Friday, 28 November 2008

Dark places

Night shift: Seven calls; one declined; six by ambulance.

Stats: 1 eTOH fall with facial injuries; 1 Faint; 1 Chest pain; 2 eTOH; 1 Sickle cell crisis; 1 Heroin overdose.

Here we go – four nights in a row and another phase of shifts after which I need, but rarely get, at least two days to recover and re-set my body clock. Night shift patterns are one of the main reasons for quitting the profession – love it or hate it.

And it starts with a 45 year-old drunken man who’s fallen outside the Waldorf Hotel and badly lacerated his thumb. The crew arrive with me and together we coax him to stand up and stagger (with support) to the ambulance. ‘I don’t want you guys’, he says. PCSO’s have been hovering over him since he was seen dropping to the ground by a MOP. Now he’s embarrassed that we’ve been called. He’s also useless to man and beast until he’s sobered up and got his thumb fixed.

Back to the Aldwych later on for a 46 year-old woman who fainted in a restaurant. She had a history of passing out in her younger days, she tells me but I don’t want to play down the significance of it until she’s had an ECG, so she’s taken to the ambulance and off to hospital by the crew.

One of our frequent flyers turned up at an underground station claiming he had chest pain. He usually goes for ‘I think I’m going to have a fit’ in order to ring the alarm bells of the general public but I know that he’s been in and out of hospital all week, so I expect he’s decided to change tack. I don’t mean to be unkind to him but he knows what he’s doing and he just doesn’t care.

When I got on scene the underground employees very concerned because he wouldn’t talk to them and seemed ‘floppy’. He soon perked up when he was in the back of the ambulance and assured a trip to A&E; the crew weren’t local, so they had never seen him before. He was happy with that.

A tall 20 year-old vomiting drunken female next – I had the pleasure of meeting her as she lay slumped on the floor of the ladies toilets in a bar. I met her weeping friend too. ‘Is she going to be okay? What’s wrong with her?’ I’m then informed that she’s had a ton of wine at high speed tonight, so there really was no medical mystery here. It’s just a shame they don’t have school lessons in which teenagers who want to grow up and drink like this can be educated in the ways of wine.

Some time into the wee small ones I went on a long drive across town to visit a 35 year-old woman who was ‘not alert’, which means all sorts of nonsense things. I arrived and made my way all the way up to the top flat and was greeted by a very drunk lady who immediately verbally abused me. Her friend was sitting on the floor, just as sozzled, being very quiet (therefore not alert). I asked her why she needed an ambulance and, eventually, she told me she didn’t. Meanwhile, the other lady is hovering over us, shouting and swearing - sometimes at her friend and sometimes at me. She just won’t shut up and I find myself competing with her volume in order to get sense out of the situation.

The quiet drunken lady tells me she doesn’t need an ambulance and that there is nothing medically wrong with her but her mate insists that I remove her from the house. I tell her I can’t force anyone to go to hospital and this makes the loud woman even louder. The quiet woman is just sitting there doing nothing.

I called Control and advised them of the situation and requested that the crew be cancelled. They must have heard the racket the lady was making as she continued her tirade of abuse towards me. The door was open and I needed no excuse, so I asked the quiet lady once again if she needed an ambulance – she said no, so I decided I’d had enough and left. I was followed by the angry woman and she stopped at the door as I stepped into the landing. ‘Excuse me, Officer, or whatever you think you are’ she said with an evil hate-filled look on her face. ‘So you aren’t going to help? You won’t take her away from this house?’

‘Nope’, I replied.

Then I made my way down stairs after receiving an earful of screamed expletives followed by the door slamming in my face. It’s bad enough being abused but it’s worse knowing that I’ve travelled miles out of my area to get it!

I had asked Control not to send anyone to the address unless the police were going too but later on I was told that a crew had been sent automatically by FRED without any warning to them about what had happened to me. They, of course, were treated to the same abuse and left the scene quickly.

I’ve said it before and I won’t be convinced otherwise; a good proportion of the calls we get to police stations for people held in custody are non-starters in medical terms. We are the excuse they need to get out of the cell and into a hospital bed. For some it’s even a chance to do a runner. That’s why the 31 year-old man who claimed to be suffering Sickle Cell Crisis was handcuffed as he was led to the ambulance. Right from the start I wasn’t convinced of his authenticity – neither were the officers escorting him, the custody sergeant or the hospital staff nurse. Pain, of course, is immeasurable and therefore easy to fake and a real crisis can be very painful but his sham behaviour poured scorn on the very real suffering of those who need help when they sickle.

The last call of the night took me to a narrow, dark alleyway, at the bottom of which lay a man’s body. I was led there by a drug dealer who’d run out of the shadows to get me as I waited at my RV point for the police to back me up. I wasn't supposed to be going in there just yet but it was too late now and I was on my way into that place without any protection. It was an uncomfortable experience.

The dealer told me that the guy had bought and injected Heroin, then slumped into unconsciousness. This is quite normal but if a dealer looks worried about the state of a punter, then something was awry. I was either being set up or the guy lying on the ground down there was dead…or close to it.

I drove down the alley and parked far enough away to get the space I’d need for an escape if I needed it. There was no way I could turn my car around in a hurry, so I’d have to use it as refuge...or simply run.

I went up to the body and saw that he was breathing but very badly. His respirations were slow, shallow and bubbly. There was foam coming from his mouth and he didn’t respond to me at all. I grabbed what I could from the car and saw that my colleagues were on their way down to help. The ambulance couldn’t fit inside the alleyway, so they’d parked up in the road and were on foot. I shouted for them to hurry because I don’t think they realised what was going on.

I turned the man onto his back and, with the help of the crew, began the routine of saving his life. He was ‘bagged’ and Narc’d, as is the usual drill in these circumstances. The police turned up just as we were getting serious and they assumed he wasn’t going to make it. The place was cordoned off and CID were brought in, which I thought was a little premature.

We got him on the trolley bed and rolled it all the way down to the end of the alley and into the ambulance, where he began to stir. Another bolus of Naloxone woke him right up and when I left he was sitting up and singing like a canary…well, you know what I mean. It was a bad-start job that turned itself around in less than twenty minutes. Sometimes you wonder why you take risks for this kind of stupidity.

Be safe.

1 comment:

Uncle J said...

"a good proportion of the calls we get to police stations for people held in custody are non-starters in medical terms."

As an ex-copper, sometime 'custody officer', I can quite understand why - and that proportion is likely to increase following the IPCC report into the case of Mark Camm