Saturday, 11 December 2010

Seeing red

Red calls that is. A shift on the car today because I have to keep my clinical skills sharp, right? So I waited outside the station at freezing o'clock in the morning until someone who knew the door code came along and opened it up. I was doing a shift out of an unfamiliar station you see.

I trundled out after a VDI that took forever 'cos I couldn't find anything - drugs, paperwork, general stuff - and hit the streets of the very south of London on my own, only to be found 'not required' and 'no patient contact' for the first two calls.

Then off to see a poor old 91 year-old lady with a library of geographical books who'd been stuck in her bath all night and was found by the carer when she popped by. The lady was covered in bruises and looked weak and frail - even for her age. She was lucid enough though and didn't want to go to hospital. Her battered old body said otherwise and it took the gentle persuasion of a friend to finally get her to consent to go for treatment. That's what friends are for.

My first (and only) road traffic collision of the day involved a small car and a large bus (see pic). The car U-turned in front of the bus, got hit side-on, dragged along the road and shoved into a lamp-post for good measure. The car driver was badly shaken but not injured, so she was taken gently from the car and strapped into a board after a 'rapid take down' from standing. It was the only safe way to deal with her and the crew on scene had decided not to allow the fire brigade to cut the roof off - they were very disappointed.

The road had been shut down for this incident, so there were plenty of cheesed-off drivers around and loads of people crossing the police tape and into the cordon so they could walk to the shops, or wherever. A young police woman tried to stop them but gave up after ten or so had ignored her. So much for accident investigation then.

Another red alert for a 'trapped behind locked doors' but I found the two young women standing outside the flat hadn't really given it much before persuading themselves their male friend inside was dead or dying. 'He hit his head earlier when he fell. Then we went out and when we came back and tried to get in, he didn't answer and was making noises,' the spokeswoman of the two told me.

I knocked once and he appeared. He looked tired - like he'd been asleep. He'd been on a long-haul flight and had not rested for over 24 hours. He fell earlier because he was just too tired to stand. He had a sore head but otherwise seemed fine but the crew took him away for checks, just in case.

Red for a 52 year-old lady who was sitting in a Chemist's shop complaining of chest pain that was actually not. She felt 'panicky', she told me as she slumped against the counter. 'I have dizziness too', she said. The pharmacist had given her a chair but not aspirin (for her chest pain) because she'd also stated that she'd had a per rectum bleed earlier. It all seemed so 'put together' to be honest and I couldn't be sure of her at all. Still, that's me isn't it? Cynical and disbelieving til proven otherwise.

Up in the West End, where I'd been dragged eventually, I saw the damage that had been done by the protests over the week. Vandalism and graffiti are not fitting tributes to the great future minds of the generation who are defending their right to an education. Sorry but your argument is lost in this kind of protest; nobody wants to see violence and destruction wrapped up in any argument. Get rid of that small minority of people who cover their faces - they are killing your validity.

I don't think the phrase 'can't get him off the floor' could ever be given the designation 'emergency' but, unfortunately for us, the taxpayer and you, the genuinely ill person, if you are an alcoholic and you are drunk and you fall down and can't get back up - you are a Red priority call and everyone else - the fractured people, the vomiting people and the sickling people - can all wait until me and a crew turn up to lift him from the sticky carpet of his grubby 'hotel' room onto a thickly dark-stained bed.

I could, of course also complain about the 'cardiac arrest' (Red1) that came from an area well known for its sleeping vagrants. Even as I got there, in the wake of two ambulances, I could smell embarrassment for the emergency services. Another victory for the people of London who dial 999 because someone doesn't 'look right' but they won't go and ask first. 'I say, young man who looks like an alcoholic. Are you dead?' It really is that easy. Instead the cost is more than £500 in emergency vehicles and THREE resources taken up looking for this cardiac arrest who, in the meantime (and spotted immediately by myself because I just knew), was actually asleep and sitting up in a corner. He did make the place look untidy but that was his only crime. He had not cost the taxpayer a penny in that instant. Someone with an itchy 999 finger had.

Christmas Carols always sound great when played by a steel band. Why is that? On Oxford Street, near Marble Arch, I sat and listened to one as they drummed out silent night and other songs for the benefit of the shopping public. It was soothing. And on Baker Street, a man dressed as Sherlock Holmes walked around advertising the 'Sherlock tour'. Only in this town can you pay to be taken on a tour of places where a fictitious character never went and never did anything.

On a hot underground platform I reassured a female passenger who'd been stuck on a train that was itself stuck in the tunnel for 20 minutes. Initially the plan was to walk all 120 passengers along the track to safety. This means myself, at least two crews, an officer and almost the entire HART team (might be an exaggeration) will attend to help them out. Luckily, by the time I was walked down there, the train had learned it's lesson and was on the platform - well, not on the platform but you know what I mean.

My exhausted, thirsty lady was the only person to 'treat' so I called off the dogs, so to speak, before it got out of hand and silly around there. I offered to drive her to her meeting up the road and she gladly accepted. There was no point in letting her carry on in the tunnels after her ordeal.

