Sunday, 9 May 2010

Professional medical abuse

Night shift: Six calls; three by ambulance; one taken home; one left with police; one left at scene.

Stats: 1 fall; 1 eTOH; 1 lost Alzheimer sufferer; 1 assault; 1 alcoholic fit; 1 sleeping drunk

Sometimes you show up on a call and the little detective in you tells you it’s not quite what it seems and so it was for the 27 year-old man who was reported to have neck pain after a fall. He was also reported to be ‘not alert’. We were expecting a long-fall trauma but we got a grown man on the carpeted floor of his flat, wife nearby showing no emotion whatsoever, and a crew already there trying to establish how he could have dropped from a few feet and sustained a serious injury.

He could move just fine and, although he insisted he had pain high up on his spine, when he was told we’d have to turn him and go through the usual motions for spinals, he suddenly recovered and got up himself with no more than a red face to show for it.

His wife was short with me when I asked how the chair he’d fallen from had come apart – ‘must I repeat everything’ she said. The chair’s seat was wedged inside the frame and that can’t happen with a simple fall. The emotion in the room was neutral but there was that aftermath-of-an-argument-or-fight feeling about it.

We left the crew to it but I pointed out a stethoscope lying on the table, thinking it may belong to one of my colleagues but we discovered that it belonged to the patient. He was a doctor and she was a nurse.

Over on the other side of society, where alcoholics sleep on the street, a 45 year-old Lithuanian man was found sleeping on the pavement and a MOP panicked and called an ambulance. A PCSO was on scene and I quickly woke the man up and had him sit upright to keep him awake. After an initial introduction of ‘f**k off’ from him, he settled down and when the crew arrived and nothing was found wrong with him, except alcoholism, I assured him that, yes, we would be taking him to hospital - for that I got a kiss on the back of the hand. Verbally abusive or not, it was cold tonight and nobody deserves to lie out in it all night if there’s a chance of a few hours in a warm A&E waiting area. I haven’t changed my tune, incidentally but until we get a Government with a spine and stop allowing people to come here and do this, then the NHS will just have to continue dealing with the problem at our expense.

Here’s a heart-warming story. An 80 year-old man was found wandering the streets -completely lost and confused - by a pizza delivery driver who had the good sense to drive him back to his workplace and call an ambulance. We arrived to find the man in a small takeaway shop, free pizza in front of him and bemused staff on scene.

In a few minutes we’d established that he was indeed, confused. ‘How old are you?’ he was asked. ‘Oh, about 28', he replied. He was sprightly for 80 but he wasn’t fooling anyone. So on closer investigation I found a tag around his neck that informed us he was an Alzheimer sufferer and that he often forgot his address. His son’s telephone number was on the tag and I called him to advise of his father’s whereabouts. The son told me that the address he had given us was where he lived during the war and that it had been bombed out – his family details; ‘I have a wife and two sons at home’, was incorrect because his wife died five years ago and his two boys were all grown up – he lived with only one of them.

So, I drove him back to his home and we were met by the family. His son said he’d never have been able to find him if the pizza man hadn’t been so kind. ‘I put a sign on the door telling him not to go out and that he lived here’, he told me. The old man had left his tea on the table and wandered back to the street, over a mile away, where he lived during the blitz. Hopefully when he does it again, another good-hearted person will find him and get him home safely.

Then there was the grown man who claimed he was attacked in a bar by a knife-wielding madman. We arrived as he was being pinned up against a wall by police officers after he’d given them abuse about the fact that they were not taking him seriously. He insisted on being taken by ambulance to hospital for his injury - this amounted to a grazed knee that a 3 year-old wouldn’t shed a tear for – oh, and a torn shirt, courtesy of whoever scuffed his patella in anger. He’d been thumped and he didn’t like it, so he took his rage out on the cops (and they liked that even less) and the system. ‘I pay my taxes!’ he said. So do we and, on this occasion, police were going to give him his money’s worth. We left him in their care.

A fitting 45 year-old was an alcoholic with freezing hands. Two cops were with him; they’d watched him stagger and fall to the ground shaking. We found him sitting on a bench – still shaking. He’d lost bladder control and had probably suffered an alcohol-withdrawal seizure; it’s the price they pay for their excesses unfortunately. But again, he was cold and hungry and he got an ambulance to take him to safety, warmth and hopefully, a sandwich.

In the wee small hours a Red2 for a 35 year-old man found in the street ‘not waking up’ had us running with a crew to a possible cardiac arrest but when we got there we found a slumped, drunken man wearing a cook’s apron outside a fast food shop. PCSO’s and police were on scene but none of them had successfully roused him from his slumber. So, after the student paramedic had tried the old ‘eyelash’ trick and found that he was a faker, he was given painful stimulus to make him open his eyes. It worked instantly (oh, and the painful stimulus we give is perfectly legitimate in these circumstances). He sat up, opened his eyes and gave us all grief. He didn’t want to go to hospital and, after a few precautionary checks on his vital signs and BM, he was left in the same spot with a foil blanket around him to serve as a heat trapper and an ‘LAS aware’ sign to prevent a repeat of the unnecessary drama that had been caused.

Be safe.


Brandon said...

I find it interesting that no matter where you serve the calls seem to be pretty much the same. anywho, I just started blogging and came across yours, good stuff! Be Safe

Anonymous said...

Hi, I realise this is a really old post but I was just wondering with regards to the 'LAS Aware' notice, what exactly this means, does it tell people not to call 999? And if so, what would be the implications (in this blame society) if he had a genuine medical emergency and was ignored due to the sign?

Xf said...


Sorry for the delay in responding. To answer your question, this was necessary to stop further calls being generated and is perfectly reasonable when someone just wants to be left alone to sleep rough.

As for possible consequences; he refused to go to hospital. He had capacity to refuse. It was documented. That is that.

I hope that helps :-)