Monday, 3 November 2008

Drunks on buses - two for one

Day shift: Eight calls; two assisted-only; one false alarm; the others by ambulance.

Stats: 3 eTOH (one with a head injury); one asleep; one with MH issues; two faints; one unwell adult.

Two bus-sleeping drunk calls and my first was to a 30 year-old man, given a Red1 because the bus driver couldn’t or didn’t want to approach in order to confirm the presence of breathing. I have never had a call to a cardiac arrest on a bus after a boozy Saturday night, so I went there knowing what I’d find.

The slumbering man woke up after my second attempt to get his attention and he lazily sloped off the bus and into the morning air, thanking me for ‘helping’ him as he lit a cigarette. The crew had arrived just in time to see him leave.

On my way to this call I was nearly totalled when a van in front of me slammed on his brakes, rather than pull over to let me pass. I found myself running at 40mph with nowhere to go and hoping that my brakes would stop me in time. They did but I wasn’t happy to know that I could have been injured or killed because of someone who got drunk and snoozed or because a bus driver refused to try and get some facts for us.

After that an 83 year-old lady apologised and told me she didn’t need an ambulance when I entered her flat. She was lying in bed and had tripped her emergency call button by mistake. Her ‘DIB’ didn’t exist but I noticed that her inhalers were empty, so I made sure her GP was alerted so that she could have a replacement. I left her in the care of her carer.

Drunk on a bus number two was slobbering saliva down his chin as he lay slumped in the aisle between seats. He too was breathing, obviously but he too had been made an emergency by the driver who refused to touch him and preferred to have an ambulance person do it instead. Again, I woke him up and walked him off and again the crew arrived to witness their redundancy. Lots of tax money going down a drain with these calls I fear.

A man with mental health issues who hadn’t been taking his prescription Librium was lying head first over a small wall. His feet were dangling over the edge and he could have been dead…but he wasn’t. A passer-by had called us and she looked on anxiously as I pulled up to ‘rescue’ him from the dirt and the spiders that were crawling over his face as he slept.

‘I don’t feel very well’, he said as I hauled him up onto his rear end. I couldn’t haul him any further because he wouldn’t help me, the space I had clambered into was tight and he was bigger and heavier than me – still, a valiant effort on my part.

When I finally managed to convince him to help me lift him onto the edge of the wall, he seemed unbalanced and I don’t mean in a mass versus gravity way. He didn’t like me touching him, even to hold him steady (he’d been drinking) and he had that ‘not-going-to-help-you-help-me’ look on his face. I thought he might try to swing a punch or kick at me, so I prepared to move quickly if he did. He probably had no mind to but I was on my own now and not willing to take the risk. It’s too cold to get beaten up.

When the crew appeared, they helped me get him off the wall and into the ambulance. He had collapsed across the road from the hospital, so at least my colleagues would have a short-lived risk if he was a danger to anyone.

Period pain can be quite agonising, by all accounts and from my second-hand experience with it, so my next call to a 28 year-old who’d fainted because of the pain wasn’t a surprise to me. She had a strange combination of problems associated with her monthly cycle; diarrhoea, vomiting, faint and severe pain. Luckily she didn’t suffer like this every month but she’d had this combo before and she looked quite ill as a result.

Her boyfriend had called an ambulance when she passed out and I found her in the small ladies’ toilet in a cafe in a posh part of town – so posh that I doubt they’d have approved of her being there with such a pale face and sickly look.

I rescued her out of the range of glaring, staring people as they trooped by and met the ambulance as it landed outside. She was taken aboard and privacy was restored – privacy and dignity.

As I left the crew to it and stepped out of the ambulance, I was confronted by an irate motorist who’d got out of his car and was marching over to give us all a piece of his mind for parking in the middle of the road. I had parked near the pavement but the ambulance had nowhere else to go – it was a very narrow street and with cars parked all along on both sides, it was impossible to situate the vehicle other than where my colleague had put it. Yet despite this and the fact that he must have seen the patient being taken onto the ambulance looking like death warmed up, he insisted on getting in our faces about it. His journey to wherever was simply far too important for an obstruction from the likes of us to interfere with it.

I’ve heard from at least one cop who says they get this problem too but I still doubt that this whipped up driver would have come out and stamped around like a child if the police had been there instead of us. I had to use my firm but professional voice (that means I said sir at least once) to get him away from us and into his car again. People like that can create an unnecessarily threatening atmosphere for a patient.

Two for one again! I was called to yet another ‘unconscious male on bus’ and arrived to find that the police were getting aboard and there were two of them, slumped in their seats. Like babies, only not so cute and not worth fostering.

