Friday, 16 January 2009

A purple week

Day shift: Five calls; two left at scene, three by ambulance.

Stats: 2 Purple plus; 2 Chest pains; 1 RTC with ? spinal

Every so often (and you’ll know this now if you are a regular reader) my day starts with a dead person. Today was one of those days. The 75 year-old had perished sometime in the night and was found by his carers when they opened the door and called out to him first thing in the morning.

The man had terminal cancer, so his death was expected but he had also been refusing to take his regular meds and this may or may not have accelerated the process – his choice.

A MRU had been sent to assist me because the call had simply been given as cardiac arrest, so we went in there prepared to resuscitate. The man’s body was pale, cold and stiff and it was clear he’d been impossible to save for some time. All I had to do was record a flat line on the ECG, note the time I had done this and recognise him as 'life extinct'.

I covered him up and organised the police and his GP to attend the scene. The police showed up because they always do but I was very surprised when his GP actually physically appeared within ten minutes. In fact, I couldn’t remember ever being with a newly dead person and meeting the doctor on scene. This GP obviously had the time and inclination to complete the task of certification and that was a change to see.

I left the flat after everything that needed to be done had been but there was one little ironic reminder of life left behind next to the dead man in his bed – his mobile phone was flashing and had been since we got there – it read ‘Remember today’s meeting’.

I chased the rain for a few miles on a call for a chest pain/DIB that didn’t require my attention. The crew was on scene. Another crew was on scene when I got a separate call immediately afterwards for a 52 year-old male with chest pain. I was chasing my tail today.

It was a few hours before I got a job on which I would land and do some work, prior to that I had bent sent and cancelled, sometimes metres from the scene. But now I was heading to a RTC in Trafalgar Square. A bus had apparently hit a man who’d fallen into the road.

This kind of accident happens occasionally and I expected to find the usual minor injuries in a sitting, talking person but I arrived to see a MRU paramedic dealing with a man who was almost face down on the pavement with a little pool of blood by his head. At first it looked like a significant injury was possible but when I shouted out to my colleague and asked if HEMS was required, he shook his head and I got that look; the look that says ‘it’s not serious enough’.

The man was very drunk and very Irish and I’m sorry to say this but it’s more often true; the combination made him aggressive most of the time. We could find no injury, apart from a minor scratch or two to his head. He complained of having a ‘broken arm’ but that turned out to be a phantom, then he suggested he couldn’t feel his legs. He did this after he’d been collared and boarded for the trip to hospital. Before that he’d been moving his limbs well enough.

This man had allegedly assaulted a passing MOP, simply because he didn’t like him. The MOP punched him back and when he tried to retaliate, he staggered, lost his balance and fell right into the path of an oncoming (and thankfully slow moving) bus, cracking his head off it. There was little sympathy for him in the gathered crowd of police and paramedics – he was nasty and abusive most of the time and he insulted the female paramedic when he was on the ambulance. He didn’t care that a police officer was standing there. We, of course, are still duty-bound to treat someone like this – even if he does call his carer a bitch.

The shift ended just as it started – with death. The police called for urgent ambulance assistance when they entered the home of an elderly couple who hadn’t been seen for some time. They had a deceased male and a female who was barely conscious on the premises, so I got over there as fast as I could with a MRU at my tail.

An ambulance crew was on scene and when I entered I saw that they were treating an old lady who was on the floor in a foetal position. Her husband lay dead nearby. The lady was scared and upset – she was also very, very cold and had a nasty gash to her leg. The body was almost naked and looked to have lain there for some time – when I examined it I found rigor mortis and although that can mean very little in terms of time of death, the fact that he was elderly suggests the possibility that he had died more than 12 hours earlier. Neither of them had been seen for 3 days and they had missed several doctor’s appointments. It's entirely possible that he died days ago and she'd been with him in that terrible state ever since.

From the story that unfolded, it sounds like he died quiet suddenly, probably as they were getting up from bed and she tried but failed to get help. Eventually she just curled up under a table with her husband’s body next to her. It’s a heartbreaking thing to think about and I went home pre-occupied by the misery and pain she must have felt as she waited for either death or rescue.

Be safe.


Jon Delaunt said...

his mobile phone was flashing and had been since we got there – it read ‘Remember today’s meeting’

Makes me wonder if actually, he knew what was coming....

Anonymous said...

What a devestating state to get to. Do you know if the lady ok (medically) after being found?

Anonymous said...

The people that abuse alcohol then abuse the NHS system because of the effects, really need a wake up call! What a waste of resources and skill(our Paramedics, Doctors and Nurses). I say they should be charged for the cost of thier 'treatment'. And ANYONE abusing staff, verbally or otherwise should be charged by the police. This Government needs to sort itself out and deal with these timewasters.
Thank-you for all you do.

Xf said...


She had profound hypothermia...I don't expect her to make it...

Xf said...


Here! Here! Agree with everything you say BUT we have a spineless Government creating a spineless society. Let's get Obama over here or maybe we should get ourselves a tall, black young prime minister - it would be a refreshing change.