugs.

When I examined him I saw that he had very pin point pupils, indicating the possibility of drug use, rather than the effects of alcohol. Next to him another man, who rarely spoke, sat with his head in his hands. Apparently, according to the other two men, he’d been with their mate all night and may, or may not have supplied him with something.

After trying to get the patient to respond, I decided narcan might be necessary but the crew pulled up as I prepared my kit and the young man began to respond on oxygen, so I left the narcan decision to the ambulance paramedic.

Ten minutes later and we were able to take him out of the restaurant in a more conscious state than when I first arrived, much to the relief of his friends. As we left, I jokingly shouted out a food order to the staff, who were closing up shop and was rewarded with a free bag of goodies for me and my colleagues to eat. I was starving to be honest and not in the mood to refuse. A free lunch is always a good thing.

In the early hours of the morning I was called to an estate in the east, originally for a chest pain but when I arrived I saw police gathered in the road ahead of me. Blue lights were flashed once, indicating that I should join them and I rolled down to ask them what was up.

‘Are you on this call; man with a knife?’ one of the officers asked.

‘No, I’m at the estate up the road for chest pain.’

‘Oh, well an ambulance went round the back and we’re still waiting for one.’

I called Control and asked them if I could deal with this job and went around the back of the estate to confirm that an ambulance was on scene for the chest pain call. It was, so I returned to the cops and got out of the car.

I got a bit of a shock, however, when they told me that the man inside had been wielding a kitchen knife and had already cut himself with it, as well as making threats to harm. He was in the flat on his own, I was told and I would be going in first, with them behind me because ‘he may kick off if he sees the police’.

‘What?’ I thought. Me first? Nobody wants to look like a scaredy cat and believe me, I’m not but I was more than a little surprised that I was taking point on this one. I had my stab vest on and I had my wits about me but I had no idea what I was walking into.

Inside the flat, the hallway was spattered with blood all the way to the front room. The guy (or someone else) had bled from his front door to his living room. I was told his name and cautiously moved into the place calling it out until he answered. I poked my head around the door to see him and his girlfriend there. The cops were behind me.

He told me to go away and kept repeating a very ominous statement from someone with a knife and slashed wrists, ‘I’m not a violent person’. I wanted to believe him and he didn’t inspire me when he shot up out of his seat and came towards me when he spotted the cops edging around the doorway behind me.

‘You’re going to arrest me, aren’t you? I’m not a violent man!’

The front room was also spattered in blood and I could see three slashes on his left wrist; cry for help cuts, not life-threatening but they needed to be covered, so I asked repeatedly if I could help him. I slowly moved forward inch by inch once he’d settled back down again and managed to find a place to sit near him as I spoke.

It’s important to stay calm and try not to inflame unstable people. I couldn’t see a knife, so I didn’t feel in imminent danger. The presence of his girlfriend was also reassuring but I’ve learned in the past not to trust another person’s judgement of the stability of their loved one. People are unpredictable at the best of times but emotionally critical people are downright dangerous.

So I chatted to him and the police, who were now inside the room assured him that he wouldn’t be arrested. The only person he’d hurt was himself. He’d had a fight with his step-son and it had escalated to the point where he received a black eye. His step-son stormed out of the house and he went for the nearest knife to do away with himself. His rage caused panic and the flat was cleared as police arrived to contain the situation, deciding to call an ambulance and have the crew calm him down...enter stage left, moi.

All the while, as I spoke to him and got closer to inspect his injuries, the damned stereo was blaring out-of-date ballads. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’d told us the fight was with his step-son, I would have completely believed him if he’d said it was with a woman.

The music was turned off and I got to dress his wounds. They were deep but not deep enough to cause problems. He’d need to go to hospital but I considered that he probably wouldn’t be in the right frame of mind just yet for a trip to A&E, so I suggested he go when he felt like it. In any case, despite requesting an ambulance for him, there were none available. The crews were probably all too tied up arguing with banshee women about how drunk their friends were.

In the end, his girlfriend said she’d take him and when I went back in to check on him twenty five minutes later, he was like a lamb. His mum was back inside the flat and he became her little boy again.

Don’t I get some kind of badge for going in there on point? Does Blue Peter still do them?

The last call of the night may have turned out to be a ridiculously difficult job and myself and the crew were in for a treat if this was a resus. On the top bunk of a hostel bed, in a room where at least six others slept, lay a large man with noisy breathing. We’d been called because his neighbours couldn’t sleep for his racket and had tried to wake him but to no avail. They thought he might be unconscious.

When I asked who’d called us, a little hand flew up from one of the other top bunks in the room. It was a female hand. I forgot that they mix the sexes up in these places, so it took me by surprise.

Myself and one of the crew had climbed up onto the bed and try as we might, got no response from him. I’d heard his breathing from outside the room, so his airway could be compromised and the first thing I did was put an OP in, which he initially tolerated. After thirty seconds or so, however, he began to gag on it, so I removed it. That was a good sign at least. He smelt heavily of alcohol, so he may just be in a deep, drunken sleep, so we continued with our mission to wake him up.

It took a good ten minutes and some very physical activity to get him to respond and when he finally awoke to see two grown men in his bed, he only had one thing to say.

‘F**k off!’

So we did.

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

Well, you certainly were a busy boy, weren't you?

Asdquefty said...

I've been reading your blog for a few days and it's interesting to see what it's like to be a medic. It's a shame that so many calls are just a waste of time, there should be campaigns to inform people of what isn't an emergency.

Keep it up, I enjoy reading your stories.

frappy said...

I think a GOLD blue peter badge and pair of val's own knickers !for that one (im three months in working for nwas your opening my eye's to the job) realy enjoying your blog keep up the good work.

BeckyG said...

[Image:06052008_194136_3.jpg] I don't know if this will work, or even what kind of medal this is, but I thought you deserved one. I don't think I'd have been brave enough to enter a house with knife-wielding man of unknown aggression, even if the police were behind me.

Xf said...


Hey...GOLD? Well, thanks for that. I'll wear it with pride :-)

Xf said...


Maybe if I'd been given time to consider it, I wouldn't have been so brave :-)

Thanks for the gesture, although I can't actually open the code to get to my present.