I walked through the door to the house, the door had been kicked open and I stepped over the splinters of wood. Turning left I climbed the stairs and saw one of my favourite police officers standing at the top. He's one of the older officers on the street and eminently sensible, I know that a job is going to be fine if he's there.
“That your handiwork?”, I asked him.
“Yep, I've arranged someone to come and fix it”. He was kneeling down next to our patient.
It's one of our usual calls, an elderly neighbour doesn't answer the door and someone who 'pops' in sometimes, or buys their bread and milk for them calls for us, or the police.
The police arrive to knock down the door – or we get there first and I get to kick it in. On this occasion the police had beaten us and so the officer had been on his own with the patient waiting while we'd cleared from our last patient. He'd already put a pillow under the woman's head and was arranging to let the relatives know – as is common these days the relatives lived in a different county.
'Edna' had the classic pose of a broken hip. Lying flat on her back with one leg obviously shorter than the other.
“You won't take me to hospital will you? It's just a little tumble”, she asked looking up at me with pleading eyes.
“We'll see how you are after I've had a look at you”, I told her in an effort to give me some time to work out how to break the news to her that she would be going to hospital.
A further examination and it was even more obvious that she had broken her hip. I looked around, we'd need to strap her to our scoop stretcher firmly as we'd need to carry her down the stairs and tip her nearly upright in order to get her out the front door.
I looked Edna in the eye, “I'm sorry luv, but it looks like you might have broken your hip, you'll need to go to hospital”.
A tear formed in each eye, “Oh no. I suppose I don't have a choice do I?”
So we set about strapping her up – the police officer helped my crewmate get some equipment from the ambulance. What I really wanted to do was give her some Morphine for the pain – it was obviously going to be painful with the manoeuvres that we were going to be forced to do.
But our Morphine stores were out of stock, we had nothing stronger than Entonox. At least we had some of that.
So we spent our time carefully strapping her to the scoop while trying to dose her up with 'gas and air', it didn't seem to be having much effect; essentially her pain relief would be dependant on how well we had strapped her to our scoop.
My crewmate is only little, but surprisingly strong, so she refused the officers offer to carry her end of the scoop, instead he would continue to guard the house until the workmen would come to fix the door that he'd kicked in.
Carefully, so very carefully, we lifted her up and carried her down the stairs, there were some little noises of pain from Edna but she seemed to be coping well. Then at the bottom of the stairs we tilted the scoop up almost to the vertical.
Not a peep from Edna.
We got her out the front door and put her on the trolleybed that my crewmate had already positioned in the street. Then it was a simple matter of driving as carefully to hospital as possible with me holding her hand all the way.
This job gnawed at my mind for some days – Edna was such a lovely lady, with a clean house, neighbours who cared and a real sparkle about her – but because of her other health problems the chances of her getting out of hospital weren't good. Essentially, this 'little tumble' would almost certainly be the cause of her death.
In part I think it's because we spent so much time with her, chatting to her, explaining what was joining on, trying to reassure her that it hit me so hard. In the grand scheme of things we hardly knew her, but for us spending half an hour on scene is a lot longer than we normally have to get to know our patients.