Day shift: Six calls; one false alarm, one hoax, one treated on scene, one cancelled (I got lost) and two by ambulance.
Stats: 1 Hypothermia; 1 Faint, 1 Hypoglycaemia.
Being a professional alcoholic and spirit-gel stealer/drinker means that, as an occupational hazard, your body won’t survive normally survivable things…like cold weather. My first patient, a 30 year-old man, was discovered lying on the freezing ground in a small garden by Lambeth Palace. If he’d been sober, he’d have had the sense to move somewhere warm, or cover himself up but he didn’t. He probably thought the mixture of Lucozade and alcohol-gel would suffice for insulation.
A passer-by on his way to work had the good heart to stop and ask if he was alright. On getting no response and feeling how cold the man’s skin was, he decided to dial 999. This action probably (more than likely) saved the alcoholic’s life. When I arrived he was so cold that his joints were bent inward because the ligaments had contracted and he was barely conscious. His temperature read 32 Celsius - he was definitely hypothermic and as soon as the ambulance arrived, which seemed a while, he was taken straight into the warm and then rapidly to hospital.
I would have given him no more than another hour or two out there before he died. That little park is in the area of nobody’s business at that time in the morning, so he was very lucky to have been found and even luckier to have been approached.
Lambeth Palace has several CCTV systems and one of the cameras spotted me outside the premises while I did my paperwork. I was also admiring the brickwork of the building and thinking about the men who laid them. The entrance door is tiny and people of that time were generally smaller, so my mind could imagine dozens of five-footers working up on wooden scaffolding during the construction of this magnificent building. Anyway, one of the guardians of the palace came out to check if everything was ok and I told him I was just doing my paperwork – that reassured him and he went back inside. Only then did I wonder why there was no camera covering the park, which is directly inside the grounds.
I spent twenty minutes trying to locate a man who’d been hit by a fork lift truck. I was in an area that was unfamiliar to me and a railway line stood between me and wherever I was supposed to be, according to my mapping system. Despite further information from Control about where I was (which I already knew) and a fruitless scoot around, I was cancelled when a crew arrived at the correct location – a local crew with better knowledge of the area I presumed.
A suspect vehicle near Buckingham Palace sparked a security alert and a cordon was set up with me and a MRU inside it, just in case. After waiting with my colleague, the police and fire crews long enough for a few hundred tourists to gather and start asking the same questions over and over again, I was cleared to go. The dodgy car was safe apparently; just badly parked. I bet a lot of our visiting guests think we are a bit over the top here in the UK when it comes to illegal parking. Where they come from a ticket would usually suffice.
A new face to the street-sleeping scene next and I felt sorry for her to be honest. She admitted to drinking a lot recently but that she wasn’t an alcoholic. She hadn’t eaten for three days and now she felt ill and cold. I found her trying to keep warm under her thin jacket on the Strand. A rough-sleeping friend was helping her but he was also trying to flog copies of The Big Issue so that he could eat too. Busy commuters have little time to buy magazines for the sake of it, so he stood for a long time as I tended to his acquaintance.
She told me she’d been on the streets for years but had just arrived in London (yes, even rough-sleepers migrate) from the coast. She was genuine and obviously unwell, so a trip to hospital was on the cards, along with a meal if possible.
For the record, I help where I can by giving whenever I can. I have a healthy respect for most rough-sleepers; they’re not all drug addicts and drinkers. I was one myself for a short time.
My stand-by on Trafalgar Square was spent chatting with a FRU/flight paramedic from Sussex. We talked about the job, the wages, the problems and the politics. We agreed that everything was pretty much the same but that he had the seaside. We have seagulls here but they are scavenging idiots and have no idea where the sea is. They think they are pigeons ‘til they speak.
My no trace hoax call was a Red1 for a ‘male lying on the ground’ which doesn’t say a hell of a lot about anything. It was hardly likely anyway because the street he was supposed to be lying in was packed with people and none of them was panicking, waving, staring or referring to anything vaguely ‘dead’. In fact, my intrusion with yellow car, blue lights and loud siren made most of them plug their ears, shoot me looks and scurry away for fear that I might be coming to take them away. The call description contained the line ‘caller hung up’. Well, of course he did.
Green Park underground station has one of the longest walks I’ve experienced at a station, from one area to the other. As usual my patient, a 25 year-old female who was ‘hypo’, was at the far end of the complex and me and my heavy bags were much fitter and slimmer by the time we reached her. She was an anorexic Polish girl with a recovering BM after her near-collapse. She had a bar of chocolate now, courtesy of the underground people (the moles) and she had no interest in me, my bags or the safety of a London hospital. In return I had no real interest in struggling the quarter mile, or whatever it was, through corridors, steps, multiple flights and bustling, jostling people while I carried her.
When the crew arrived I explained that the lady had gone and was fully recovered. They too had realised the ordeal we’d have if she’d needed carrying. We agreed between us (not that I’d ever work with this crew at the same location again) that the best way to move a patient in this complex was by train. If we had someone really ill, or being resuscitated, we’d commandeer a train, load the patient onto it and scoot down the line to the next platform, where unloading would be much easier. It was initially a bit of a joke but the more I thought of it the more I realised it was a sound idea. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that someone else had already done it in the past. If not, then I claim sole rights to it (ok, me and the crew).
For the many people who emailed and commented about the kitten in my last post - HIS name is BEAR and he belongs to two very good friends and colleagues of mine. I might start a special 'cat's corner' section for you lot!