Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Fatal judgment

Night shift: Eight calls; one assisted-only, one declined, one dead at scene and the rest by ambulance.

Stats: 3 eTOH; 1 Hyperglycaemia; 1 EP fit; 1 Fall ? #; 2 Head injuries (on one call); 1 Faint with head injury; 1 Purple.

As I said, this is the time of year for the stupidest people to do the dumbest things...sometimes with fatal consequences.


My VDI delayed the response to my first call of the night; a 25 diabetic who was hyperglycaemic. By the time I arrived a crew was turning up – they’d been run from the north for almost three miles to help out. The patient wasn’t critical and could have waited longer...or gone by bus.


An epileptic 28 year-old man walked to the ambulance unassisted when he was brought out of an underground station by the crew. I’d driven a long way to get to this 'emergency' and the ambulance had reached him a few minutes before I got on scene. I wasn’t required and it looked like the patient had made a full recovery.


A 68 year-old drunken man fell and smashed his face on the ground. Witnesses say he was knocked out. His cheek was badly bruised and swollen and when I examined the inside of his mouth I could see the zygoma (cheek bone) protruding into it. I guessed it was broken on that basis. First aid had been rendered by MOPs who were waiting for my arrival, so the bleeding had been controlled.

The man was very well-spoken; posh in fact. He told me he was a writer and when I asked about the old scars on his wrists he became very defensive and refused to talk about them...fair enough.

He and his shopping were loaded onto the ambulance fifteen minutes after I met him.


An assault call to Regent Street next. Two males alleged they had been attacked by a gang of youths who jumped out of a car. They were both beaten up in the street. Both men had fairly minor injuries – both had been hit around the head. One of them had a more significant injury than the other – he was the one lying on the ground with the crew standing over him when I arrived. Police had cordoned off the scene, including the road itself, which caused havoc with traffic.

The young men were mouthy and drunk. The police had no doubt that they were somehow involved in starting the fight and so everything they said was listened to critically. The man who’d been on the ground asked if his injury was ‘a good one’ as he sat in the ambulance. He was obviously more concerned about the battle scar he might be left with in terms of pride than worry.


Off to an art gallery on my next call and I was dealing with a 44 year-old woman who’d fainted while coming down the stairs. Her fall produced a minor head injury – a laceration to the crown of her scalp. She’d need to go to hospital and get it glued shut but otherwise she was fine.


I got back to the station for a rest and waited five minutes before getting a request to travel four miles to an area I didn’t know for a stomach ache. By the time I’d reached the main road into the area ORCON was out the window and I was stopped in my tracks by a police van blocking the way. An incident had taken place further down the road and no traffic was being allowed in. I called Control and let them know that my journey had come to an end. I was cancelled and turned tail to get back to the station.

Then a 2am call came in for an 18 year-old who’d fallen thirteen floors after an argument with his mother. The job was miles away but I headed down at speed, fully expecting to be cancelled for one of two reasons – I was probably further away than another resource that would get there earlier and the boy was likely to be dead. I was correct on one count.

When I arrived the police were on scene in numbers and a crew had pulled up a minute or so before I got there. I could see the ambulance inside a small courtyard below a very tall block of flats. It was eerily quiet as I approached the figures standing around the crew. The paramedic was holding a BVM (bag-valve-mask) and the technician was preparing equipment. The FR2 defibrillator was on but there was nothing happening with urgency. They were looking down at the body of a young man - he lay like a starfish, arms outstretched, on the concrete. Blood had gathered in a think dark pool under his head. His eyes were shut and he was very still.

‘He’s got massive head and chest injuries’ the paramedic told me.

Not much else was said. He’d come down over a hundred and fifty feet. There was no chance of recovering him – his injuries were incompatible with life and his ECG continuously flat. We all agreed to call it before we started.

