Our patient sat, his legs crossed, on a low wall by the side of the road. Occasionally and nonchalantly, he would take a drag from a cigarette he held in one hand. His placid expression stared dead ahead, a silent exclamation to the world in general of nothing in particular. We’d pass this man by without a second thought if it wasn’t for the fact that he had a surprisingly high fountainous jet of blood spurting from his wrist. The result of which was gathering in a large pool of blood about his feet . . .
I approached from the side. I would NOT be happy if I got covered by his blood and had to change my uniform!
“Hiya fella. Can I just put my hand on that to stop it bleeding?”
“No. Fuck off.” He didn’t say it or mean it harshly. And he didn’t adjust his gaze from staring dead ahead. He just took another puff from his cigarette and moved his hand slightly so I couldn’t grab it.
Looking about I could see mothers passing by with their children. Most of them would stop and stare, unconcerned that their children were bearing witness to this dismal display. The bright red puddle gathering about our patient was slowly spreading outward and creeping toward the edge of the road. I shifted my feet so as not to be caught up in it all.
Looking at our patient again I recognised him. “It’s Peter* isn’t it? I’ve been to you before I’m sure”
This earned me the slightest sideward glance and an almost unnoticeable rise in the corner of his mouth.
“What’s going on Peter? What’s the craic today man? Look about you Peter? We can’t do this here hey. There’s children present . . . that’s not on is it”
I slowly moved my hand onto his wrist and plugged the leak. He didn’t stop me this time. But in fairness, the “leak” was hardly spurting now and Peter was starting to look a little paler than he should. His breathing was raised and his eyes kept drifting shut.
At that point the police arrived along with one of our DSOs. And, after a little persuasion Peter was assisted to the ambulance where he allowed us to dress his wound and gain I/V access. But then, out of the blue, he started kicking off, trying to fight his way up and out. By now however, he was drifting in and out of consciousness so the police decided to restrain him as best they could. And so it was, on the way to hospital it took myself and four police officers to hold him down.
We’d put in a pre-alert so we knew the resuss department would be waiting. We’d also warned them of the “agitation” our patient was displaying. So, as we arrived, the back door opened gingerly and a genuinely smiley Consultant Doctor peered round.
“Hello. Agitated patient?”
Sweating profusely I staggered back out of the truck and let the Police continue holding Peter down.
“Hello. Yes . . . ” I then quickly explained, in between gasping for breaths, the short history of Peter and his slit wrist. The Consultant listened intently and allowed me to finish before broadening the width of his smile.
“Would you mind if I had a quick look before letting him in?”
“Please . . . ” I stepped aside and allowed the Doctor onto the truck.
Within seconds he was stepping back out. However, in his wake was now a calm atmosphere and blissful silence as our patient lay motionless on the trolley bed. The Police were all stood back scratching their heads and wiping their brows.
The Consultant, smiling even more broadly than before, gestured toward the resuss department, “Thank you. We’ll see him now”
“Wh-wha’ . . . what the f-f-f-f-wh-. . . huh?”
I then caught sight of a small 5ml syringe that the Consultant was tucking surreptitiously away into his pocket. Noticing my double take his smile seemed to broaden to double it’s width and he winked quickly.
“I always carry a little something for just these occasions . . . ” he then stepped aside and bowed slightly, “. . . after you sir”.
Out patient was then lead “asleep” into the resuss department where the Doctors and Nurses continued their treatment.
As it turned out, I did get blood on my uniform . . . so had to return to base for a change of uniform after all.
*not his real name of course