Saturday, 4 July 2009

Silly Saturday

Day shift: Four calls; one hoax, one false alarm, one assisted-only and one by car.

Stats: 1 Head injury; 1 Faint.

These hot summer days are biting into the day-job-quota as people pass out all over the place for the want of a drink of water or attention (or both). Then there’s piggie flu which, predictably, is making a mockery of the system by clogging it up with people who should really know better and who think they will die if they sneeze too hard. On top of all this, we still have leftover drunkards from the weekend nights and those who think a minor injury (if it happened at home they wouldn’t dream of dialling 999) in the workplace is somehow elevated to an emergency simply because it is the workplace – I call this backside-covering.

So the first call was a hoax; of course it was – the guy calls us from a phone box to say that he will jump in front of a train in the next 30 minutes. He is warning us of his impending suicide and giving us more than a generous slice of ORCON time to get to him and cuddle him before he settles his score with God. I am sent to ‘investigate’ and sit outside a row of anonymous red phone booths waiting for something to happen but nothing does. He isn’t there and the next report tells me that he is making his way to Piccadilly Circus to end it all, so I am tasked with standing by, along with a couple of PCSOs and the British Transport Police (BTP), at said station for the next hour until it becomes obvious to all, and at great expense to the tax payer, that he isn’t going to show.

My theory is that he is a forgetful person who left the phone box, with the intention of doing himself harm but was distracted by something along the route – possibly the tourist tat sold in one of the little shops in Piccadilly Circus. He then completely forgot his mission and was probably standing on a corner, eating an ice cream and enjoying the sun – thinking how wonderful life is, as he watched us all converge on the tube station as if some kind of emergency was about to happen. ‘Hmm…I wonder what that fuss is all about?’ he probably thought to himself, as he crunched through the one and only flake that was embedded in his over-priced soft whip ‘99’.

The other side of the spectrum for my next call and I am sitting with an elderly lady who had fallen off a low step and banged her head. The 84 year-old didn’t think it was an emergency and I had to agree. There were two cops with her and they were playing safe, which is fair enough. She had a few members of her family with her too and they were keen to get on with being tourists, so when the ambulance arrived, we checked her out thoroughly (she hadn’t been knocked out and had no serious medical conditions) and she went on her way, family in tow. It’s always refreshing to meet a patient who knows s/he isn’t dying and can recognise a minor injury a mile away. Her age meant that a proper check was useful but her generation is still a bit mystified when we worry about such trifling things.

A ‘collapse in doorway’ turned out to be nothing more than a sleeping vagrant. MOPS had panicked and assumed he was dead (obviously), ignoring the fact that he was wrapped up as if asleep, he was positioned (curled up) as if asleep and he was snoring in a doorway (as if asleep). But hey, don’t let me get all arrogant ‘cos we all know that it takes years and years of medical training to spot the difference between slumber and death.

Two PCSOs were chatting to him when I got there – the road was closed at the top, so I had to get out and walk – tsk! I asked him if he was ok and he said yes. ‘Do you need an ambulance?’, I ventured. ‘Erm, no’, he replied as if I had been let loose from a dodgy institution.

Now this poor sod had been trying to get a decent sleep – he is already on the street so can’t be getting a good kip during the busy, noisy nights. He puts his head down in a doorway of a weekend; not bothering anyone and not asking for attention, then ends up with PCSOs and a paramedic bugging him about his health and lifestyle. Not fair really. If you are a concerned MOP, please check for signs of life and the presence of a sleeping bag before you call us out.

I climbed so many stairs to get to a 21 year-old girl who had fainted in a theatre that I thought I might join her myself. She was on the floor, legs raised in traditional fashion, with her boyfriend guarding her. She works there and the heat just got to her, although she admitted having a history of such events and being a generally poorly person, so I walked her gently and slowly down Everest until we got to the car. Then I took her and her partner to hospital where, unfortunately, she was made to sit in the crowded, Swine-Flu infested waiting room until someone could get round to seeing her – probably 12 hours later.

Be safe.


Sophie said...

Just out of interest talking about backside covering for workplace injuries. As one of the workplace first aiders I always wonder to myself in what situations should I call an ambulance. So far I have only seen the most minor injuries. But at what point is it reasonable to call an ambulance? For example if someone has a broken arm is it fair to call? If someone faints? I don't want to waste anyones time but also don't want to not call when I should have.

Great blog by the way, I find it really interesting.

Fee said...

Aaah, the dreaded swine flu. As a nation, have we become so accustomed to the nanny state that we want our brows mopping as well?

Don't know about London, but every time I go into M&S in Edinburgh on a hot day, there always seems to be at least one pensioner over-wrapped for the weather (complete with hat) looking about ready to faint ... never happens in any other shop. Bizarre.

"This is not just a faint, this is an M&S faint"

Caroline A said...

Stuart, can you believe this call. It's the Michael Jackson 911 phone call. The Doctor was doing CPR on a bed!!! Idiot. I'm not surprised he didn't make it. The call taker couldn't tell him what to do because the doctor is above him. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why you continue to make light of the swine flu. People - the majority of which are young people - are dying. If it does mutate and the death rate increases, you will be at the front and center of this. Hopefully, this won't happen but I think I would 'read up' a little and prepare accordingly.

I've read you blog for awhile now and you seem to be getting more and more impatient with your calls. Maybe for your own well being, it's time for you to branch out.

Xf said...


