Sunday, 15 February 2009

To test out souls

Day shift: Five calls; all by ambulance.

Stats: 1 eTOH fall with head injury; 1 EP fit; 1 RTC with minor injuries; 2 Faints.

Sometimes we make judgments based on very little; it’s a human characteristic and I am much more careful these days about unilateral thinking, especially as I am naturally inclined to dislike anything that is disproportionate or done at the expense of others (even though I have been guilty of that myself). That’s why, despite saying I would, I decided not to record anything about my feelings on the Gaza conflict and why today I was reminded, yet again, that my opinion means nothing until I get the whole picture.

Jade Goody has never been my favourite ‘personality’, mainly because I believe she has none. She got her fame on the back of one of the worst television programmes ever thought up for the bored masses and she rose through to so-called stardom without having to do anything special at all. But she did have mass appeal, if you like that sort of thing and the recent publicity of her cancer diagnosis and its progression made me think that she wanted to be pitied in return for compensation, as if people were duty bound to learn about every detail of her agony.

I sympathised with every cancer sufferer in the world who didn’t get such attention and who died respectfully with their loved ones close by…or alone and broke. It wasn’t until now, when I learned that the coverage of her illness had boosted the number of women being screened for cervical cancer that I softened my attitude. She also said, through her publicist, that she wanted to make every penny she could for her children before she died and that, after some thought, made perfect sense to me. After all, what parent wouldn’t want that? She has no other talent, other than her name and face, so without the fees from newspaper and television articles, she would have nothing much to leave them – I guess even the money she has in the bank would soon dry up when she’s gone and the publicity machine would quickly forget the Goody family.

It’s interesting for me to realise that Jade may never have achieved anything more in her life than being another nonsense celebrity but that now, through terribly tragic circumstances, she will probably be responsible for saving a lot of women’s lives. Maybe her destiny was shaped like that.

All of this reflection on my part helps me to carry out my job in as neutral a way as possible and, apart from those blatantly wasteful and selfish people we deal with out there, the vast majority of our patients need a non-judgmental approach. Even with my dislike for what Jade stood for, I still wouldn’t have put her on the same level as some of the nasty people I have met in my career. I hope she makes enough money for her kids to live a decent life because, clearly, that’s all she wants. And I sincerely hope, as I would with every terminal patient, that she slips away in her sleep when the time comes.

Sunday is all about picking up the pieces of Saturday night and so off I went to a night club at chucking out time to help a crew with a gay punk man who had fallen and knocked himself out, due to alcohol. His equally gay-punk friends were there to help him and regardless of my initial apprehension about going near them (I used to dislike punks when I was a teenager but I didn’t know them, so I was wrong) I ventured in with the crew to assist.

These guys wore the biggest boots in the world, so they all towered above us (well, not the crew paramedic because he’s already over 6 feet tall in his socks), making the scene a bit sinister if you aren’t clued up on the culture. They were also the nicest bunch of people I’ve encountered for a while and cared no less for their friend and for the need for us to do our job than the best of the lot we get on a daily basis. I have to point out, before you go on the boil with me, that I have no phobia at all with gay people or punks…or gay-punks – I just never realised they existed in combination. That has everything to do with the image I’ve always had of them since they first appeared in the 1970’s and my ignorance of the whole scene, since I was far too soft to become one.

My first revelation of this group of people was the discovery that spitting at each other was regarded as a compliment, not an insult. In my post from a few years ago, ‘Spitting Punks’, I mentioned one who ran at the ambulance and gobbed deliberately at us as we passed by. I had to do a bit of research to learn what that was all about…until then I was most offended. I always believed that a gang of punks would tear your head off if they approached you. The frightening garb, hair and makeup give the wrong impression – they are good people…just a bit taller these days.

Prior to that call I’d wasted my time getting on scene behind an ambulance from the same station for a 30 year-old man who was having a panic attack. He got a Red status for his breathing and a CRU was already on scene dealing with him. It was a blue light circus for nothing more than hyperventilation.

A couple of miles out of my area and I was communicating with an elderly lady who’d fitted in a large store. She fell down in an aisle and had a 20-minute seizure, which was unusual for her, even though she was a known epileptic. She was still stiff (tonic) when I reached her and could only answer my questions with her eyes (once for yes, two for no). People were busily shopping around her and there was no respect or courtesy given to her dignity and privacy, so I asked the staff to close down the aisle – this is perfectly valid in case she has another fit.

