Monday, 3 August 2009

The flying drunk

Night shift: Ten calls; two assisted-only; one treated on scene; one no patient contact; one hoax and the rest by ambulance.

Stats: 2 eTOH; 1 EP fit; 1 Fall from height; 1 Abdo pain; 1 Headache; 1DOAB; 1 Assault.

There’s nothing pretty about a 20 year-old woman who is slumped in a doorway, drunkenly asleep with a fly-catching gaping mouth and a bottle of wine by her side. The police were just ahead of me and stood back until I had shaken her awake, which only took a moment and almost no effort. The man in the little shop across the street stood in his doorway, shaking his head in disapproval and disgust. He was probably the one who’d called us out on this ‘unconscious woman’ 999 adventure and he knew that she was just worse for wear and unfashionably visible near Bond Street, so had to be removed. This was the job of the emergency services of course because the council don’t have human clean up units. Personally, I’d contribute a few quid in tax to make that happen, then we can go see Mrs Nora Riley when she has her first heart attack.

The drunkard woke up, demanded her dignity back and stormed off, minus her booze, which had been confiscated by the cops. I love a happy ending, don’t you?

I treated the next patient on scene, he was recovering from an epileptic fit at a train station and insisted that he didn’t need to go to hospital, so I got a signature and he got to look after himself at home.

A drunken Estonian man climbed a safety bar 20 feet up on a mezzanine cafĂ© in a busy train station (the same one I’d just visited for the epileptic patient), he teetered around contemplating his next move before deciding that vertical was best. He jumped straight onto the cold stone floor below, landing on his feet and crumpling like a used bag of crisps (chips for my U.S. friends) by all accounts.

I arrived with a crew to find him lying on his back, kind of unconscious but more drunk than unwell. He didn’t have a mark on him but the fall was decent enough to produce ‘invisible’ injuries and a hard landing on the feet can cause compression damage to the spine as well as basal skull fractures (think of all that energy travelling up the spinal column), so he was handled as if he’d been hit by a car – or had jumped from a height…which he had.

HEMS was requested and they arrived by car (they don’t fly at night) and assisted with a more or less finished job; we’d already collared, cannulated and oxygenated him.

This man had the smelliest feet I’ve encountered at close quarters for a long time – if he jumped to get away from the stench, I wasn’t surprised. It was gag-inducing stuff and his long, thick and thoroughly blackened toenails were no advertisement for his country of origin or the pristine condition of our helping white gloves.

The man on the floor had been ‘practising’ his death-defying moves up on that balcony, according to witnesses, and so we became more and more convinced that he had no intention of hurting himself and that he was probably some kind of East European circus gymnast who knew exactly how to fall. He proved our cynicism correct by staging a miraculous recovery and attempting to escape from the ambulance whilst verbally abusing the crew en route to hospital. He was a drunken fool who’d cashed in on our stupidly generous system by a) collecting his free handout in order to get drunk and b) displaying his contempt for this country by charging us even more tax-dosh for ‘healthcare’ and transportation to hospital. He typified the reasons behind our slowly atrophying State-cares-for-all culture and the gathering argument for sensible policing of our delicate financial position. For me, however, he was a waste of time and money for many other reasons and his feet didn’t help his case at all.

No patient contact for the 25 year-old woman with abdo pain who walked out all smiley and drinking a glass of water as the crew prepared to take her to the emergency department.

Then a 30 year-old chef told me ‘I can’t breathe’ as he completed full sentences, explaining that he’d recently had Swine Flu. He was taken to the ambulance with a mask on his face. Well, they do it in hospital so I thought we’d join the drama set on this one.

Another patient whose cause for concern was not being able to do something (in this case ‘I can’t feel my body’), had a headache. Again, like the pig-flu chef, he was at work and the pattern that I have become very familiar with was playing out as normal. Low paid workers have little or no protection when they feel unwell or simply want a day off work. They know they will be sacked but if an ambulance is called and it all seems like a genuine emergency, then they may just have a job to go back to when they have rested for a day or two. So, even though the argument for this so-called ‘black economy’ is that it sustains the country (and I agree with that), ironically, we pay more when hundreds or thousands of these people are taken to hospital on the basis that they cannot ‘take a sickie’ when they feel like it. If we just paid them a fair wage we probably wouldn’t have this new problem (which is growing).

Anyway, this man had nothing but a headache and he could have coped with it but the additional stuff, neurological and serious-sounding to the untrained brain ( he cant feel his body remember) merited an ambulance and a trip to hospital. He walked all the way to the vehicle without any problem whatsoever, incidentally. Oh, and I’m not writing this with gritted teeth or clenched jaw (some of you imagine me like that I think); I’m recording something of the general deterioration of our culture, care system, independence and common sense which has going awry. I look after of me and mine, so I don’t really care if people need to use us like this (unless they abuse us deliberately and spitefully) – it’s a matter of survival for some, and the lack of an emergency response because we are tied up with such social issues, is a gambit on life or death to others which the Government and some fence-sitting socialists will have to account for eventually.

Tonight was the closest to a knock-out blow for me in the job so far. I was called to deal with a huge bear of a man who was collapsed on the floor of a club. He was very drunk and possibly (likely) very stoned out of his skull too. He was intermittently quiet and aggressive, depending on what you said to him. One punch from this guy would have taken most of the people in the room down – I was with a crew and a few security guys and had asked for more because I had given him Narcan to reverse any opiate he may have taken. There were times when he looked like he had stopped breathing but nobody was brave enough to shake him up too much, so he’d surprise us instead with a sudden awakening on his own –like BOO!

