Get Them When They Are Young

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.

35 thoughts on “Get Them When They Are Young”

  1. Oh Shush! You'll make me blush.It's only what one human should do to another, and although us ambulance types might talk up being cynical, most of us would do the same.

    And besides – it's what I get paid to do. I wouldn't do it for charity.

  2. I was going to write a slushy post too but realised what it will be doing to your ego. I would like to take the manly 'punch on the shoulder and buy you a pint' route instead. 🙂

  3. I hope you got a warm glow from that one that'll keep you going for a while through all the drunks and 999 abusers. Well done.

  4. It's really sad to see kids like that. I hope he gets a good social worker. I guess his chances aren't great but at least you picked him up. Poor kid.

  5. Well done I'm truly impressed.If there were more people acting like that the world would be a big deal better!

  6. And by the way: I've always been thinking you ambulance guys DON'T actually care (that way), you seem to be really special

  7. “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.”I hate to pee on everyones starry eyed comments here and of course job well done Reynolds.. But he was out there for a reason, why do you think he was thrown out, why would they throw him out after they took him in if he hadn't done anything bad? To think he's going to go to the social services and be a good boy and go to college and one day be prime minister is pretty short sighted.

  8. Sorry but you can't choose the family you're born in and sometimes things happen, circumstances you can't control, wrong friends, no one to keep you grounded, no backing, you can't judge as long as you do not know every detail of his life and his past , society can be cruel and sometimes a lack of self confidence makes you do things which are wrong and which you will regret before you give yourself up. There are so many “poor souls” out there and so many people who just turn around. When you are 60, an alcoholic who has lost everything it is probably too late. But not for a 16 year old boy, there is still hope and I myself hope he'll make it. But he'll need backing and help, professional help…

  9. Agreed, this is only the second time I've felt teary reading a blog entry, and last time it was Reynolds too. (Then again, the rest of the stuff I read is about biology or computer science or web design, so not really much scope for crying!)All the same, I was beginning to think evil thoughts about people, and this has – paradoxically – cheered me up. There are still good people out there.

    Thanks Reynolds,

    Ithika. The Broken Hut.

  10. Nobody was saying the boy hadn't done anything wrong, or that he'd suddenly turn into a good citizen now. Do you propose we give up on everyone who does stupid, bad or wrong things as a teenager, not offer them any chances?

  11. Impressive work & Interesting comments;If Tom had reported how he'd intervened medically , say CPR +, would there be less scepticsm here ?

    I like how you worked out a thouthful, caring response, allowing the young man as well as the caring system to build on your initial assessment.

    I do hope your bosses at LAS, plus certain doubtful characters such as the bloke who challenged you on BBC Scotland, are reading diligently.

    This reflects the positive of your role, your personal style, and the value of communicating about it in a blog.

    / d b

  12. what accedent had he had?what was it that required an emergency dept?

    there should be a better place for this chap, if it had been busy he'd of been kicked out by security as soon as an ecg was done. good job it was quiet.

  13. No 'accident', no 'emergency' agreed.But once it gets dark there is…

    No emergency psychiatric provision

    No emergency social services provision

    Little or No GP provision.

    So that leaves it down to that old familiar safety net

    Ambulance / A&E.

    We are cheap after all.

    Its the same with drunks, they don't need hospital, but what else can we do with them? The police can't take them because they can't be watched properly and might choke on their own vomit, and we can't leave them lying in the road (if only because we'd keep getting called out to them).


    We should have effective out of hours Social Services, GP and psychiatric services, but while us and the hospitals keep looking after them – cheaply at that – we'll continue to be used in this fashion.

    Hmmm… topic for a rant methinks.

    And yes, if the department had been busy then he might not have gotten as good a care as I think he did – but I doubt they would have kicked him out without setting something up for him.

    (I hope, at least – it depends who is staffing the department).

  14. No. You can't judge and for all we know there might have been a really good reason why he was chucked out of two homes in a week BUT as a sixteen year old he was vulnerable and technically a minor. Perhaps he will turn around, perhaps he won't but that isn't the point here – the point is that someone ie: Tom in his position as an adult and an EMT chose to help him at that point.

