Monday, 12 May 2008

Stressed out

Ten emergencies – two refused, two assisted-only and the others got an ambulance.

Another unsettling night for me. For some reason, every now and then I go through a shift feeling on edge, as if something bad is going to happen to me. Maybe this is not a unique experience (I doubt it is) but it’s quite uncomfortable.

My first call of the night, for example – a 52 year-old female with chest pain. An alert was given for the address and I queried it.

‘Oh, it’s not relevant to the address you’re going to – it’s for another flat on the same floor’.

Fine, I thought and I usually leave it at that but I asked for more information because I realised the flat number I was heading to was a mere two or three doors away from the possibly dangerous address on the alert list.

‘The woman is known to accuse people of sexual assault and she’s attacked an ambulance crew with a carving knife before’, the radio voice said calmly.

Oh, is that all?

I got to the block of flats and the crew weren’t far behind me. We eventually got to the patient and she was fine – no chest pain but a lot of other stuff troubling her. The flat door was wide open and led directly onto the balcony area where all the other flats were in this block. I was continually scanning the outside in case the mad woman from two doors away came running in with her trusty knife. Paranoid, I know but as I said, I was in one of those moods.

Immediately after this call, I was sent to Kennington, which is not my favourite part of London, to a park in which a 30 year-old male had been found unconscious. No other details were given and his reason for being unconscious wasn’t available from the caller.

I arrived at the entrance to a dark, tree-clustered park and silence enveloped me, even though I was a mere hundred metres or so from a main road. It seemed like all life, except pond life perhaps, ceased to exist at this point. As I prepared to get out, a young man rapidly approached the car and banged on my window.

‘Come quickly, he’s in there and he’s not responding to anything’, he shouted, pointing into the gloom. He was indicating a location that was deep into the gloom and I didn’t like it at all. Who was he?

I called Control before I left the vehicle and told them I needed an ambulance right now because I was going into an area I didn’t know with a person I knew nothing about but there were no ambulances available.

‘Do you need police?’ they asked me.

‘No, but it's a park and it’s dark, so can you get an ambulance please’.

I really don’t know why it bothered me so much because I walk into dark estates and blocks a lot, albeit with a sense of caution. I think the mood I was in set me up for a higher sensitivity to danger than usual and the wide open space I was being led into was a place I couldn’t be found in easily, should anything happen to me. I’m also inclined to think that recent events, including stuff I haven’t detailed, have made me believe that there is no back up for us and nobody really cares as long as the targets are met.

I walked a long way with this guy and he seemed okay – he was the patient’s friend, he told me. They had met a few nights ago and had agreed to meet again in this park. Now I understood this place; it was a haunt for homosexuals on brief encounters. It still didn’t make the place any safer for me.

I got to the patient and he was surrounded by a group of people. He was sitting up and telling everyone he was okay. After identifying who the others were (locals from the pub across the way) I found out that the ‘unconscious’ man had taken GHB and had fainted for a while. He refused any aid and didn’t want to go to hospital. I accepted this and made my way back across the black space to my car.

My colleague on the other FRU in my area had arrived and was searching for me with his torch. He’d volunteered his help when he heard my radio transmission. At least I could have relied on him if it had all gone wrong.

A male ‘unconscious’ on a bus next and the added detail given was that none of the lights were working on the vehicle, so I’d have to go in and wake him up in darkness. I thought it had to be a wind up but it was true. All the lights were off and the bendy bus was dark inside. I felt like this was a test.

I went in, found the ‘patient’ and startled him awake. He didn’t attack me and he didn’t give me any trouble. He’d been sitting on the bus with his head propped up on his hand. He was the most obviously asleep person you could encounter and yet the bus driver still thought an ambulance had to be called.

‘I woke him but he told me to f**k off’, the driver explained when I asked him about it.

‘Then you need the police, not an ambulance’, I said.

The police turned up a few minutes after I led the guy off the bus, as did the ambulance but the show was over.

On my way back to station another ‘unconscious on a bus’ call came in. This time it was a 45 year-old man on the top deck, sprawled across the floor at the back. He was a Big Issue vendor (his ID gave that away) and he reeked of cheap booze and fags. He was asleep and it took me ten seconds to wake him up but he didn’t like it and pushed me away before slumping back into position on the floor.

The crew arrived after my fifth or sixth attempt at persuading him to leave failed. I threatened him with the police and he welcomed it. He was just as stubborn when the crew attempted to do what I had been doing – get him to stand up and get off. At one point my colleague tried to get him to follow by lifting his bag and walking away with it, towards the exit. This provoked an angry response from the man and he threatened to call the police himself and report my colleague for theft!

‘I’m not leaving. I have a ticket’, he shouted at us.

‘It’s no longer valid – the bus has terminated, so you’re trespassing’, I told him. He wasn’t buying it and refused to get up and leave.

I left my colleagues with it and returned to the station to use the ‘facilities’ (the loo). I saw the police arriving as I drove away from the bus.

A 35 year-old Irishman fell and cracked his head open when he staggered unevenly on the pavement. He was very drunk and a small crowd of noisy, equally drunk people made life difficult as I tried to help the crew with him. He had been bleeding profusely from his wound and he was an awkward lift onto the trolley bed but we got him into the ambulance and I left the crew to it as I made my way to somewhere else to complete my paperwork.