The police arrived to help with his ‘removal’ to the ambulance; we all knew he wasn’t going to come quietly or willingly, so their hands were required to assist. And, to be honest, he was as gentle as a very large, bearded, leather-clad, tattooed and chained up lamb as we got him closer to the vehicle but he kicked off a bit when he realised what we were doing. He had to be ‘persuaded’ inside the ambulance by the cops, where he promptly collapsed to the floor. I climbed in to get him to his feet and found myself alone with the task. He pulled himself up with some of my help but I was thrown violently back against the bar across the top cabinets of the ambulance. My head made very hard contact (everyone inside and outside the vehicle heard the crack of my skull) with it as the full weight of his body crashed against me as he sat down. I had a moment of blackness to enjoy and then shook it off but it was very close and I had a flash-nightmare about being sent to hospital in an ambulance myself.

I have to admit that after that incident, I made a few minor driving errors (mainly red traffic lights and the proximity of large vehicles) before I realised that I still hadn’t recovered from the blow to my head, so I went back to the station and rested until the clouds cleared. After that my night shift went swimmingly…

A Drunk on a Bus (DOAB) tested my return to normality. Two young out-of-area female EMTs were gently shaking him and coaxing him to comply and get off the bus. He, of course, wasn’t taking a blind bit of notice and I applied my own technique, which is tried and tested. I shouted ‘Wake up and get off the bus please!’ as I hauled him into an upright position. Don’t worry, he was drunk…he was asleep and he was on the bus. I always check these things before I go bowling in. The new crew have either learned that this part of town is different and there is a particular way of doing things or that I am a very rude paramedic. I didn't hang around to find out.

A running call in Leicester Square next and an Australian man almost got his tooth knocked out by his mate after an argument. The largish bloke was very concerned about the aesthetic damage that had been done and less bothered by the fact that he’d been knocked out cold for a few seconds after the blow had been struck.

Neither he nor his other (less aggressive) friend wanted the cops involved and preferred to sort it out themselves and initially he didn’t want an ambulance but as the horror of his uneven smile dawned on him, he insisted on going to A&E. An ambulance collected him and his friend a few minutes later.

He and his friends were rugby players, so I kind of thought he was behaving like a Hell’s Angels member who’d been scratched by the pet cat and insisting on a plaster when he continually moaned about a bent tooth and then asked for an ambulance.

During this engagement, a young black lad sped past me and attempted to evade the cops for some reason - he even knocked a PCSO about in the escape bid. It took seconds for the world’s combined police forces to descend and catch him as he fled. I don’t know what he did but assaulting the PCSO was a big mistake.

The night ended with a traditional tribute to all those hard-earning decent tax-paying citizens of London town; a hoax call. This one was from a call box (they usually are) and described a man who ‘needs someone to talk to him about where he is’. This was given a Red1 priority – possibly because he’d added the fact that he wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a heart beat, who knows? I was sent to investigate and when I got there I found the usual suspect…an empty phone box. But it was a pretty red one, so that’s ok.

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

I was the first aider who called 999 for your "huge bear of a man"

Sorry to hear you were injured by him, Stuart.

Fiz said...

A friend of my daughter's has been diagnosed as havig swine flu by the ever-helpless and utterly useless phone line. She thought she had a hangover - she had a splitting headache and was being sick. She got her Tamiflu prescription. She says she's felt far worse with "ordinary" flu and is feeling so much better 24 hours later and she hasn't touched the Tamiflu. Doesn't it worry you when I know there have been at least two misdiagnosed cases which were actually meningitis and both people died, when it's 16 year old kids who can't even pronounce the words on the crib sheets?

Xf said...


I have been saying for quite some time that we are going to overlook serious illnesses like Meningitis because of this stupidity.

Now we have a problem with Tamiflu itself - kids are no longer being given it because it poses a risk to their health and I'm hearing reports that adults have been feeling ill effects. Probably because they never had Flu in the first place!

Xf said...


Hey! Small world!

Like I said, he didn't mean it...and I'm over the trauma (although I should have milked it for a few weeks off I guess) :-)

JB102 said...

I can explain why it got a red 1. Call taker error. Should have been Amber 2 if he's a first person caller refusing to answer questions. They normally notice those errors though so I guess it slipped through the net.

Toni said...

Like you said, sad to see that our country has got to the stage of calling you for 'sickies' because they need a day off but we're not all like that. I'm a medical secretary in our local hospital and had the misfortune of fainting infront of my consultant and about 10 Drs and Nurses. They were ready to cart me off on a stretcher but I promptly got up, dusted myself off and tried to work...until my boss told me to go home or he'd march me to A&E. I went home...I HATE A&E! lol

Fiz said...

Stuart, I was in London yesterday (it was our Pearl anniversary and my eldest had bought us tickets for the London Eye and "La Cage Aux Folles" (brilliant!)in the evening).We went round the corner from the Eye to a Subways and there was an ambulance ... I so hoped it would be you, but when he spoke to someone else, he was a cockney, so I knew it wasn't you! Anyway, I thought of you yesterday!

Xf said...


Aw...shame. It was a car you saw, I assume? I only work on the car and if was a cockney it was probably one of the other FRU team members.

I'm on nights now, so if you get back into London this week, you might be able to catch up with me.


Fiz said...

Sorry, but that's our last chance for ages! (We are both unemployed). If we are lucky, we might come up next year, but I knew it would be too much of a coincidence if it was you! I'd like it to have been though!

Dave said...

Hey stu. I've some of your older posts regarding phone line operators, and came across this little piece online. Made me think of how things go on the other end of the line.

It was on a humour website, but I personally don't see it as funny. Still interesting, though.

Absolutely stunning "piece of work".