Three of our jobs today had the potential to be upsetting, and while they were all sad, only one seriously upset me, and did so in a way I consider rather out of character for myself.
The first job of the day was to an 86 year old female in a nursing home with a 'blocked nose', we raced around there because…well…it was a Category 'A' call and those are the top priority 'get there in eight minutes to please the government target' calls.
Just as we pulled up outside Control let us know that the patient was upgraded to a 'suspended' (no pulse, no breathing), and sure enough we ran into the home to be greeting by a Fast Response Unit who was doing C.P.R. I jumped down and did a round of chest compressions which cracked her ribs (a recognised side effect of effective C.P.R) and then noticed that on the cardiac monitoring machine her heart rhythm had changed. She had a pulse!
…people don't normally get a pulse back from cardiac arrests of her particular type. We rushed her to the hospital, where a full cardiac arrest team was assembled. Her pulse was lost, and then returned. Unfortunately her prognosis was poor, but she stayed alive long enough for her daughter to reach the hospital. She died with her daughter there, which is a small victory, but one that we are getting more used to.
The second potentially upsetting job was to a one year old boy who had pulled some boiling milk on top of him. We turned up to find about 20 police officers on scene, and the HEMS helicopter circling above. The same FRU responder was there and the child had around 10% partial thickness burns to parts of the neck and chest. While nasty, this wasn't immediately life-threatening, but the HEMS doctor who turned up decided that it would be best to take the patient to the Paediatric Burns Unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital by helicopter. As the helicopter could get the child there in under 20 minutes it seemed like the right plan of action. My job during this call was to, (1) hold onto the other two toddlers in the house, (2) mix up some paracetamol for the child, and (3) to drive child and doctor to the helicopter which was around 300 yards away. The job was interesting because she was the type of parent who thought it was a good idea to wedge a settee into the hallway to stop her children from falling down the stairs…
The final job was a lot simpler – we were called to an 18-22 year old female who was 'unresponsive' in a bus. The bus had reached the end of it's route and the driver couldn't wake up the patient. (Possibly interesting aside – Bus drivers cannot touch any of their customers to wake them up). We turned up and soon managed to wake up the very sleepy girl. She remained drowsy but agreed to let us take her to a place where she lived, but after talking to her a bit, we soon realised that she was instead homeless. This, coupled with the way she would fall asleep as soon as we stopped talking to her, made us think that it would not be safe to leave her on the street, so we decided that we would instead take her to hospital. When we reached the hospital she refused to go in, and instead pulled out a 'crack' pipe and started to light up. We told her that she couldn't do that… So she jumped up, pushed my crewmate and ran off. As there was nothing physically wrong with her we couldn't chase after her, so instead returned to our station to fill in the necessary paperwork.
So why was it that this last job was the most upsetting, not only for myself but also for my crewmate? Well it wasn't because she was pretty (she wasn't, and she had a voice like Ken Campbell), and it wasn't because she was ill, nor was it because my crewmate got shoved.
With our first job, the woman was at the end of her life, and until she died, had enjoyed fairly good health – she didn't die a painful, protracted death, and she died with her daughter next to her. With the scalded child, he would forget the pain, and will receive excellent care from the hospital he went to, he would return home to his loving (if ever so slightly dense) mother.
With this girl, it was as if she were lost – at some point in her life her potential future had unravelled. Instead of getting an education, holding down a job, finding someone special and living a long and happy life, she is homeless, a drug addict and her future is probably painful and short. What is so depressing is that no-one was able to turn around this descent, and this is perhaps why I despair at society – that so many people are prevented from reaching their full potential. I understand that she has made her own choices, but how much power did she have to make those choices. I wanted to help her, but there was no way I could do this.
And it's that which annoyed and upset me.