In the early hours I was sent into a dodgy estate to a flat in which a 19 year-old man was feeling faint. A tall young black man answered the door and led me into his cramped bedroom. His behaviour was bizarre and he kept flailing around and complaining of abdominal pain. I checked for signs of anyone else in the place but I couldn’t tell for sure. I asked him why he needed an ambulance and he told me he had eaten (yes, eaten) a large amount of weed.

‘Why?’ I asked him.

‘I was bored’, he said as he writhed about on the bed. I honestly thought he was distracting me while others crept up on me from the shadows. The story seemed so unreal and his acting was very bad. I decided to leave the flat, so I stood him up and led him outside to wait for the ambulance. I figured the fresh air would do him good anyway.

He vomited a few times as we walked down the stairs and I thought his story might actually be true after all. Then we sat on a wall as I completed my obs. The crew arrived within a few minutes and I handed the strange man over to them. Even they were wary of this one.

A call to a McDonald’s for a 25 year-old man ‘vomiting blood’. Usually these calls involve no blood and frequently no vomiting but when I arrived and got close to the man I saw a large puddle of bright red blood on the ground. He hadn’t vomited this; it had come from his lungs.

He told me he’d been to see his doctor about recent bouts of coughing where blood was ejected and that he was being investigated for it. The stuff he’d left on the ground was significant and he needed to go to hospital in case he was about to deteriorate.

I led him to the ambulance and cleaned up the mess on the pavement. I used a special powder that turns blood to a jelly, making it easy to scrape up and dispose of. Then I asked the McD guys to come out and flush the stain with boiling water – it was their responsibility as it was on their threshold. To their credit, they did a very good job of it and ten minutes later, there was no evidence of blood on the street at all.

A 26 year-old man having an asthma attack in the street wasn’t. He was drunk. He’d settled down for a sleep and his noisy breathing had caused at least two passers-by to dial 999 in panic.

A fight broke out between a number of youths outside a sports bar in the West End and I was asked to attend to two or three injured people on scene. The police were all over the place when I got there and the patients were a South African guy and his East European girlfriend. Neither of them was nice to me and, although they both had injuries as a result of being punched and kicked (he had a broken nose), neither of them wanted to go to hospital. Both were very drunk.

‘Can you get my shoe for me?’ she asked, pointing over a wall.

The wall covered a basement area and the drop was about twenty feet.

‘No’, I said.

‘You threw it over there, so you’ve lost it’ a cop said to her.

She wasn’t happy – nor was her sidekick boyfriend and they both wandered off. The crew had arrived to treat them but took their refusal at face value and ignored them after receiving abuse.

Just before I ended my shift I was sent to a 25 year-old female with ‘heart problems’ who ‘can’t see’. It all sounded a bit strange to me but I didn’t have to worry about it because the crew were on scene and they were dealing with her. She seemed perfectly able to see as she walked out to the ambulance with them.

I think my stress levels are rising. I may need to take a holiday, whether I can afford one or not. I have styes in both eyes and I can’t shift them. Styes are a common sign of being run-down and I get them (rarely) when I am at a point where stress is winning the war on me. So, if I suddenly disappear for a while, don’t worry...I’ll be running away from life until I rest my soul. I’ve done this a lot throughout my life – I’ve just up and gone. It’s no big deal and it beats using drugs.

Be safe.


Lily said...

Sounds like you had a rough night! You're definitely in need of some time to chill out and you sound like you deserve it!!

Fiz said...

Poor xf. It's odd, but I was very worried about you all weekend and hightly relieved to see your post, only to find out you're stressed to the nth degree. I hope you can take some time off to recharge, and maybe let London fend for itself in future? xxx

Dave the Dog said...

Go for it mate. Sounds like you need it.
I've just had my first proper break for 5 years. 4 days in Amsterdam. Wonderfully relaxing. Pity the feeling didn't last beyond 5 minutes after I got back to work.
Go and vegetate.

quetiapina said...

I hope that you do take a break and take care of yourself. It seems to be the case that many people working in the Caring Professions often forget to think of their own physical/ mental health.

Kind Regards, Quetiapina.

Anonymous said...

I completely appreciate the 'lets get out of here feeling' I do it whenever I get the chance! Sounds like you deserve a break!

If you have time away, Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Xf - my favourite places to get away from it all are:

1) Cambridge. Have a pint or two, or some red wine in the Eagle in Benet Street (and admire the RAF messages on the ceiling of the back bar). Drift slowly home via the river banks at Jesus Green, it makes the pace of life slow to a crawl.

2) The Nobody in at Doddiscombleigh. (5 miles from Exeter) - try to stay at the annexe called Town Barton if you can. First time I went there I couldn't sleep because it is so perfectly quiet!


Anonymous said...

Trust your intuition. Something bad will happen to you unless you take a break. Have fun on your holiday!

Anonymous said...

Take care of yourself, xf.

Deborah said...

Trust your intuition - it's seldom wrong.

Have a nice break - try cold teabags on the styes. Put them in boiling water, let it cool a bit and then squeeze out the excess. Place a teabag over each eye, lie back and chill for half an hour.

izzgoo said...

Even if its just a long weekend have a break, sounds like you need it - -have a look at Reynolds (Random acts holiday wiki for ideas!!