Night shift. Seven calls; one dead at scene, one taken in the car and the rest by ambulance.
Stats: 1 Asthma; 1 High temperature; 1 SOB; 1 Purple plus; 2 Chest Pain; 1 Hay fever (!)
I took the 28 year-old man with SOB and no history of anything to hospital myself because he’d had a recent dry cough and his temperature was high. I really didn’t see the need for an ambulance.
A cancelled call next (and one that I didn’t list above) for a man lying in the street in a sleeping bag claiming to have sunstroke. I asked Control if they’d read the description at all and when they did it was generally agreed that I’d be wasting my time as the weather was inclement.
An off-duty Patient Transport Services (PTS) lady was flagged down by a distraught mother who asked for help with her asthmatic 2 year-old daughter. I was called soon after and I arrived to find a non-asthmatic, happy child with a bit of a temperature. It was beginning to look like one of those nights.
Then I am asked to travel a long way north for a 65 year-old deceased female. I saw no sense in this but, as we were clearly short of vehicles, I didn’t argue the point and made my way there to find a crew already on scene by a few minutes. (You should skip this story if you have a vivid imagination and a weak constitution).
The lady had been found upstairs in her house by her daughter who’d been taken up there via a ladder and in through the small toilet window because the doors were locked from the inside and her mother hadn’t been seen for more than a week.
The daughter was now in a state of shock in another neighbour’s house because what she saw will never be erased from her memory.
I climbed over the back fence with the crew and we entered the house by the kitchen window. Nobody had told us exactly where to find the corpse, so we searched the rooms one by one until the smell from upstairs became strong enough to divert our attention to a bedroom. Inside was the putrefied and blackened body of a woman. She lay back on the bed, half-in and half-out with one slipper on. She had obviously been getting in or out of bed when she died very suddenly.
The smell of decay was so over-powering that myself and the male crew member had to cover our mouths and noses. The female crew member had problems smelling so she had no trouble with this, apparently. The place was hot and dark and more than a few flies were buzzing around. This is what the daughter had walked in to see. Her screams were heard down the street and nobody else dared enter the house until we arrived.
While waiting for the police we searched for door keys so that we could open the front door and allow them access but we couldn’t find any. Neither could we locate the back door keys. Both doors had been secured from the inside and both sets of keys had been so carefully hidden that, despite forty minutes of looking in every conceivable place, we ran out of options and had to exit the same way that we’d entered. The only other place those keys could have been kept was with the dead lady upstairs and none of us really wanted to go searching her body, especially as the flesh was in such an advanced stage of decomposition that it was falling off the bones.
Eventually, after an hour or so, the cops arrived and used their own ‘key’ to break down the door. They spent as much time as we had looking for the proper keys but came out scratching their heads just as we had. It was a mystery.
A 47 year-old lady with chest pain probably had a pleuritic problem rather than a cardiac one, so I left her with the crew after seeing that her ECG was normal.
A 32 year-old woman who denied having asthma was suffering an asthma attack; I could clearly hear the expiratory wheeze when I listened with my stethoscope, so she went to hospital for a proper examination.
Alcoholics who’ve been at it a while develop ‘dead brain’ signs: permanently slurred speech, loss of balance and co-ordination and frequent visits to hospital for ailments that are often wholly related to their habit. My next patient, a 31 year-old man, staggered to meet me as he waited in the street after dialling 999 from a call box and complaining of abdominal pain.
‘What seems to be the trouble?’ I asked him as I got out of the car.
‘Well, lots of things really…’ and he went on to list them. His abdo pain was the dominant complaint today but he had a host of other organic ailments to draw on should the need arise for a warm bed and a meal.
‘Have you been drinking tonight’, I asked stupidly.
‘Yes but not a lot’, he answered, unbelievably.
He was a tall, gangly man but he posed no threat to me and, although I was in a rough area at 5am, I didn’t feel worried about spending quality time with him until the ambulance arrived to save me. The conversation was dying by then to be honest and I really didn’t want to be chatting about family and holidays with him.
I saw the punk walking along Westminster bridge at stupid o'clock in the morning. I didn't take his photo because that wouldn't be nice without his permission (and he looked hard) but he led a large poodle along (a standard poodle I think it's called) for walkies and I couldn't help but smile at the contrast...it seemed a contradiction in fact. Still, it might have been his mother's.
I got to go home after trundling up to the City to save the life of a bus driver who was suffering from…hay fever. Yep, that’s right. He had the sniffles and was puffed up a bit. Oh and he had a blocked nose. Apart from that and his sense of urgency as he practically ran to the ambulance…
‘What about your bus?’
‘F**k the bus!!’
…he was absolutely fine.