A couple of nights ago I got sent on a job to a 16 year old male. He was complaining of chest pain. That makes it a high priority call which warrants a Rapid Response Unit, and therefore my attendance.
The location was in the street, so I made my way there, and met a thin looking boy. Throughout the night I had been waiting a long time for ambulances (an hour and a half in one case – more on that in a later post), so I was aware that I would have to make small talk.
A quick examination and history from the patient revealed a cough, and that this was the cause of his chest pain. I then started chatting to him and found out his real problem.
He had left his familial home some time last year, and was living with a friend of the family. Then, two nights ago, he had been thrown out of that house. Too scared to go back to his mother and father, he was sleeping rough.
Skin and bone, with rotten teeth and poor skin, he had obviously been neglecting himself even before he was made homeless. I asked him about his diet, and he told me that it was junk food and a vitamin tablet. I suspect that he was living on cola and cigarettes, if not something stronger.
All while I was talking to him, he was polite, pleasant and respectful – something I don't often get from people his age.
He told me how he had fallen in with the wrong sort of people, and I realised that his chest pain was a call for help.
I decided that we needn't wait for the ambulance, and so loaded him into the car (Shhh…don't tell anyone, I'm not really supposed to do it), cancelled the ambulance and took him to the local hospital.
There are two types of nurses in the local hospital, those I trust to do the right thing, and those who seem to be marking the days until they can get out of there.
So I spoke to one of the nurses I trust, I told her all that I've just told you, and we both agreed that there was a serious need for some social services input. Thankfully the department didn't seem too busy, so I was happy that he wouldn't get forgotten. She is also the sort of nurse who will quite happily annoy the social services until they do something.
On the way out, the young man shook my hand and thanked me.
I don't often get thanked, especially by teenagers.
Sure, he didn't need an ambulance for his physical problems, his chest pain was nothing, and while he had a poor diet, it wasn't a medical emergency. But what he did need was access to people who would care for him, and would get him on the first steps of something that I hope will lead him away from trouble.
I go to a hell of a lot of alcoholics and drug addicts, they tend to start when they are young, and cruising the streets I see the men and women in their 30's who are spending the day drinking cheap cider, sitting on street corners and collecting their dole. It upsets me because they are ruining their lives.
I'm kind of hoping that we have managed to 'catch' this kid before he becomes one of them, and then becomes yet another of our 'regulars'.
Here is hoping.