Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Damp squibs

Night shift: Six calls; one hoax; one false alarm; two by car; two by ambulance.

Stats: 1 Mental health issues; 1 Head injury; 1 Bumped elbow; 1 Allergic reaction; 1 Dizzy woman.

The heavy rain and consequent stupid traffic caused me to be late tonight and so I’d barely started my VDI when the first call nagged at me from the screen in my car. Apparently a 72 year-old female was ‘not responding’. This means she is either dead, dying or neither, depending on other factors. I looked at the details and made an assumption, based on experience - she was not dead and I wouldn’t find her dying.

I arrived to find her lying on the floor of the flat with her family around her. She had a history of depression and refused to open her eyes or play the game at all. She wasn’t ‘non-responsive’, she didn’t want to respond. She had issues that neither the crew (who arrived shortly after me) nor myself, would ever be able to resolve, so I left them all to it and ‘greened up’ for the next one.

Later on an assault call left me ambulance-less and standing with police, a 22 year-old Lithuanian with head injuries and his mate, in a cordoned-off area as I pondered the likelihood of seeing a crew. After confirmation from Control that I would have to wait, I made the only decision sensible when there was a fully conscious young man sitting in the road-soaked road – I’d take him to hospital in the car with a police officer to accompany him. His injuries were not life-changing but he’d been batted pretty hard a few times with a bottle that hadn’t broken, making the mechanisms a little more significant. His scalp had been torn open in two places but his skull seemed intact. He hadn’t show any outward signs of brain damage and we’d been waiting in the rain for 30 minutes, so I figured it was a calculated clinical risk if it was at all.

The trip was uneventful and he got a bed in the minor’s dept., so that counted for something in terms of my decision I guess. Why we were so busy is a mystery; it’s Wednesday, it’s raining and it’s no fun out there but obviously the young and dangerous of London town don’t mind.

The young man was accompanied by a young cop who was very friendly. In fact, he was the friendliest officer I’ve come across in terms of his empathy and patience with the assault victim. Not that other cops aren’t friendly – but there is a mile of a difference in attitude when you take someone’s hand to help calm them down.

A Red2 call – generated purely because the patient was described as ‘not able to move body; semi-conscious' – for a bumped elbow had me driving north and cancelling the ambulance mentally and then again in reality when I got there. The 62 year-old woman was sitting on a sofa with her family gathered around in sympathy. She had knocked her elbow on the door handle and the pain, caused by the nerves receiving a good kicking, made her want to faint (but she didn’t). If the system really believes that this type of injury, even associated with a bit of ‘wooziness’ afterwards merits the same category as a potentially dying patient, then we are all in serious trouble. No wonder there aren’t enough ambulances to go round.

I left her at home with her family, confident in my abilities to determine her prognosis without tying up an A&E department by taking her in because I feel doubtful in some way. It was what it was – a bumped elbow; it’s that simple.

A 51 year-old lady with a positive allergy to tomatoes ate some peanuts tonight and discovered she was also allergic to them. So she met me at the door of her apartment block, wheezy and puffy, feeling a bit rough as a result. The crew was on scene within seconds of me so I got no further than confirming that her throat was swelling but that she was in no imminent danger.

The next call, for a 48 year-old man with ‘stinging chest pain’ was a no trace because he’d made the call from a phone box and obviously decided to leave and go home... or somewhere else. When another crew asked me if I was on a 'tight chest' call, made in the same area from a different callbox, I knew we were dealing with a hoax caller. This dangerous game can tie up a number of crews in one location for hours, leaving less resources available to deal with genuine calls. We get idiots doing this to us every so often and they really don't care what the consequences of their actions might be. I doubt they'd care if there own mother was the one being put at risk. They truly are life's losers.

And to ensure I went home happy and contented, I was sent a last-minute call south of the river for a 71 year-old woman who was 'dizzy'. She was packed and ready to go and there was no ambulance available (of course there wasn't - that's why I was sent). This job was going to make me late home and I would have to race to the Euston Road if I stood any chance of returning free of charge, otherwise going home was going to cost me £8. So, either I waited with her until an ambulance arrived, which she didn't need because all she'd suffered was a minor dizzy spell, like we all do, or I could take her myself in the car and save myself an hour of waiting. It all sounds seflish, I know but, as I said, this was no emergency (an Amber1) and sending me on it so late in the shift was a little bit naughty, considering I have another night shift to do. I suspect it had more to do with clearing calls at the end of someone else's shift than it did anything else. No wonder morale is low and feelings run high between frontline staff and Control.

In the end I took her myself. She demanded I put her in a wheelchair at the hospital, even though she could walk perfectly well. I was her early-morning taxi and it cost me an hour's valuable sleep.

Be safe.

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