Monday, 18 May 2009

Dead drunk

Day shift: Five calls; one refused, two conveyed and two by ambulance.

Stats: 1 RTC; 1 Headache; 1 Hyperglycaemia; 1 Minor burn; 1 eTOH.

It feels like a long time since I last wrote a post up and I guess the stresses of getting the new book out on time (it’s late I’m afraid) have displaced me from my usual habit of working, writing and posting. But I’m back again and before I launch into the hated night shifts to come, I have a couple of daylight shifts to write about.

Two cyclists collided on a busy road and one of them came off and crashed to the ground, sustaining minor injuries to his leg and elbow. He also had a nasty looking bruise to his left lower abdomen, just about where his spleen sits, so I took him to A&E to get that checked out. It became more painful during the journey, so it was probably wise to get a second opinion.

Then a 25 year-old man had his colleagues call an ambulance because he had a headache, felt dizzy and couldn’t see properly. Now, I crow on about how much time is wasted on calls like this but, like everything else, you can never rule out a possibly serious condition, even with the most benign signs and symptoms. I have dealt with patients before who have presented like this – especially the vision thing – and, despite their good health and youth, they have surprised everyone by suddenly deteriorating as the result of a neurological problem.

In this man’s case, I had the same suspicion – he was young, healthy and had never had cause to call an ambulance before. Now he had this frontal headache and visual disturbance, so he was taken to hospital for examination.

An observer – Ana – joined me for a short ride-out at this point in my day and as soon as she got her jacket on, we were on scene for a 62 year-old alcoholic man who’d been found collapsed in the street. Police were present and the man on the ground remained slumped but conscious at their feet. I didn’t recognise him, so I assumed he was new in this part of town.

He had been drinking but hadn’t eaten for a few days, he told me. He is a type 2 diabetic and when I checked his BM I found it to be quite high (up in the lower-mid twenties). He had two out of three from the classic triad for hyperglycaemia; polydipsia, polyuria and he phased from gentle as a lamb to vociferous annoyance.

I arranged for him to be visited by someone from London Street Rescue, so that he could be given shelter and food and an ambulance arrived to take him to short-term sustenance.

A call for a burned eye turned out to be a very minor thing indeed. The 23 year-old female works in a café and managed to get hot coffee in her eye (mostly her eyelid) when she bumped into a colleague carrying a cup of the stuff. When I arrived, she was in a small room where water had been provided to douse the injury just after it happened.

She was a diminutive Italian girl with a sense of humour about the whole thing and we both agreed that she should get her eye checked out at A&E, even though it really was an insignificant burn and her eyelid was hardly swollen. As I packed her and her friend into the car, I made sure that the offending cup-carrying waitress who’d caused the injury felt very guilty about it. Smiles were thrown back and forth and the day seemed brighter. Thank goodness for those with a sense of fun.

Poor Ana only got to see the worst of a day shift in her few hours out; a drunken alcoholic at the start and another one to end the day. The Lithuanian man had been lifted off the ground by police after the public had called an ambulance for a supposedly dead man on the pavement. The Red1 category soon changed to amber when it started to dawn on everyone around him that he was probably just drunk. The clue was the ‘? Drunk’ statement given over the phone I think.

He wasn’t interested in my help and refused to have any obs carried out, so the police officers agreed to take him in their car and drop him off in a local park so that he could sleep it off.

After I dropped Ana off, I heard another call go out to one of the MRU paramedics; an unconscious man was lying in the street. The location given was the same area that the cops had dropped off our last patient. So, the drunk Lithuanian was once again generating tax-coin calls and once again we had no choice but to send a solo and an ambulance to him, even though I called in to explain who he was and that he’d refuse anyway.

Meanwhile, throughout the day, Tamil protestors were causing absolute chaos. Parliament Square and the surrounding roads were shut down and my short run back to base became an epic journey as traffic ground to a stand-still – every bus on the Whitehall route had been diverted and so it took me, and hundreds of other homeward-bound people, much longer to get home. After twelve hours on duty and an hour each-way commute, the extra hour or so that I was forced to endure as a result of this disruption was not sympathetically received I’m afraid.

Be safe.


Mike said...

Enjoy your blog and I have a question for you; why are the night shifts so hated? I'm a paramedic in the US (New Jersey) and in my service you work either days or nights.
I've worked nights for > 20 years and much prefer it; we get paid more, see sicker patients but are not as busy as days.


Xf said...


Well, I don't hate them that much but I prefer not to do them! We get paid more too but we see drunker patients (as well as sicker ones) and, apart from the odd weekday, we can be much busier at night.

Welsh girl said...

As a nurse who did many years of night- it's the lack of quality sleep that makes me hate nights. Noisy neighbours, lawnmowers, doorbells, DIY...the list is endless!!

Little Miss Ileostomy said...

The protestors are really winding me up now. I came out of the office on Monday and wondered why Vic St was dead and then realised they'd broken out of the Square yet again. This time some of them were lying under a couple of bendy buses on Westminster Bridge Road - I did ask the policemen if they could not just move the bus and squash them!

There were three ambulances and a car, as well as what seemed like half the Met. I just wonder how much this has cost and why the powers that be are letting it carry on -they break free and occupy the road at least once a week!

Anonymous said...

I suppose it depends on what kind of an area you are covering re the night shifts.

During a weekday night shift i can often go into work and lye down on the bed in there and not wake up until the shift ends, that can be nice, but then sometimes, on weekends and the likes all them drunken calls dont go down well!

Ian said...

I agree with you about the Tamil protestors. Enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

It probably stinks of politcal and social ignorance, but, what are they trying to acheive by lobbying at our parliment? Theres no way on earth we could intervene surely?
And what motivation would we have to do so?
Also stuart, how delayed would you think the book is? (ive already bought it) but Sp services are keeping hushed up about the whole thing! :-)
is a crictial delay?

Xf said...


I agree. We can do nothing but I would say that if they are so passionate about it, there are enough of them to go over there and cause trouble for their own Government.

We have enough problems of our own unfortunately. I have no sympathy for people who force their children into the road and use them as obstructions so that the police cannot carry out their duties, rightly or wrongly.

The book is a bit late but not critically. My fault, I've been tweaking it to get it just right. It is due to go to print on Friday, so should be out before the end of the month.

Anonymous said...

Sorted! Im applying for paramedic sciences in the next few months, looking at heartfordshire and plymouth, so I'll be putting the book to the test for sure!
Good luck with the shift!