I’ve often said that when a person is dead or drastically ill, it’s blatantly obvious. However, as always, there are exceptions.
Marvin and I were called to a 97 year old lady with abdo pain. When we walked in the on-call carers looked concerned.
“I don’t think she’s got a pulse you know”
We glanced across the room to where the patient was lying on the bed. The carer stood beside her holding her wrist and moved her look of concern from the patient to us. The patient took a deep breath in and from where we were standing we could see she had good colour in her lips and face. Carers – tut – what do they know!
Marvin, who was attending this shift, walked over and sat beside the old lady and took her hand in his.
“Hello my dear, how are you feeling tonight?”
Nothing. Just another deep breath in. Marvin continued in trying to gain a response whilst I stood looking on. However, something wasn’t right. In fact something was wrong. Very wrong. But what was it now . . .
“Is there a pulse Marvin?” Marvin was already checking on the wrist.
“. . . feels like there is . . .”
Another deep breath in. Hang on, I thought . . . the last breath in was nearly twenty seconds ago. Shit! I moved quickly to the patient’s neck and checked for a pulse there. No pulse. Marvin and I exchanged a quick “knowing” glance and snapped into gear.
We both grabbed the bed sheet and practically threw our patient onto the floor so that we could work on her. She was in cardiac arrest and must have just suspended as we walked in. Great. Talk about being caught off guard.
I cracked on with CPR whilst Marvin got the pads placed and the bag-valve mask ready. 97 years old this lady was . . . I’m sure Marvin felt the same, but the chances of coming back from a cardiac arrest at that age were minimal to say the least.
Marvin took over with the chest compressions whilst I radioed in for help.
“Red Base, hello. This is G803* requesting another crew please. Patient is in cardiac arrest”
“Roger, G803. Patient in cardiac arrest. I’ve got J814* on their way to you right now*
Marvin and I continued in near silence. Our actions almost clockwork. Most of the talking was directed at the carers, asking about what had happened and about the patient’s medical history.
By the time the second crew arrived we had shocked the patient three times and, incredibly, managed to get a pulse back! And not only that, she was attempting to spit out the advanced airway and breath for herself! All her observations were good and stable too . . . . albeit her ECG was a little “interesting” – we put this down to her having Sick Sinus Syndrome (which Marvin and I originally thought meant she had a cold!).
However, the whole jubilant result of our patient being snatched back from the proverbial light brought with it a new set of problems. How to get her to hospital. We were six floors up and the lift would only squeeze in the likes of two anorexic humans at the most . . . and only if they were levered in with a giant shoe horn first. This meant one thing – we would have to carry her down the stairs. And, she would have to be kept as horizontal as possible. Whilst wired to all the monitors . . . hmmm, joy.
So, with much sweat and effort and swapping about we started the long stretcher haul down the tight stairs. Part way down our patient started waking . . .
“. . . . feel sick”
Her hand came up and tried to swipe away some of the monitoring leads. To hear a 97 year old starting to converse with us after a cardiac arrest was a wonderful thing and made everyone laugh. As we swapped positions on our way down, Marvin leant down to the old lady and squeezed her hand.
“Alright my dear – how are you feeling?”
“. . . feel sick . . .”
“Heh, bet you do. You’ll be alright though, we’re taking you to Hospital now, where the doctors can look after you eh”
“. . . no you’re fucking not . . . I’m not going to Hospital!”
Thankfully, she was too weak to put up a fight and we were able to continue on our way. But it did make us giggle and think about whether or not we could leave her at home with nothing more than a GP referral and cup of tea.
By the time we dumped her off in resuss, she was sitting up and talking. And swearing. And cursing. And swearing some more. My god, what a tongue she had on her. Proper east-ender.
And to top it off, she had no idea of what had happened either – and refused to believe it too . . . bless ‘er ol’ cockney socks.
*not the real call signs of course