Sunday, 8 February 2009


Night shift: Eight calls; two false alarms; two assisted-only and four by ambulance.

Stats: 3 eTOH; 1 Chest pain; 1 Asthma; 1 Anxiety attack

It’s still cold enough to make you wonder why people go out and get drunk when all they have to look forward to is a slow, frozen journey home…if they make it home at all.

My colleague was two hours late for the shift changeover because he was tied up on a call in which a 13 year-old boy drowned in a canal. I used the time I had by delivering a vehicle to a crew and then got stuck on the way back when they received a call for a pregnant woman who simply walked out into the LAS taxi she’d demanded.

I got back and took over the car later and my first call was to a 25 year-old who was ‘unconscious’ outside a club. She was drunk, of course and no more unconscious than me but she had to go to hospital because she wasn’t fit to walk. Her annoying, fag-smoking friend kept yelling out for her as the crew tried to do their job and I had to usher her away from the back of the vehicle. The police were on hand to remind her that she wasn’t – definitely wasn’t – going with her mate to hospital in the ambulance. There’s nothing more irritating and potentially dangerous than carrying a full cargo of drunken people.

The chest pain call was for a 43 year-old man with no cardiac history and a recent chest infection. His pain came on only when he breathed, so it was unlikely to be related to his heart. He felt as cold as ice, even though his bed-sit was relatively warm but his core temperature was normal. I suspect he’d been outside too long.

The next drunken patient of the night fell asleep at an underground station, prompting a Red3 call for an ‘unconscious’ person. Try to remember that, according to our computer system, that patient is more important than you if you have broken an arm. The crew was ahead of me and woke him up. He left the scene and I was advised not to bother. So I didn’t.

Two false alarms; the first of which was to a 17 year-old who was ‘fitting’. I was cancelled on an earlier call for this as it was a higher priority. The trouble was that she wasn’t fitting, nor had she ever been fitting. Apparently – and this was from the patient’s relatives – they had been advised to let an ambulance come to her even though they’d said they didn’t need one.

The girl was lying across her bed when I got there with the crew. She had been out with friends and had suffered a mild panic attack which included shaking. This movement had been blown way out of proportion when the call was taken and so an emergency response kicked in. Meanwhile, the call I’d been cancelled on (palpitations) was probably still waiting for attention miles away. I hope I’m never in an accident on the way to one of these spurious calls. I do not want to be injured or killed on duty because some over-zealous person pressed the panic button for a call like this.

The next false alarm was a RTC involving a car and a pedestrian. The car had hit this person deliberately, allegedly, then an argument broke out between the driver and the victim. The police had removed one of them from the scene to their station and when I turned up it had all blown over with nobody actually hurt.

A regular caller made his way into a hotel lobby and announced that he was having an asthma attack. He does this every time and is in and out of hospital on an almost weekly basis. He’s so well known to us all that we nod and say hello to him whenever we see him out and about. Soon enough we’ll be swapping Christmas cards.

His condition was stable but he tried hard to push a wheeze or two through his windpipe to convince me that all was not well with him. It didn’t matter because he was going to hospital – he always goes to hospital. That said, he demonstrated his understanding of our willingness to comply by specifying which A&E unit he’d prefer to visit.

Another drunken female was being propped up outside a club by one of the security people. A nearby woman waved her cigarette in my face and generally got in the way. She’d obstructed the car on the way by blocking my path as I tried to park in the tight little street. I let her know I wasn’t pleased with her behaviour and she swore at me to let me know she didn’t care.

The drunken girl was completely out of it and had vomited a few times on the pavement. Nobody was with her initially and when the crew arrived she was lifted onto the trolley bed with no-one to worry about her. She woke up and became startled by what was happening, as if oblivious to her state and the reason we had been called.

Then, as if by magic, people started to appear around us with concerned faces and claims of knowing her. One of them pulled open the back door as she was being treated and I had to push him back from the vehicle as he tried to get in. ‘Read the sign’, I told him, ‘knock and wait’. I closed the door and a second later, there was a knock. I asked for that really, didn't I?

The cigarette-smoking rude girl eventually calmed and apologised. ‘I know you hate me’, she said, ‘but I was the one who found her’.‘I don’t hate anyone’, I replied, ‘I just don’t like being treated rudely when I’m trying to help someone’. I think she understood. We were best mates now. Another Christmas card on the way I expect.

I spent my rest break at the station and an hour or so after I’d put my feet up a call came in for a patient having a panic attack in the flats across the road. I definitely met ORCON with that one – it took me ten seconds to get on scene. I could have walked but the law of Sod would probably have given me a cardiac arrest to deal with and no kit to my name.

The woman was in her toilet and was very edgy. She had psychiatric problems that were ongoing and depression was one of them. I sat and spoke with her for a while as she calmed down and then the crew arrived to help me talk her back to reality. Her husband lay in bed sleeping – he’d lived with this for so long that he didn’t get up til later when we were taking her to the ambulance for a long chat and more obs.

The lady remembered me from a call I attended at the same building a few years ago and even more surprisingly, to me anyway, she still knew my name.

She was very nice but very scared and it took a good hour to settle her and convince her that she could go back home with her husband and sleep. We all got a thank-you kiss on the cheek. I think that’s allowed.

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

Hi Stuart. I have been a long time reader and I have much respect for the work you and the rest of the emergency services do.

Just a question though, I have been considering becoming a paramedic for a long time now but I am always put off by some of the stuff the job involves. I have doubts in my ability to cope with some situations a paramedic would have to deal with. So my question is did you feel the same way when wanting to become a paramedic? Does it get easier with time to deal with traumatic events or is it something that you knew you could handle from the very beginning?

Thank you very much for your time.

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petrolhead said...

Are you sure the lady didn't know your name because it was on the badge on your chest? I was surprised when I went into KFC in my uniform and the person serving me knew my name - I thought he was psychic!

Xf said...


I don't wear a name badge...none of us do in LAS, unless you are an Officer.

She definitely remembered me. Maybe I have one of those faces, eh?


Xf said...

Anonymous...well, you need a certain kind of character to do this but yes, you do get used to it but you must be able to cope with it for a while before you do.

Good luck!

Oliver Smith said...

"That said, he demonstrated his understanding of our willingness to comply by specifying which A&E unit he’d prefer to visit."

Now surley if he's having an "Asthma Attack" he needs to go straight to the nearest Accident and Emergency Department and not the one of his choice...can't have it all ways now can he (*nudge*,*nudge*, *wink*, *wink*)

Little Miss Ileostomy said...

"specifying which A&E unit he’d prefer to visit."

Out of curiosity, if a patient asks to go to a specific hospital can the crew take them there,or do they have to go to the nearest?

I live about 10 mins from the nearest hospital, but am treated up at GST which is about 12 miles away. I've always worried that one day I'll need to ring 999 and will end up in the local hosp, which I've never set foot in...


Xf said...


If you dial 999, its an emergency and the crew will usually take you to the nearest A&E.

Sometimes but rarely, we will take patients to a specified hospital.

Robin Anderson said...

Amazing. I'm a paramedic in California. It's exactly the same shit here. It's a sort of refreshing depression to read your words.