Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Hamiflu to be stockpiled in UK

Night shift: Six calls; one no trace, two by car and possibly only one by ambulance.

Stats: 2 Hyperventilations; 1 Febrile child; 1 Head injury; 1 Sore throat.

She's lying on the street vomiting. Her flushed face indicates a temperature change and she has no idea where she is or what she's doing here. Only three hours earlier, she was a fit, healthy and completely lucid human being. Now she is reduced to this. Her limbs are heavy and painful to move and her vision is so blurred she is almost blind. Her confused brain keeps saying the same things over and over again ('help me, help me') and her friends gather around her in deep shock as she deteriorates to unconsciousness. A 999 call will save her but only if it is made now and with 'chest pain' or 'DIB' thrown in. Yes, folks, she is suffering from the most deadly virus known to man and it's spreading to all cultures of society around the world - its WINE FLU and 'Hamiflu' is the only cure... possibly (that or sensible drinking).

Sorry, I couldn't resist. I used the phrase on a night shift as I helped a crew with yet another drunken waster and it stuck. I felt I had to share it with you. I'm not undermining Swine Flu, so don't climb on that soapbox.

The first patient was probably not taken to hospital but I left before the crew made that decision. The 28 year-old woman was having a panic attack after travelling to a train station to meet her husband. I don’t know if the excitement of meeting up with him was the predisposing factor, or the fact that the station was a little hot but she was still hyperventilating twenty minutes after she’d met him. I wish I had that affect on women.

Three cancellations followed in swift succession for similar ‘faints’ in the area; it was one of those nights.

When a child is ill, with a high temperature and has a fit, it is very likely to be a febrile event and not a major concern for us, so the 10 month-old baby with these signs and symptoms and ‘blue lips’ was a NPC for me because the crew rolled up at the same time.

The first drunk of the night had a head injury after falling onto the pub floor. The bar staff was concerned about possible litigation, mistaking him for a lawyer (he was an accountant – same astronomical fees, different objectives) but his minor scalp wound needed no more than a little dressing and a short trip by car to A&E for closing. He was very drunk and the night was yet young; grown up people make the same mistake with alcohol that younger folk do and it continues to astonish me. He rode in the back of the car with a woman he was ‘friends’ with.

In a car, parked up in a side street in Chinatown, a 22 year-old man panicked as his girlfriend worried over his life. He had asthma and was so convinced that his condition was immediately threatening that he kept prodding his arm in a ‘give me a shot’ type of mime. He’d been given adrenaline the last time he had one of his attacks, I was told but I assured him that he wouldn’t be getting one now. Neither was he getting much more than a neb, even though his problem was hyperventilation – a small dose of Salbutamol wasn’t going to help him but it wasn’t going to harm him either. The psychological effect was immediate and he calmed down enough, after leaning out of the door three times to vomit, to accept that he was getting better.

The crew took the job further and within ten minutes had him smiling again with no treatment required. Again, he didn’t need to go to hospital, so he was allowed to continue his night with his girl. He beamed at me as I sat in the car writing my PRF. His thumbs-up signalled that all was good and I felt that I’d probably saved his dignity, even if I hadn’t been needed for anything else.

Then the most ridiculous call of the night – possibly the month, from a 17 year-old boy staying at a hostel who got one of his girlfriends to call an ambulance because he was having difficulty breathing and ‘could not speak’ and had (let’s chuck it in) ‘chest pain’. He met me at the door of the grubby place and stood talking at some length about his current medical emergency, for which an ambulance was surely en route.

‘I have a sore throat and haven’t eaten for three days’, he tells me.

I gave him my now well-known ‘so?’ look and he almost looked shocked that I hadn’t got out the resus bag for him. Instead I went to the car and cancelled the valuable crew so that they could go hunt for a Red3 drunken emergency or something.

I decided to take him to A&E myself, rather than stand in the doorway arguing with him about what a life or death emergency was and trying to explain to him what the word ‘infection’ meant. He’d already been diagnosed and had the pills to prove it but no, he insisted his life was in jeopardy. ‘What if I die?’ he asked me. ‘You will, eventually’, I thought.