  15. The more dealings I have with Social Services the less surprised I am at how many children (and I don't think many would argue about 16 year olds still being children, whoever streetwise) slip through the net. High turnover of staff (thankless job), some barely articulate social workers and a very curious sense of priorities at time. Any advocacy a kid can get for social services to be reminded there's a human being who needs a hand is useful.

  16. It is jobs like this that make me want to do this line of work. Although at this point in time, you didnt' save his life, by taking him to get the help he needed, you in a way did save him.So congratulations, job well done!


  17. When I was a lot younger (well, alright, about four or five years ago) I was going through a very sticky patch. (I used to be a fly.) I wasn't eating enough, because I don't eat when I'm depressed. I was working too hard, because it's easier to work than it is to think about what's happening to you. I became totally disconnected from my body in a very profound way- started to feel like my body was a vehicle I carried my brain around in- and completely stopped looking after myself. I guess my brain chemistry was probably prodigiously stuffed by this point.One day, at work, I started having chest pains. They weren't a cry for help, except maybe from my body, which was in a way crying 'uncle'. It had had enough of my rampant mismanagement, and it was campaigning for representation. Now, at this time, I'd had chest pains a few times, and I'd always put it down to, you know, just normal aches and pains. They'd never been like this. This was crippling. I couldn't move. I couldn't take a deep breath. I couldn't think straight. This was terrible.

    Then it started to get worse. I could breathe out but not in. I couldn't get enough air. I'd been muttering to the others in the office about how I didn't really feel too good, and maybe I should go home, but I stopped that and told James that I needed an ambulance, I was having huge chest pains and couldn't breathe properly.

    He went to find the boss, who contacted the first aider. Said first aider was in a clean room at the time. I sat for fifteen minutes waiting for the useless retard to dig himself out of cleanroom clothes. Then another twenty minutes elapsed before he got around to coming to see me. He had some sort of lame excuse.

    By this point I was turning blue, by all accounts, and I was in absolute agony, with tunnel vision and everything going grey. I couldn't move, breathe, anything. Couldn't even speak properly, and let me tell you, I was terrified. Absolutely terrified.

    He went to find the procedures manual. James went schizo on him and called an ambulance. The rapid response guy turned up in about two minutes flat, gave me oxygen- this helped immensely- and waited while the ambulance arrived. I said please and thank you to him, he was very nice, and I was super-duper polite to the ambulance crew too. I always am, unless you're an idiot. In that case you can get stuffed.

    But, to their credit, I've never met a paramedic who was actually stupid. Rough, yeah. Rude, on occasion, but never actually stupid. But I digress. Eventually I got to the hospital and it turned out I had some sort of deeply unpleasant lung infection and it'd managed to glue both my lungs to the membranes that cover them.

    If I'd been having a heart attack, I'd have died.


  18. Quote: “But he was out there for a reason, why do you think he was thrown out, why would they throw him out after they took him in if he hadn't done anything bad? “I work for Social Services in Hertfordshire in the Adoption Team. Some of the paperwork I have dealt with *sigh*.

    It really makes the above question sound so effing stupid. Really. There are so many bad, stupid and misguided people in this world and you can't assume that he would have to have done something bad to be thrown out.

    I know that Social Services can be crap at times, I know that there are some shit Social Workers, but there are also the good ones. The ones that care with all their heart about the children that they deal with. Luckily I work with this sort of Social Worker and they are absolutely wonderful people.

    Besides, without us, who else would deal with the problem….

  19. As a social worker once told me, after hearing how our little mountain church helped a homeless mother and three kids who wandered in one Sunday looking for a little money but found people who cared enough to not look down on them but give them food for several meals and clothes for the nearly-naked kids and money to get them on their way to Ohio where the mother had some family, “That contact with the mother and kids was short-lived, but the genuine love shown for them will affect even the young teenage boy in ways you will never know. It was the touch of God that cannot be forgotten.”We can gripe about “the system” and try to improve it, and lose hope over so many “lost souls” out there, but as Mr. Reynolds and others out there know, even one soul touched by love and care when things are at their worst is a soul which nevers really returns to what it was and is in some, even small way brought closer to the dignity of a real human being.

    Thank you, Mr. Reynolds, for sharing with us your life and giving us something positve to emulate.

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