A tall, blond Finnish man felt sick and generally unwell at work. He fell down (fainted) and vomited a number of times, so his colleague called an ambulance. Now, at first sight, there seemed to be a rational explanation. He'd had a drink or two the night before - he may even have had a bug but his falling down and frequent runs towards the sink to throw up and retch as I spoke to him were suspicious. So, when the crew arrived, he was given an ECG and it revealed a problem. He had PVC's; fairly irregularly and all over the place - these are known as multifocal and suggest that the heart's electrical system is sustaining itself by firing off at different locations at different times to keep going. It can be very unstable, as was proven when he started to retch again. As soon as he did the ECG changed to SVT. The guy could slip into VF without batting an eyelid. He needed to go to hospital and the little box we know as the FR2 needed to be on hand.

I finished that shift thinking how much I had missed being out here. I guess I need to keep it in balance to enjoy it. I will still criticise the stupidity of the calls sometimes but that's my heart I'm afraid; I can't change it now.

Be safe.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a fairly busy day. Sadly enough, I actually seriously considered trotting over to Baker Street when I was in London, just to see it.

Jo said...

"Only in this town can you pay to be taken on a tour of places where a fictitious character never went and never did anything."

Well.... Not entirely accurate... I was one of the organisers of the Fforde Ffiesta for the first two years of the event (the event itself still continues, I no longer organise because I'm in NZ not in the UK!) - the regular Ffestival for Jasper Fforde (he whose pic you use to illustrate the "Selfish Society" post on 13th Nov). We had a bus tour of Swindon (open topped the first year, closed in the second) which pointed out fictional places and events in the Jasper Fforde universe :-D

sjacadet said...

"Vandalism and graffiti are not fitting tributes to the great future minds of the generation who are defending their right to an education. Sorry but your argument is lost in this kind of protest; nobody wants to see violence and destruction wrapped up in any argument. Get rid of that small minority of people who cover their faces - they are killing your validity."

I'm a student, and while we don't like the violent peoples who come to the protests, we can't really do much about it. I mean, if we ask them to go away, they might start attacking us, too (or maybe that's just my paranoia).

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I really enjoy reading your blog.
I work as a paramedic and I'm also not always pleased about everyone who calls, but I want my patients to believe that I take their needs seriously. Even if it is a hysterical hyperventilation caused by some desperate need of attention. They call for help because they don't know what else to do. They don't know better. They feel helpless on their own.
People are willing to pay taxes for these ones too, because when they feel helpless, afraid or insecure about their mental or physical health, they too want to be taken seriously, someone to assure them that it is going to be fine. I believe that this is our job, too, so I don't criticize. I try not to be judgemental about it.

Thank you so much for finding the time to write this blog.

Xf said...


Thank you for your comment. I admire you for trying not to be judgemental but I have a different nature and the diary is here to expose my 'flaws' too. One of them, if you wish to call it a flaw, is my passionate belief that people should take care of their own lives and not simply thrust it on everyone else because they can't cope or they have a minor problem. In my opinion, this is why we have the major problems that exist in our society right now.

It all starts here, I think. We see the absolute raw end of mini-drama associated with a cushioned society. It cannot last and I would challenge even you, with respect, to defend your argument that you don't mind paying tax for it. Would you continue to do so if your neighbours knocked on your door every day at all hours so that you can deal with their emotional issues?

I know these people have nowhere else to go and, believe me, I have felt a heavy heart listening to some of them but it's not THEM I'm moaning about - it's the others - the real timewasters who know they are abusing the system.

I want to help ill people; injured and dying people; people having pragnancy problems, etc. And of the 4,000 calls we'll take in a single day I am still going to be annoyed at the 80% who simply don't need us - they just need to learn basic first aid, common sense or get some friends.

I sound cold and callous but ask anyong who really knows me and they'll tell you that I really do care about my paitents.

Rdouble said...

Hey, just thanking you for writing this blog, brilliant to read. This and the books Got me into applying for a paramedic course and now I'm happily a student paramedic! I agree that some people utterly waste the ambulance services time, BUT we should be able to refer to other appropriate services instead of instant hospital as we are rightly scared of litigation

Anonymous said...

Stuart, I hope you don't mind this off topic comment.
Today we were passed by an ambulance on blues. This huge van that must be fully laden with medical equipment was flying through the heavy ice and snow that I don't want to drive in. It just made me think how not only do you folk save lives when you get to a shout, you have immense skill and courage getting there. Just wanted to say thanks to you and all your colleagues. And wish you all a safe and happy Christmas ( I read enough blogs to know not to use the q word).

Xf said...


Thank you. I'm sure my colleagues appreciate your comments.

Have a happy Christmas.

merinz said...

Happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year to you and yours!

My youngest son is back home here (New Zealand)for Christmas and heads back to London on 2nd January. He is enjoying our summer weather!