The story of how this teenager ended up dead on the ground is quite shocking. The ambulance paramedic and I headed up to the flat where he lived and found it full of quiet people. The mother, two teenage girls and another female friend were there with four or five police officers. There was only one person crying – one of the teenage girls. The mother started shouting and cursing the boy who lay a long way below. It was surreal; nobody seemed to be truly affected by what had happened.

After a short time in the flat the events of what happened unfolded and then my colleague and I realised something was amiss.

The boy had argued with his mother about a trivial matter. He had a habit of climbing over the balcony of the flat and standing on a thin ledge on the other side, holding onto the balcony itself. From there he would threaten to jump. It was emotional nonsense and he never carried out his threat, so when he did it again tonight, nobody in the flat took him seriously.

His fatal mistake was to hold onto the Christmas lights that were wound round the balcony on the outside. He used the tubular light strip for support but it came away in his hands and he simply slipped down it, like he’d grabbed a greasy rope. I looked over the balcony and the light strip was waving about in the wind, flashing happily away. Far below it was the body of the boy who’d used it to threaten his loved ones.

When he fell only one person saw it – one of the girls. She sent his friend downstairs to ‘see if he was alright’. His friend had found the body, called an ambulance then sat in a corner crying. That’s where he was when I arrived. A police officer had wrapped a blanket around him and was trying to reassure him.

My colleague and I realised within a short time that the family hadn’t been told he was dead. They actually believed we were ‘working on him’ and that he was going to be okay. One of the officers broke the news and the noise level changed immediately from subdued and angry to screams and cries of horror and shock.

I left the scene with a heavy heart. I couldn’t explain to myself the motive to be found in a person stupid enough to throw away such a short life in such a bizarrely careless way. The debt of grief left behind will never be repaid. I drove off and looked at the building as it appeared in my rear-view mirror. The Christmas lights were still busily flashing their ‘peace and joy’ message from the 13th floor.


A stupid person lay on the pavement near Trafalgar Square. He didn’t move, so a MOP called an ambulance for him. ‘What are you doing lying on the pavement?’ I asked him when I arrived. ‘Making it look good’, he replied with a silly, drunken grin.

I got him up and into the ambulance when it arrived but as I sat in my car completing the paperwork for this call, he jumped out of the side door, slammed it hard and stormed off, middle finger in the air shouting ‘F**k them!’ Clearly he hadn’t warmed to the crew for some reason.


My last call of the night angered me because it was a typical imported fraud. An East European man lay inside a public toilet – one of those automatic things. An engineer found him and another man sitting there when he opened it to carry out routine maintenance but the other man scarpered, leaving one on the floor. Instead of leaving when requested, he decided to feign illness and the engineer had no choice but to call an ambulance.

I got there and looked inside. The man was curled up on the floor. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I asked. ‘Epilepsy’ he bleated.

This was rubbish. There was no sign of him having had a fit and the engineer told me that he hadn’t done anything untoward since being discovered. The man wanted a hospital bed and that was that.

When the crew arrived we persuaded him to leave the toilet or the police would be called. Once he knew the game was up, he stood up, ranted a bit, stomped off and threw bins and property around the street in a demonstration of his contempt for us. Is that really the type of person we want wandering our streets?

After tonight I know there’s more to come.

Be safe.

6 comments:

Matt M said...

Thank you for helping the people you could help. Sorry you had to deal with the ones didn't want help, didn't need help, or were beyond help.

TonyF said...

I wonder when the explosion will happen, or Implosion to be more accurate.

Geek said...

I'm a new reader to your blog. Fantastic record of events. - I hope to be as skilled as you one day. (Final year student nurse).

Caroline A said...

You are such a good writer.

Isn't it ridiculous, the way that teenage boy fell from that block of flats, being petty and taking such a risk with his life!

I loved your book by the way. You inspired me to become a Community First Responder!

joan said...

Happy Xmas xf and family (and readers)
wishing you all the very best for 2009
Lv Joan & family x

Louise said...

My Christmas adventure starts tomorrow night!

Hope the rest of shifts are good! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Louise x