My last call for yesterday was to a “65 year old female, fall in street, possible head injury”, I was only two minutes away, and I was happy to do a nice simple job.
Falls in the street are often minor injuries, where I have to do little other than minor treatments, and give a bit of the old Reynolds chat
I pulled up on scene and saw a crowd of people standing around, looking fairly relaxed, and in the middle of them a woman lying on the floor. Someone was stroking her hand.
I walked up, looked down at my patient and said, “Hello, what seems to be the problem”.
There was no answer, and her eyes kept staring ahead.
I checked her pulse, she didn't have one, nor was she breathing.
“Oh… Bollocks”, I thought.
I quickly started our treatment for this condition. Connecting my defibrillator to her (A box that monitors heart rhythmn and can 'shock' the heart), I saw that she was in 'VF'. 'VF' is what is called a 'shockable rhythmn', which means that I can give her heart an electric shock in an effort to restart her pulse.
When you see Doctors on the telly shouting 'clear!' and then the patient's body jumping, this is what is happening.
So I 'shocked' her three times, when I wasn't shocking her, I was doing CPR (pushing on her chest to keep the blood flowing to her vital organs) and breathing for her with my ambu-bag. I'd had to cut her clothes off (so I could attach the pads through which to deliver these shocks to her chest).
All the time I was fully aware of the crowd around me, and I was hoping that none of them had a cameraphone. None of the bystanders had seen anything, and none of them knew the woman (it looked to me as if she was just popping down the local shops).
The crowd were thankfully no trouble, actually they tried to be helpful – one person offered to help me with her breathing (I refused, because in reality it's tricker than it looks). There was another person who helped me, by running into their house and getting me some paper towels.
Why paper towels?
Well, I tend not to wear gloves, and while trying to resuscitate her, the patient had vomited up her last meal. So my hands were covered in her vomit. The paper towels were so I could wipe my hands before belatedly putting some gloves on.
So the crowd were, as we say in this part of London, “As good as gold”. They didn't get in the way, they didn't annoy me by asking awkward questions while I was busy, and even the little kids who were watching were well behaved.
It took a long nine minutes for the ambulance to arrive, not their fault, they were a long way away, and the traffic at that time of the day is pretty heavy.
We continued to attempt a resuscitation, and at two points we managed to restore the patient's pulse. Unfortunately she later died in hospital.
Once more I was left thinking about the relatives, who would be sitting indoors wondering why mum/gran was taking so long to get back from the shops.
Also, a resuscitation attempt is not the most dignified thing to have happen to you. That this woman had to have me cutting her clothes off, me jumping up and down on her chest and vomiting over herself, all in full view of the crowd, is not the best way in which to leave this world.
I'm hoping I have nothing but minor calls today…