Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Paranoid Pandemic

The media love this, don't they? Anything to stir up a mass panic, sell newspapers and generally quieten us all down about the rubbish state of the world economy.

Day shift: Six calls; One assisted-only, three conveyed, two by ambulance.

Stats: 1 Leg pain; 1 Fall; 1 Flu; 2 Abdo pain; 1 D&V.

The Swine Flu uproar hit London today and, predictably, calls were starting to come in from people who were convinced they had it.

A call to a man with leg pain first and I was off to a third floor flat in the expectation that this was a non-emergency and that he would be walking/hopping to the car. It was a Green call and I was surprised that they’d bothered to send me on it because we were busy today and this could have waited.

I walked into the flat and was ushered into a small bedroom where the patient lay on the floor. I knew instantly that he wouldn’t be coming in the car and that an ambulance would be required. Had my instincts told me that he was seriously ill? Had his critical condition made it clear to me that conveying him by car would be dangerous?

Nope. The man had no legs.

Well, he had two stumps and a couple of prosthetic limbs that he couldn’t attach or use because he was in too much pain.

He was from Iraq and I found out that he had been a soldier during the first Gulf War and had lost both legs during that conflict. Now he was in pain, probably caused by inflammation around his stumps. He’d suffered this before but now it was worse than ever. I gave him entonox and that helped a little and my request for an ambulance was acknowledged but I waited an hour with him because the first crew was diverted to a higher category call (predictably).

After the long delay, during which I attempted to keep his pain at bay with gas and air, a crew arrived and I finally got the assistance I needed to get the man downstairs and on the way to hospital.

The next call was a long way off and another Green category that could have waited. It took me almost an hour to get to the 95 year-old woman who’d fallen onto the floor and couldn’t get up. Other calls were coming in but I continued to trundle along until I got to the house. I went in, lifted her from the floor, put her back in her chair and then watched as she walked, unaided, into the living room. I had been greeted with ‘just get me up’ as soon as I’d said hello.

My first patient with delusions of Pig Flu was in her sitting room waiting for me when I arrived at the posh block of flats in Central London. ‘Have I got it?’ she asked as she trembled and fidgeted nervously. She had a headache, achy joints and sinusitis, so obviously she’d jumped to the conclusion that her illness was of Mexican origin.

I tried to persuade her to stay at home and recover but she became upset about the prospect of being alone with what she thought was a deadly virus. Despite the fact that I was sitting two feet away from her and pointed out that I was breathing the same air, she remained true to her paranoia. I called her GP - a Harley Street medic – but he was singularly disinterested, especially when I gave the patient’s name – he obviously knew her well. ‘If she hasn’t been to Mexico then it is impossible for her to catch it’, he told me in a self-assured fashion. I had to disagree with him on that matter simply because it annoyed me that he’d be so arrogant as to assume it wouldn’t become a person-to-person infection – the next few days were to prove him wrong.

'Would you like a tea or coffee?', she asked as she wandered into the kitchen. She wanted me to stay with her I think but I managed to get her to make her mind up - either we get this illness dealt with now in hosiptal or she waits at home (and gets better). 'Okay, I'll go', she said. then she insisted that I take a couple of buns from her - they were in an opened packet - two of them had already been scoffed. I was getting the leftovers but she was trying to be nice, so I took them and they stayed at my station until somebody ate them. Not me, I should point out.

I took the patient to hospital against my better judgment and she resisted that too (even though that is precisely what she’d wanted). Now she was afraid that she might catch the dreaded flu from others in A&E! There’s was no winning with her and she sat in the department waiting room with a handkerchief over her mouth and nose, much to the amusement of the masses gathering there.

The first abdominal pain; a 22 year-old woman at work who made her colleagues call an ambulance, cured miraculously on the way to hospital in the car. As long as her friends and colleagues were around, she was doubled up in pain and quite unable to walk properly but when she was in the back seat of the car with a male friend, she was animated, chatty and made several pain-free phone calls on her mobile. An interesting study will come from such behaviour I think.

I risked the car seats (which are adequately covered) for a 26 year-old vomiting female who’d attempted to get home from work when she started feeling unwell but didn’t make it, getting no further than the underground station. She was constantly being sick and her own diagnosis was that she’d eaten something with wheat in it. She had intolerance to the stuff and suspected she’d inadvertently absorbed some in her food earlier on. Whatever it was, it was giving her the usual double-whammy of Diarrhoea and vomiting (D&V). She carried a suspect plastic container inside which had been a salad that she'd eaten too – it didn’t smell healthy, so I don't think wheat was the problem.

And finally – a 39 year-old woman with ‘chest pains’ turned out to be my second abdo pain (some people just can’t tell the anatomical difference). A crew was on scene, so I left it with them and sped away towards the lights of base and, eventually, home.

Be safe.


Fee said...

I just can't get excited about swine flu. In my job, we see Death Certificates with normal flu every winter. Sometimes, flu kills. Sooner or later we all have to die, of something.

My ambition is to die of something so unusual it will have staff at my life insurance company looking it up on Google!

Xf said...


LOL! My sentiments exactly