Monday, 3 January 2011

Anatomy for beginners

I did another car shift out of the south and spent most of it dealing with the usual stuff; abdominal pains, sore throats, minor allergic reactions... until I received a call for a 'cut throat' - and I don't mean a pirate!

Up until this call, which was the last of the night, I'd already put myself on high alert for the possibility of delivering another baby when a second-time mum waited too long for a taxi (as always) and had a relative put in a 999 call for a 'birth imminent' instead. Luckily, a crew took over within minutes of the inevitable. I really didn't care one way or the other. I'd have been glad to deliver it and was ready to but I thought about the mess I'd be working in and that I only had one uniform with no spare to go back to. I shouldn't have bothered worrying; my uniform was to become a blood-stained mess anyway.

A lift with an air freshener jammed into the ceiling was an unpleasant and unusual surprise too as I plodded along to yet another routine call that had no place being on the 'emergency' calls list. With a running rate of around 5,000 calls per day over the past few weeks, we really have been put under enormous pressure by individuals with nothing better to do than fret over small things. There is no solution and I predict (and you can mark my words here) that it will only get worse, year on year. Going to a sore throat while having to inhale the pungent stink of 'Pine forest' or whatever the hell it was coming from that air freshener, made me less than sympathetic on arrival.

Now, the last call of the night was messy. The guy had been attacked and was lying on the floor when I arrived. His throat had been sliced open so badly that his skin gaped and the underlying structures of his neck could be seen. Blood was everywhere and a large pool of the stuff made a pillow for his head. He was drunk and unaware of the severity of his wound, although he did ask if he was going to die a number of times but it was the half-hearted statement of an inebriated person with no idea of the life-endangered situation he was actually in.

None of his major blood vessels had been cut. If they had, he would have been dead before I got to him and the two police officers that I found dealing with him would not have been as calm as they were. He was very lucky but one silly move would be all it would take to render him unlucky. He kept moving his head and the musculature of his neck threatened to finish the job that had been started by his assailant. If his carotid artery ruptured (and it could clearly be seen throbbing away at the surface of the wound) he'd die very, very quickly.

A crew arrived and together we managed to get him into the ambulance without further trauma. By now, of course, I was stained in his blood. Ironically, my boots were clean but my jacket and stab vest were soaked and I looked like a paramedic butcher. I certainly wasn't going to be able to go to another 'pain in belly' call looking like I'd just murdered my last patient.

I have to say that the man's attacker had sliced his throat so cleanly that it almost looked as if he'd had some surgical training. To be able to open up that part of the body without cutting into the Jugular vein or the Carotid artery - or damage the muscles and trachea, was either incredibly good fortune (for the victim of course) or sound anatomical judgement. I go for the former since I doubt very much that there is a Jack The Ripper type running around glassing people with such accuracy.

So, red-stained and exhausted after the struggle to keep him from dying on us, I took myself back to the station where I dumped at least one perfectly good hi-vis jacket in the clinical waste bin.

Happy New Year and...

Be safe.

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