I know it’s a rare thing, but we actually managed to save the life of someone! It was bloody hard work mind you, so I wouldn’t want to do it too often…
I got sent on a job with very few details , all I got was “Male, Unknown age, Unconscious, Unknown cause”. I knew roughly where the address was so I rushed around there, and saw the ambulance pulling up at the same time.
I quickly checked my computer screen and saw that I had gotten to the location in under eight minutes. Whatever happened now the government would consider this job a success.
There was something about the family member who let us through the security doors that set my ‘spider sense’ tingling. That ‘something’ was confirmed when the ambulance crew and myself walked into a bedroom and saw a rather dead looking 30 year old male lying on the lower part of a bunk bed.
I must admit that my first thought was ‘I wonder how long he has been dead?’, because if he had been dead for a while, we wouldn’t have to attempt a resuscitation. We quickly pulled him from the bed and laid him on the hard wooden floor.
“Grrrooooooollll” was the noise he made.
I’m very used to dead people making unusual noises, it’s normally as a result of their last breath leaving their body.
We quickly hooked up our heart monitor and checked for a pulse.
His heart was beating!
He took a shuddering breath.
The patient wasn’t breathing often enough to maintain life, so we would have to take over breathing for him, which we did using a bag and mask.
One of the crew lay on the floor and peered down his throat. Would we be able to intubate him? (intubate = stick a breathing tube down the patient’s throat in order to protect their airway)
“Nope”, she told me, “his airway is too tight”.
We picked up the (heavy) patient and wheeled him out of the house and into the ambulance.
Another attempt at securing his airway…
“No chance”, she said, “His airway is the size of a pencil”.
This explained why I was finding it hard work to force air into his lungs.
“Perhaps it’s his asthma”, I suggested, “shall we get some Salbutamol into him?”
Salbutamol is an asthma medicine that is inhaled – we can use various complicated connecting tubes to give this drug while I continue to ‘bag’ him.
“Lets give some adrenaline as well”, I said, seconds later it had been drawn up and given.
Giving adrenaline is another treatment for asthma.
(Why was I the one making all the suggestions? Well the crew were busy connecting monitoring equipment, gaining intravenous access and doing other tricky things – I had the simple job of breathing for him, so I had plenty of time to think about our next step of treatment).
Then it was time for the run to hospital. By now the patient’s chest was getting harder and harder to inflate. His levels of oxygen in his blood were lower than I would have liked, but it was pretty understandable considering how incredibly close he was to death.
His chest got so tight that it ended up with two of us ‘bagging’ him – I would hold the mask to his face, while one of the crew was using both hands to squeeze the breathing bag. I can still feel the pain in my arms where I was using all my strength to squeeze the bag in order to force air down his tiny airway and into his spasming lungs.
Then he vomited blood – well, ‘vomit’ is an understatement, he actually went off like a geyser – bloody vomit flew up to the ceiling of the ambulance, on the walls, over my arms, onto my trousers and covered my face and glasses.
I have learned however to keep my mouth closed when this happens…
We got to hospital, and as we were entering the resus bay the patient was starting to breath for himself – and by the time we had cleaned up the ambulance (and my face) the patient was sitting upright and was talking.
He had made such a recovery that the staff at the hospital had trouble believing that he was as ill as we told them he had been.
(Until they checked his blood levels, and on getting the results ended up sending him to intensive care).
A quick round of pats on our collective backs, and it was back to work.
Where my next job was a 30 year old with a painful foot for the past week.