I did an observer shift in Control a while back. I wanted to watch and listen to how calls come in, got triaged, allocated and then managed.
So, sitting with Laffieres*, a Clinical Team Leader, I was able to listen in to a patient call back. They had rung 999 feeling faint and had won themself an Amber response that could see her waiting a long while for an ambulance. London were holding a ridiculous amount of calls and, as usual, only had a finite amount of ambulances to send. So, it was Laffieres’ job to ring the patient back and re-check their clinical status to see if anything had changed and to see if there were any ‘alternatives’ that could be used to help the patient. This was all done using the Manchester Triage System, a quick, more concise generalised system to help clinicians triage a patient’s needs over the phone.
After a short conversation Laffieres concluded the patient did not need an ambulance at all. And, upon receiving the news that they were no longer going to be getting one, the patient’s demeanour changed. One second their voice had been woeful and demure, the next it was harsh, cruel and direct.
“If you don’t send me an ambulance I’ll ring 999 again! And I’ll keep ringing, over and over!”
My jaw had genuinely dropped. I could not believe what I’d just heard. Laffieres laughed.
“We get it all the time mate. Every day, over and over. She’ll call back in a minute, I guarantee”
And she did . . .
London Control Room
“Yep. Admitted he had been a dick and had put the whole thing on, and was genuinely apologetic”
The officer was referring to a patient that, a couple of nights previous, had almost caused a mini riot and forced me to call for ambulance back up over an open mic, as Red 1 . . . for a pseudo fit!
A neighbour let us in to the patient’s flat and led us to where she was lying on the kitchen floor. The poor old girl had simply fallen and not been able to get up, and had subsequently been lying for over six hours.
Now, I don’t have much of a sense of smell. I put this down to constant exposure to horrible smells over time. And thus, when we stepped into the kitchen, the smell of faeces that hit me was like a ton of bricks to my senses.
My god! I thought. That really MUST smell bad if I can smell it.
And to make matters worse – that sneaking, creeping, terrible feeling of awareness started prickling at the back of my neck . . . .
We were going to have to clean her up!!!!
Working on a pre hospital emergency you can be forgiven certain etiquettes in standard procedures. Like intubating a patient whilst they’re on a filthy floor in a corner of a darkened room. But, as long as there is no ‘real’ harm done to the patient then it should be fine . . . shouldn’t it?
I opened the roller clamp on the IV Paracetamol and held the bottle above the patient’s head to watch the flow. But, instead of seeing the drips coming down, I saw the patient’s blood run vertically up the tube toward the bottle!
Ah . . . I thought, this is awkward . . .
Antecubital Fossa (ACF)
I was being ushered into the house by the patient’s immediate family. Their looks of grave concern was matched by their eagerness to get me to the patient as quickly as possible. This sort of behaviour generally makes up your global overview of what is going on and how serious the situation potentially could be.
I therefore decided not to make ice breaking jokes at this particular time and instead, took it as serious as the atmosphere dictated.
Inside were more family members, some of the older women crying. They all ushered me upstairs to where the patient lay on a bed, one hand clutched to his chest, the other wiping tears from his face.
The tower block loomed in front of me, like a gigantic mountain sized monolith. Due to a power cut, not a single light was on throughout the building. This just added to its dark and evil mystique. My eyes slowly moved up the floors searching for its peak. But against the dark London back drop, the building seemed to blend as one with the night sky.
Somewhere up on the 19th floor, someone had turned their ankle and was in “so much pain, they could not walk”. So, standing with my paramedic bag on my back and all the other essentials I always took into jobs, I prepared to enter the building.
“You going up there mate?” A young resident was leaving the building and had clocked me with all my kit. He was motioning up the building.
“Yep. Are the lifts working?”
“Ha! No chance mate. Nothing is. It’s all fucked yeh”
I looked up once again and did a quick calculation in my head. Within seconds I was sat back in the car calling up control. Sod that, walking up 19 floors with all that kit!