Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Forked off

A deadly weapon in the wrong hands...

Night shift: Eight calls; one assisted-only, seven by ambulance.

Stats: 2 Unwell adults; 1 Faint; 1 Cold person; 1 Stabbing; 2 Panic attacks; 1 Unconscious

A 64 year-old Slovakian alcoholic sits on a wall as his three mates prop him up after calling an ambulance, claiming he has chest pain. When I arrive he seems cold and out of it. He hasn’t had a drink all day, I’m told, so he may be ill as a result of withdrawal symptoms, although they usually kick in after a longer period without alcohol.

I find it very difficult to communicate and resort to using a Polish translator from Language Line who can speak some Slovakian. I get enough information to determine that there is no chest pain and that the man is just generally unwell…cold and sick.

The crew arrive as I am trying to launch a conversation via the phone and we get him into the back of the ambulance with a struggle because he is unwilling or unable to put one foot in front of the other. His previously concerned drinking buddies disappear as soon as we move him. Unfortunately his trousers begin to fall off, so his dignity disappears too.

Then on to a 75 year-old who has fainted in a lecture hall with hundreds of his peers looking on. The man is a doctor and so is his wife and this makes life problematic as I try to ascertain what’s happened to him. His wife has taken control of everything before I get there and he’s being hauled into a wheelchair to be removed from the hall and the gaze of everyone in it. So I wait until he’s out in the corridor and I ask a few questions.

‘What exactly happened to him?’

His wife begins to talk at a hundred miles an hour and she is adamant he’s alright and that he doesn’t need to go to hospital. ‘This happens to him all the time’, she says. I don’t doubt her but he is very pale and very sweaty – I’m concerned about the possibility of a cardiac related problem.

When the crew arrive we manage to get him into the ambulance but his wife is still being stubborn about him going anywhere. I reassure her that he won’t be taken to hospital if that’s his wish…but it has to be his wish, not hers.

In the end he went because he began to feel faint again in the vehicle and that was enough to convince us all, including Mrs Doctor, that he wasn’t well.

The calls kept coming in at a steady pace and my next one took me to a flat where an 86 year-old was ‘not waking up’. Of course I thought the same as the crew when they pulled up beside me on scene; this might be a suspended - but it wasn’t. The entire family had gathered in the small flat to witness their mother/grandmother being surrounded by yellow jackets as she slept. She opened her eyes and looked around. She may have been unwell but sleep doesn’t count as cardiac arrest.

A regular caller said ‘chest pain’ and he got the response he desired. I arrived with the crew and at first we couldn’t locate him but eventually, after a quick area search, he appeared from a callbox, waving at us in time-honoured fashion. He was cold and wanted somewhere warm to sleep. The crew knew him and I recognised him vaguely. The man has learning difficulties and this is how he gets home.

I thought I was on my way to a serious call when I was given the details. ‘Man stabbed in neck’ turned out to be a restaurant manager who had been assaulted by someone with a fork. It had been planted in his cheek; hardly life threatening but still a shock to the system I daresay. The police were there in number of course and I had to cancel any other resource that may be sent to it, such as HEMS, just in case the paying customers became outnumbered by uniforms. It’s hard enough to eat when one person is watching you, right?

The first of two hyperventilating panic attacks was a 40 year-old woman who’d woken up with DIB. I suggested sleep apnoea may have been the cause (she’s a self-confessed snorer) and that she should see her GP about it. She didn’t want to go to hospital and really didn’t need to because she was fully recovered from her fright.

The second panic-stricken person was a drunken 19 year-old who had gathered with his friends on a corner after being out celebrating his first class honours degree. Unfortunately he took a turn for the worst when he couldn’t cope with the emotion of it all (alcohol does that) so he had his mates dial 999 for him. I found him breathing way too fast and crying whenever he could. He was taken to hospital because try as we did, the crew and I couldn’t settle him down fully and he wasn’t fit for the streets. His habit of spitting on the ambulance floor and at random into the air didn't enamour any of us either.

Two MOPs found a 27 year-old smartly dressed girl lying on the pavement of a busy street. One of them used the young woman’s mobile phone to find out who she was and what might be wrong with her. She was on her side as if she’d gone to sleep there but she was unconscious and even deep pain couldn’t get a response from her at first. She was getting very cold too.

When the ambulance arrived, we put her in the back on the trolley bed and she began to stir a little; her eyes were open but she still didn’t acknowledge us or the world. She’d been drinking after a long dry spell (according to her mother, who I spoke to on the phone) and that probably caused her to collapse and blank out in the street but I suspect she’d simply laid down to go to sleep not knowing that she was in danger. It’s not the area to be sleeping in at four in the morning, especially if you are a female. She was lucky to have two caring people passing by to help her.

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

"His habit of spitting on the ambulance floor and at random into the air didn't enamour any of us either."

I hate this!! I can deal with pretty much all bodily fluids but the act of deliberately spitting is disgusting. If they do it in my ambulance and they are capable I make them clean and then hand them a bowl for any further need. Its just plan rude........... I sometimes ask how they would feel if I came and spat on one of their kitchen surfaces while they were preparing food there? Its the same level of bad hygeine.

Xf said...


He had a bowl in his hands too...and quite right...make 'em clean up their own filth.

Lesley said...

I notice that most young men spit regularly these days...in the street... out of car windows...Why?

Can it be something to do with all the 'fast' plastic food everyone eats these days? When I was a child, I remember there were always signs in buses forbidding spitting..... but I do not ever remember seeing anyone spit... anywhere.

As for spitting on an ambulance floor... Yuk!

Drip Stand said...

We arrested a 14yr old girl yesterday for spitting on a colleague (another cop), disgusting! Once I'd got her sorted out in the van, I had a calm word with her about her behaviour, the result? "I F*****G HATE YOU!" She did start crying though and I won her round in the end.
In the past, I've had spit in my face, it's revolting!

Gordonjcp said...

Hang on, how can your drunken 19-year-old have completed an honours degree? Even allowing for English degrees being shorter than Scottish ones, he would have had to have started university at 16! That can't be right, surely?

Xf said...


He was obviously lying, that's why I added the sarcasm in there. It's also possible that when he said 'first', he was talking about exams but you can never trust a drunken teen ;-)