A Little Good

We were met at the door by a man whose face was covered in blood.  The blood wasn’t his.

There were two ambulances parked outside, one of which was mine.  There was also a FRU.  We had been given the job as ‘Male, suspended’ and if the manpower is there then Control will send two ambulances.  As we were all running from our station we had followed each other down the road.

We had arrived on scene to find the man, in his 50s the only living person in the house, his mouth was covered in the blood of his childhood friend.  Standing outside were a lot of crying women.  Laying on the kitchen floor was our patient, he was surrounded by blood.  There was blood on the cupboards and the walls, there was blood on the floor.  In the sink there was blood and lumps of lung tissue.

It was obvious that we were not going to be able to do anything for him.

His friend had been doing mouth-to-mouth, but the blood that filled his lungs had rendered this best of intentions useless.

The patient had been suffering from lung cancer.  While watching the telly he had developed a coughing fit and, coughing over the sink, had showered everything with blood and then died.

So we did what we thought was best.  After talking to the relatives, we cleaned the kitchen and our patient, we took away the blood-soaked clothes.  Putting a dressing in his mouth to prevent leakage we placed our patient in a carry chair and took him upstairs and placed him in his bed.  Once there we arranged him so that he looked like he was sleeping.

By the time we were finished the kitchen was spotless, the patient was clean and looked restful.

We then helped the family get in contact with the undertaker and with the GP.  We offered them the only help that we could – they had lost their husband, their father and their friend.  We couldn’t save his life, but we could try to reduce the hurt in those who he left.


And you go away from a job like that thinking that you did some good, even though you didn’t save a life.

35 thoughts on “A Little Good”

  1. “I don't think that anyone in any ambulance service would dispute the assertion that the bean counters' response targets can go to hell when they compete with a need for sympathy, supportiveness, and simple humanity.”I am very, very glad that ambulance staff feel this way. Death isn't the sort of thing that can be handled on a production-line basis.

    If someone close to me had an accident and an ambulance attended and on the way out, an EMT or Paramedic handed me a leaflet/letter/bit of paper about something like how to best look after their burns or how to deal with concussion, and then sped off to pick up more drunks save some lives, that'd be fine, I'd probably be glad for the guidance. But if I'd just watched someone close to me die and was handed a proforma letter to “Dear Bereaved” as the crew made their way to the door, I think I might just punch someone.

  2. Huge hug to you and Laura Tom.I had reason to call LAS on Sat night/Sun morn.

    The crew from West Mid were, like you – fabulous, professional human and humane.

    That gentleman's friend would at least know in his heart that he did his best for his mate, as did you and your crew.

    Hug again.

  3. Where was the free box of promotional washing powder?The LAS is missing the mark, obviously by this flagrant breach of revenue potential.

    You looked dead funny tonite on the Alan Yentob programme too. Well done matey… funny to think we are all such media whores that I felt almost… cross… that my secret communion at the alter of Tom is going to be more public. Youve got a cute voice too.

  4. Much MORE good in that case than in many of the “minor” medical ones. The horrors you saved those people are beyond measuring.

  5. That's horrific. I never cease to be impressed by the ability of ambulance men and women to calmly and rationally deal with situations which would make me pass out on the floor like a dropped bag of potatoes.

  6. Good God. I'd say that was above and beyond. Aside from moving a deceased patient into a body bag at an RTA, I can't say I've had such an experience – nor am I sure that our protocols would 'allow' us to. I guess there's no manual for some situations.

  7. The compassion you have for the patients and families you come into contact with is truly inspiring.An amazing insight…

  8. Your colleagues in the Scottish service dealt similarly with my mum's death earlier this year. She had literally keeled over in my dad's arms on the stairs. After some time attempting resus on the landing they sought, and got, permission to stop; they then laid her out on the spare bed.Even though I wasn't there, I am extremely grateful for how the situation was handled. Death is an awful business, for those who aren't used to it, but your colleagues allowed her to regain some dignity, bringing a crumb of comfort to us newly bereaved.

    Reynolds – all ambulance staff – I salute you.

