Eight emergency calls; one hoax and seven taken by ambulance.
An evening call to a 60 year-old woman who’d collapsed at an underground station started my shift. She was lying in the recovery position on the floor, surrounded by her family and underground staff. She was very pale and said she felt weak – she’d gone to the floor as she walked towards the stairs leading to the platform; luckily she hadn’t actually reached the top of the stairs before she fell or things might have been a little more difficult.
Her medical history included heart problems and she was on beta blockers – she had a weak and irregular pulse, so a trip to hospital was arranged, courtesy of the crew.
A young girl sat outside a club in Soho, convinced that she was hypoglycaemic, despite never being diagnosed as diabetic. I guess she meant that her blood sugar falls to a point where it causes her to become weak – apparently someone else had told her she was hypoglycaemic and so she had taken that on board and used it every time she felt out of sorts. I tested her blood glucose and it was normal. She and her friend went to hospital anyway because she still wasn’t feeling well after I’d spent ten minutes checking that everything was as it should be.
If you have chest pain, don’t walk out to meet the ambulance. My next patient, a 72 year-old man, was waiting on his doorstep for me when I pulled up. He had a history of CVA and was now suffering from chest pain and a headache but he insisted on walking to the car and explaining all that through my window as I attempted to get out and help him.
The ambulance arrived within a few minutes and I’d already settled him down in the back seat of the car and recorded as much information about him as possible before handing him over to the crew.
One thing I can’t be doing with is unruly behaviour from a patient’s drunken friends as I try to do my job. It’s off-putting and a bit threatening - especially when you are surrounded by them and they are too close for comfort.
I’d been sent to a 20 year-old man who’d fallen in the road and cut his head open as a result. He was lucky not to get killed because he’d stumbled drunkenly across Charing Cross Road at a busy time of the night (early morning). He’d been knocked out momentarily, according to his friends but now he was sitting on a step waiting for me to arrive.
I put a dressing on his head and only managed to complete the job after telling his mates to calm down twice as they jeered, cheered and took photographs of their friend’s injury. I’d run out of things to do or say to him by the time an ambulance was free to take him away to hospital.
A call given as ‘fitting’ just because the patient was shaking turned out to be nothing more than an infection and high temperature (hand in hand, obviously). Some people react in an over-the-top manner when they are dealing with illnesses, even the ‘flu, and this 74 year-old woman was using her body to express how uncomfortable she was by shaking in an exaggerated way, thus the ‘fitting’ response.
Another fitting call that turned out to be something else came in the last few hours of my shift. A 40 year-old woman had been found at the London Eye, collapsed on the grass area but the details were sketchy. When I arrived, a small group of lads waved frantically at me to follow them into the park, towards the Eye itself. They explained that a woman had been helped out of the river and was now lying on the ground, threatening to go back in.
I found her surrounded by people who’d either just been going home from their night out or who’d helped the woman when she was in the water. She was soaking wet of course and shivering violently but she could communicate and was very distressed at the cacophony around her, so I sent most of the helpful bystanders away and things quietened a little.
‘Did you jump in the river?’ I asked her.
‘Where did you jump from?’
‘Blackfriars Bridge’, she said in a broken, whimpering voice.
I’ve long stopped asking jumpers why they do it, so I tried to get her as warm as possible as I waited for the ambulance. Time was fairly critical if she wasn’t to become deeply hypothermic. She needed constant reassurance; understandable considering the recent attempt to drown herself in the chilly Thames water.
When the crew arrived, the little crowd had dispersed but were hanging around in smaller groups, discussing this exciting event. The patient was able to walk herself to the ambulance with assistance, where she was stripped of her clothing (in private by the female crew member) and warmed with blankets. I returned to the car and got on with the paperwork.
It’s 4.30am when I get my last call of the shift and it looks like I will be tied up with it for some time – a male has been shot in the chest in the West End. I’m told to standby at a safe distance and I watch as police vehicles, including armed units whiz by in the opposite direction. Nothing happens for a while and I see no activity around my location, so I call Control and ask them what’s happening but a police car pulls up alongside and explains that the ‘shooting’ has taken place in another location from the one given. I head up there with them but there are no lights and sirens and no apparent hurry. The guy is either dead or this has been a hoax.
I arrive on scene and I’m told that it’s fiction. Nobody has been shot. Ironically (or not) it’s the same area that we often receive calls for stabbings that don’t exist – more often than not the ghost victim has been stabbed in the chest. This is a dangerous game because it has the potential to slow a response down because everyone will become complacent and someone may well be lying in a pool of their own blood one day.