I woke one of them up after trying my best with the other, who had a bleeding head wound caused by falling on his face at some point (judging by the little pool of blood on the floor of the bus). His mate awoke and looked at me with disdain – not even a ‘hello’. It took a few more tries to get his sleeping buddy to rouse.

Both men were Eastern Europeans and neither gave a damn about me or the cops or why we were there...or the cost of it all. I was happy to leave them in the street to be honest because the arrogance and low-level threatening behaviour of the non-head busted drunk was starting to annoy me and it had been a long day so far.

Eventually it was agreed that the man with the head wound, which I’d now dressed, should go to hospital (across the road – yep, same hospital that wall-man went to). His friend demanded to go with him but I said that he could walk himself over there. He wouldn’t get through the doors in that state and he would be a threat to the crew, so it was best to separate them.

The crew hated me for a few seconds. They had been cancelled on a run to a genuine injury for this and they weren’t impressed. Some poor patient had to wait because their limb injury was a lower priority than that of two sneering, alcohol-loving, Brit-hating Lithuanians with no jobs, no prospects and no hope of contributing to a generous, caring and ultimately easily walked-over society.

I greened up just in time for FRED to send me miles out of my area for a ‘?CVA’ that was nothing of the sort. ‘Close the door or the cats will get out!’ the 61 year-old woman said as I entered her flat with my MRU colleague (why two solo’s? I’ve no idea).

She was sitting on the bottom stair, cradling her head and complaining of feeling unwell. The call had described her as ‘collapsed behind doors. On floor’. Not quite what I saw, however and she seemed more pre-occupied with the possibility of an escaping moggy than her current state of health. I left as soon as the crew was on scene. I’d done nothing but pass bits and pieces along to my colleague anyway.

I needed to get away by end of shift time – I had an important prior appointment but, as always and I should really know better, you cannot make plans in this job. Typically, I was given a late was a few miles south and there were no ambulances available. So, I spent 30 minutes of my own time (sarcastically called overtime) baby-sitting a 38 year-old woman with a headache who’d fainted earlier. She was surrounded by kids – her son and a few of his mates – all of whom harangued me about how long it was taking to get her to hospital. If I’d been less tired, I’d have driven her there myself.

I shouldn’t moan so loud because some of my colleagues have been caught out and spent more than a few hours on enforced overtime when they had better things to do.

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

i really think they should allow you to give on the spot fines to time wasters and people who are offensive when you are trying to do your job! they never know when it will be for them that you are having to block the road.

keep up the great work that you do i thank yourself and your colleagues for the fabulous work you do on a daily basis. without you i would not be alive

Anonymous said...

In the control center we seem to get lots of calls from people of an Eastern European persusaion, who seem to quickly become aggressive on the phone and demand an ambulance immediately, all the while refusing to answer any questions. I don't know what the reason for this is but they always seem to develop a chest pain or become 'not alert' by the end of the call.

Its not a racial comment, I hate everybody equally, just a trend.

Tabitha said...

I have fainted and collapsed from period pain on (thankfully only) a couple of occasions - it really is horrible, and the blood loss etc doesn't help things.

Anonymous said...

iam a trained first responder and i do only voluntarie work at the moment, but iam happy to do any duty what so ever. i was impresed by your carier description, but then totaly shocked the way you tell your daily activities, it felt that you hate what you do. i knw it can get anoying to get false calls and sometimes "bus drivers" shud deal with drunk people them selfs. but didnt you learn that any intoxicated person is in risk of suffering trauma.and isnt that your job to take care of the patient? the coment about Eastern European(iam frm that area too) Brit- hating and alcohol loving drunken idiots..sorry for changing words....just proves that you are going to their level, if you can make a coment like that. When you chose to become a paramedic, you shoud have joined a anti raisit group too. It doesnt metter if he/she is from Lithuania, Africa, Britain, Ireland in fact it doesnt metter if he loves to drink more than you do, its your job to help. Honeslty dont wish to become your patient ever. Its sad. Anyway Hope and wish you all the best.

Xf said...


I'm sorry you feel that way but you DO NOT know how annoying it is to get false calls and numerous drunken calls. And NO, drunks do not always have trauma or anything else wrong with them. And NO, I'm not racist...but I do and will always identify the nationality of people who spend my hard-earned tax money without contributing one single cent back. They are a minority because most of my European friends work hard and do not abuse their host nation.

If your neighbour came to your house, got drunk on your alcohol every week and vomited on your shoes, you'd soon get tired of it.

And I love my job, regardless and my job IS NOT to take care of are wrong my friend. My job is to take care of ILL people.

Good luck with your first responding.