Every now and again in this business, we treat individuals of high stature or fame, or both. A call to an 81 year-old woman who'd fallen in the street didn't allude to anything more than an average call to an average person. However, when we arrived, we saw that armed police had settled and comforted the lady and that a decoratively dressed man was also in attendance. It was clear from a distance that they were helping someone who was regarded as a little more than ordinary.
The woman had stumbled over her walking stick and fallen hard onto her arm and hip. Her upper arm was giving her a lot of pain and we controlled this with Entonox, whilst establishing what had happened. The lady's husband is an employee of the Queen, and she was on her way to Sunday church service near the Palace, when she misjudged her step and fell onto the pavement.
She was helped to a sitting position by the cops, who'd been close by, and the decorated man, who is also in the employ of the Royal Household, appeared shortly afterwards, to render moral support and to provide a beautifully embroidered cushion that belonged to the Queen Mother.
Every patient is an individual, regardless of their status in society. Every patient feels pain and deals with it in their own way. But it is nice to treat people that you know, with absolute confidence, will not abuse you. They won't swear at you, spit at you, or cause you discomfort whilst carrying out your job.
I will probably never meet the Queen (I'm sure my medal for contributions to blogging is in the post however), but it was a pleasure to come into contact with people who work closely with her. I was expecting to be commanded, rather than allowed to do my job. I was expecting to be excluded from the conversations the patient and the decorated man would have in the ambulance. Neither happened. The decorated man praised the LAS in fact, citing how wonderful the service was and how well we all did our jobs.
The patient, although in a lot of pain, was animated and humorous in conversation. It was an unexpected pleasure to be with them. So many high-ranking people forget to consider who we are and what we do, day after day. It was refreshing to be reminded that, when it comes to the crunch, they are just people, like everyone else.
I don't know what the outcome for this lady was - I suspect she had a broken Humerus - but it made me smile to think that my handover was initially rejected.
"I have two VIPs with me", I said to the nurse. "Members of the Queen's staff".
"Yeah, in your dreams", said the nurse with a grin.
On the other hand...a call to a 32 year-old man who'd had a witnessed seizure in the street, jolted me back to reality. A cycle response (CRU) paramedic was on scene and the man was still dazed and confused after his 5 minute fit, during which he'd bumped his head and cut his hands.
There was a single can of extra-strength lager in a carrier bag next to him. It was safe to assume it belonged to him, that being the nature of many of these calls. Nevertheless, we took him into the back of the ambulance, where he was initially calm and fairly compliant. The police accompanied us. They had been called to help and had decided to stick around.
It took a long time to get the man's first name and no other details were forthcoming. Post-seizure patients can be very vague and seemingly uncooperative, but that's part of the recovery process, as the brain resets itself. It can take an hour for a patient to fully recover and start talking sense.
As this man began to recover, he became extremely aggressive and abusive towards me. In fact, he made it very personal with me, which angered me. I am not a diplomatic person. I will not allow anyone to abuse me or insult me without a response, but while on duty and representing my profession and my employer, I simply cannot indulge in my instinctive reactions, so I had to sit there while he dealt me one threatening insult after another. He was no longer post-ictal and seemed lucid enough to know better.
I, like many of my colleagues, have had years of this type of abuse. Somehow people think it is acceptable. People think its just 'part of my job'. Well, it is NOT part of my job. It isn't in my contract and it isn't in my professional guidelines.
Unfortunately, there is very little or nothing we can do about this, so it really comes down to how long you are willing to accept it yourself (as part of the job). For me, time is running out. After a decade of abuse and insults and physical assault, I'm seriously thinking of a better life.
This guy was eventually taken off the ambulance and allowed to walk away. The police could do nothing (well, they could but it'd change nothing), so he staggered off, with his can of lager and his hateful soul.
I had to consider the huge contrast between this job and the last one, and it depressed me somewhat. The first call had lifted my spirits and made me feel like the job was worthwhile. This call had reversed all of that in an instant.
I analysed his anger and hatred towards me, simply because I was trying to help him as he bled onto the floor of my ambulance. I analysed my own anger, as I sat there wanting to lash out verbally at him in response, or simply ask him who the hell he thought he was talking to. But most of all, I had to analyse the possibility that he'd cracked his head hard enough on the pavement to cause a brain injury and that his response to me was the result of his slow post-seizure recovery, his alcoholism, or a bleed inside his head.
I could forgive only two out of three of those possibilities.