I make light of as much as I can under the stressful conditions that we are currently working in. This is a diary and reflects how I feel and I'm sorry if my warped humour and sense of anger at the kind of calls we get upsets you.

As for Swine Flu - I have read up and I am always keeping abreast of things like this but those who have died were people with underlying health issues - normal flu would probably have killed them. Everyone knows that the young and vulnerable will succumb but I am not going to be sucked into the crisis-thinking that is expected of everyone. I remain as rational as possible about it, I'm afraid.

There are far scarier things out there to be wound up about and, if you read up at all, you'd know that many, many more people die each year of common or garden Flu - should we all get hysterical about that?

I feel for anyone who has lost someone through a viral illness like this BUT, as yet, not many (if any) deaths are attributable directly to it.

Tom said...

I think that the coping mechanism, employed by members of the emergency service might appear on the face of it somewhat macabre. However it works.

At my wife's surgery, there is a routine employed to dissuade patients with symptoms from going to the surgery, as there is concern that other patients may well be infected. The thinking behind it appears to be of the, 'lets wait for the real nasty' before causing a panic.

There are a host of pathogens happy to do harm to us, and the number of Swine Flu deaths compared to those who have succombed to infections like MRSA is relatively modest. It is a matter of perspective.

Xf said...


Quite right but if we really want to get our perspective right, what about those millions of people dying of hunger? Isn't that a kind of pandemic (even though not world wide). We are not publicising that every day.

Alison Craig said...

Or road deaths. About 3,000 a year in the UK, over 40,000 a year in the US and about 1.3 million a year worldwide (WHO).

Tom said...

I have to agree, and like most MOP, I thought there was a hunger pandemic. However, when introduced by a friend to a PH.D student, I became aware of a voracious killer that I had not given much thought.

Diarrhoea is a merciless, and widespread killer, which when explained to me quickly stopped my childish quips.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry my comment came across much harsher than was meant. I will try again. I feel the reason people panic over swine flu is that they are not informed. Media hypes it but does not explain it. Death and destruction sell. Governments try to downplay with 'mild' comments. Any communicable disease is something to take notice. Proper preparation and good sound truthful advice will go along way to stop much of what you have to deal with on a daily basis. If you also buy into 'mild' and no big deal, then you are putting yourself at risk and you are exactly the kind of person we don't want at risk! What you do everyday will be needed much more in a health crisis than the rest of us. Hope this explains my earlier comment.

Xf said...


Your personal opinion is of value here, as is everyone else's, so don't worry about me or anyone reading this blog taking things the wrong way.

I'm not buying into the Government's spin, believe me, but they don't want people panicking either. We have just had our first so-called 'healthy' Swine Flu death and that changes things BUT, as I said before, what's the point of someone like me panicking or worrying?

I will continue to treat those with mild symptoms as nonsense cases when they dial 999 simply because those with more serious symptoms (and they will start to increase in number) are in need of us right now and those with sniffles are wasting out resources.

Education and common sense is the answer and you are absolutely right there but the general public, in their masses, prefer panic and disorder. So, my colleagues and I either have to ride it out with what looks like complacency (but really isn't), or we get dragged into the soup of depression that is about to sweep across this country.

Tom said...


I read and understand your comments, and like Xf value your opinion.

Fear not, if any of my own (children/grandchildren) presented with life threatening signs or symptoms, I would be dialling 999. But, the responsible thing to do, is take measured steps to deal with elevated temperatures, aching joints, and other unpleasent effects of infection, while carefully keeping a check on the patients well-being.

If need be call the heavy mob, but better still contain at home.

Excellent obs from Xf.

prudence entwhistle said...

The point of the post, as far as I can interpret it, is that people increasingly tend to overreact to minor complaints. Maybe I (and my parents who trained me 'never fuss') are stupidly stoic, but I would never call 999 unless I was in serious trouble. Perhaps many peopl are now so molly-coddled and inclined to panic that they don't know when they really are in real trouble.

But, perhaps I also have a tendency to generalise, and will live to rue the day that I was so judgemental.

However, since beginning to read this blog in September, I have been shocked - many times - at the tiresome way in which people abuse the amazing service that the LAS provides. Before starting in my current job in August I had never been in an ambulance, but since then I have been accompanied 'in loco parentis' potentially dangerously ill/injured children to hospital on two occasions, and think that we should be hugely grateful for the LAS.

Sorry - I sound tremendously stuffy and virtuous, but I feel very strongly about this sort of thing.

Tom said...


I agree entirely. On an earlier comment I made reference to a time when if a member of the public hit the three 9's there was a job to be done.

Sadly your stoicism, and that of your up-bringing is, like mine a thing of the past.

However, like your parents I hope to imbue, to my children, and theirs a respect, and understanding for the purposes of our emergency services.

Xf said...


This is all about common sense, even in the workplace. Why do we bother having qualified first aiders, who have to pass an exam before being certified, if they can't use their skills and knowledge with common sense to make a judgment call?

A broken arm for most people is NOT life-threatening, so 999 is not the answer - A&E is. The proof of this is in our categorisation of such calls - fractures tend to be Green coded, so not emergencies.

I'm not implying that every fracture is not for an ambulance but I suggest if the person is fit and well and walking about with it (and in little or no pain) then they should be taken by other means.

Someone with chest pain and a grey face is going to die if you don't get an ambulance, right?

It's almost as if society has lost control of its ability to self-diagnose one extreme to the other. If it looks bad, it is bad...if it doesn't, it probably isn't.