The woman recovered rapidly on oxygen and attempted to stand up. She didn’t want to go to hospital, that was clear and when the crew arrived - she struggled with them as they tried to relax her and put her on the bed. We can’t force anyone to go to hospital, except in certain circumstances but I think she was eventually persuaded by her husband. Unforgivably, I was told that a selfish customer actually complained to the manager for the aisle closure. Some people.

A two-car RTC caused some road chaos and had an ambulance, MRU and myself on scene with the police to assist but nobody was badly hurt – one woman sat crying on the kerb and a child in the front seat of the second vehicle was talking to the crew. It was all under control and I headed back to the station when my paperwork was done.

It was a few hours before I got my next call for a 65 year-old man who had collapsed in a theatre. He had a pacemaker fitted and he told me that it had malfunctioned before, so it’s possible he was having difficulties with it again. He’d fainted and now looked very pale and sweaty. He was also a bit nauseous but held himself together well as the crew wheeled him to the ambulance for an ECG (which is not of great value because of the pacemaker). The device seemed to be working properly but he’d need to see an expert, so off he went.

I ended the shift at Marble Arch, where an Islamic march had ended and hundreds of people, dressed in traditional black attire, were gathered. A 70 year-old woman had collapsed and fainted but she was recovering now. The ambulance couldn’t get near her because nobody was willing to give way, so she had to be wheeled through the tightly-crowded mass with a police officer shouting for space at the front.

As the crew got on with their obs, I stood chatting to one of the cops and we both watched in horror as a man attempted to run his family, including small children, across the busy road. Cars were flying past and the little ones would never have made it in one piece. He did this right in front of the cop, which elicited an angry response from him of course. He ordered the man to stop and use the crossing and all he got for his concern was a deep glare. I remember a time when, if a police officer raised his voice, you did as you were told. It’s not as if there wasn’t a very good reason for it.

Be safe.


Viking83 said...

I'm glad to see that ethics are not completely gone. I'd have to agree with you about the sad case of Jade. I never really liked her or what she stood for (in my opinion a dumbing down of society), but, like you, I've 'softened my attitude' when i learnt she's raising awareness and money for her sons. Any death is tragic, being it a famous celeb, or homeless person.
As for the responce to the officer yelling at the man, I think its really a (bad) sign of the times.
And don't get me started on ignorant by-standers, it'll make me scream in anger!

Anonymous said...

With ref: to the customer complaining, I'm sure you know it's not all that unusual....

We've blocked roads before for a ( motorbike I think) RTC had people ask us to move the ambulance, despite a casulty being in the road and the blue lights still flashing...

Then of course, we've had a woman complain after an incident in her house, that the strips on our hi-vis was too bright for her cat and scared it...

weird world.


Fiz said...

Not weird, Anon Cumbria - horribly self centred and self- obssessed.

Lesley said...

Re: Punks
I remember many years ago when I was working in Higher Education, we were asked to try to find some students to man charity collection for 'Save the Chilren' on a Saturday.

Of all the thousands of potential volunteers, the only ones to come forward were two black-clad punks, held together with safety pins.

They collected hundreds of pounds, and incidently taught me a lesson about not being afraid of folks who choose to be 'different'

English Mum said...

Great post. Totally agree with your sentiments on Jade Goody (heard of this via Twitter)

Anonymous said...

Years ago when I was working in a pub, a man had a heart attack (and later died) in the middle of the pub. While the paramedics were working on him, there were people yelling at us (the bar staff) for not serving them about how ridiculous it was that they had to wait. we'd closed the bar so that the ambulance crew could have complete access but this was too much for some customers who had complete melt-downs at the thought of not being able to get their pint!
insanity or perhaps a lack of caring for their fellow human beings- its sad :(

Anonymous said...

I find that generally the "strange"r looking the person (judged by society's "normal" standard) the nicer they actually are. The giant tatooed man with multiple piercings is the big softy who cries when you take a splinter out and thanks you profusely, whereas the "respectable" looking gentleman is the one who'll question your every move and then probably sue you for malpractice afterwards.