The beginning of this comical convo initiated with him passing me his mobile phone so that his girlfriend could explain to me what was wrong with him (because he couldn’t speak). I felt stupid standing there with him right in front of me as a young lady told me his symptoms. Then I lost patience and handed the phone back to him, telling him to talk to me himself and not by proxy.

Nothing was said by me on the way to hospital because I was quite annoyed with him I’m afraid to say, but he moaned a lot from the back seat – mainly about how bad his throat felt and how his life had taken this dramatic turn for the worse. I really believe he’d never experienced illness of any kind before or that his comfy, protected life was being ripped from him now that he was on his own in traveller’s land.

The no trace call was for a 29 year-old who’d been bitten by an insect and thought she might be reacting to it. It was an early morning job and the park where I’d been sent was deserted except for a few sleepers (some in bags, some not) who’d decided grass was good.

The crew joined me in the fruitless search for the insect-bitten victim but all we managed to do was wake a French man up from his slumber beneath the trees of the great park. ‘Parlez-vous Francais?’ he said, after I’d asked him, in a language he couldn’t understand, if he’d seen a distraught woman around recently. Even in French it would have been a question open to the worst jokes and one-liners possible. So, we let him carry on sleeping and considered that she must have gone home and thought better of her hysteria.

This is a message to all insects out there (it’s possible a few of you read this) – please don’t bite people at 5am ‘cos it’s not even dinner time and they will all think they are anaphylactic when the first bump on their face appears. At least carry Piriton with you (under you wing or around your little legs) so that you can offer a remedy for the panic that will ensue.

Be safe.


Fiz said...

I always have pirton and an epi-pen and as my GP said cheerfully, "They don't always work, you know!".

Tom said...

In truth, there is no way I could cope with the present demands on the service.

17 yo wastrels, drunken professoinals, and an idiotic population bent on instant gratification, be it super srength alcopops to immediate medical attention at a whim.

For those in genuine need, keep the good work up Stuart.

ViatorT said...

I know it isnt particularly relevant, but I got 'assulted' for the first time 2nite was only a few wacks to the legs, but it was suprisingly enough cause it was due 90% to wine-flu!!
And im not even an SP or HCP, just a first aider for a voluntary organisation!
Its on the spread!!

Amandajam said...

I would just like to say that not all citizens of Britain are idiots... My daughter caught real, actual, swine flu (confirmed by swab, before they stopped doing that:-)) and so did I and my son, (the dr didn't swab me and my son, but considering the same symptoms within 24 hours, it's reasonable to assume). We did not panic, I called our G.P on the advice of the school, since that is where she had fallen ill, and where other suspected cases where known. I really sympathise with the emergency services, they are known as EMERGENCY for a reason, which I and my children know. I just wanted to say that you, and all other emergency workers, are very much appreciated by our family. I hope that you will accept that, in the face of everything that you have to deal with in this climate. Thank you, and all your colleagues.

Xf said...


No, you are right, there is still a minority of idiots in this country but I fear they are growing exponentially as they churn out child versions of themselves (chidiots).

Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated.

None said...

Lol, do you feel sorry for any of your patients?:P I understand it's all for humour but then I wonder if you do actually like any of them or if you just dislike anyone that needs help :P

Xf said...


Im sorry that I seem to come across like that but I do care for my patients. I love what I do but there are so many that I don't have sympathy for unfortunatley and I am honest about it....those you drink too much or call 999 when it is not an emergency for example. Remember that for each one of them, there is an old man or old lady having a heart attack somewhere... or a child in trouble and we can't get to them.

What you are reading is my black sense of humour and my critical irony. Those who have met me know that is just how I am but they also know I do my job with care and pride wherever possible.

This blog would be just like any other if I abandoned my honest cynical approach and that would be boring.

If 80% of those who called us were genuinely in need of emergency care then I guess I would write differently.