  9. fair play to you – its always good to leave the victim of an arrest with a little bit of dignity. The friend also deserves a vicarious pat on the back; attempting mouth to mouth on a patient like that is not something that many would do (I certainly wouldn't)

  10. What you describe above is typical of what we do in the event of a death at home; of course it is – every member of the family is a patient as well. (Please see my comment on Tom's posting of 15th Nov – “The Right Choice”.) However, what we are SUPPOSED to do is rather different.Driven by the current government obsession with targets and response times within the NHS, our primary aim should actually be to get ourselves and our vehicle back on the road as soon as possible. Thus, as soon as we are certain that to continue attempting resuscitation is futile, we are supposed to tidy up swiftly, break the news to the family, and leave – contacting our Despatch Centre to call for a doctor (to certify) and the police (in cases where the law so requires.) The point was driven home to us in writing a couple of years ago, and we were even given a supporting paperwork kit, which included things like a letter to the bereaved. The underlying thinking was efficient and impeccable, and I certainly certainly could not fault our management for trying to get us away from a death as quickly as possible; they would be failing in their duty if they did otherwise. However, the desire to flagellate us with response times is the Scottish Executive's, not our management's.

    The letter, as it happens, is very nice, and very well written; however, I don't think that it gets used much. In fact, I can't even find a copy to quote from. We still actually handle deaths at home as we always have – our duty of care extends well beyond the deceased, and compassion goes with the territory.

    I don't think that anyone in any ambulance service would dispute the assertion that the bean counters' response targets can go to hell when they compete with a need for sympathy, supportiveness, and simple humanity.

  11. We had a similar situation a month or so ago. As the patient was behind locked doors, the police came to gain access too. On arrival, friends of the patient had just broken into her home.Sadly, the police arrived (rather unusually) at the same time as we did, and declared the house as a crime scene and we couldn't do anything except the bare minimum required to pronounce the patient as deceased.Gaaaaa…!

  12. BananaHammock… as a police officer one of the most difficult decisions you have to make it whether to 'call' a suspicious death. The impact on grieving relatives, other residents – and police resources – is substantial, and not taken lightly. As a newly promoted sergeant I arrived at the scene (after the ambo crew – sorry!) of the death of a woman, and had to make that call. The weight of the world is on your shoulders. Our difficulty is that if you call it non-sus, and clear everything up, and it then turns out at PM that the person was potentially murdered – you have lost so much forensics that it could be very difficult to obtain justice for the deceased and their relatives.The worst is at the scene of a sudden infant death, where bedding, bottles and toys are often taken for evidential purposes. You can't begin to imagine how s**t you feel in those circumstances. However, I was once at a job where it turned out that a baby had died due to abuse. This fact could easily have been missed had this action not been taken.

    Reynolds – I found your post very moving. It is stuff like this that makes such an incredible difference. The preservation of 'dignity' is so important – for the dead, for their friends and relatives, and for us. The paradox though is that it ties up with the weird way people seem to act nowadays around death and the treatment of bodies – for example, the 'scandal' a couple of years ago about bodies being kept in a hospital chapel when the morgue was full. And people holding multiple funeral services for one individual as different body parts were found after the Alder Hay thing.

    I suppose it is knowing when to draw a line under the 'body' stuff. When to realise that after death the body is no longer that person…


  13. It's part of the training and experience to be detached and caring at the same time. Someone has to be in control. It's called being professional and we are all so grateful when someone like you is on the scene.

  14. Wow. You left those people with a more bearable memory of the man they loved – that's something no league table, budget or target could ever compensate for.Respect.

  15. Tales like this give me a warm feeling inside – people like you and the other crew are like a light in the dark. I can only imagine how much comfort you would have brought to the friends and family (I can't even begin to imagine the heartbreak of trying to clean up a loved one's blood like that) and made an unbearable situation a little easier. I'm sure they'll remember that kindness for a long time.There's no way you can measure the effects of comfort like this – and I eternally hope that the country never becomes so totally wrapped up in hitting targets that no-one remembers how to care for people.

    And I can't begin to express the pride I feel for his friend performing CPR in that situation. I only hope that if/when it's my turn to exit this world, I too have friends that care as much about me.

  16. I can only echo what so many others have said already: the scene sounded like something out of a horror movie, and no one wants to remember a loved one in that way. You made the situation slightly more bearable for the relatives and friend, and gave the patient some dignity.Stuff targets, I say “Job well done”.

  17. When all the accountants have done their sums and cut budgets, they should consider there are some aspects – and people – who are priceless in field.

  18. I always wonder “who gets to clean up?” in cases like that – I always imagine it being the bereaved, and imagine them doing it, and wonder how they can ever bear to live in the place again, looking at the oven that they wiped their loved one's blood off, and so on.Suicides, too.

  19. I was bereaved of a loved family member, a formerly strong and athletic man, after a 3-month, severe illness for him earlier this year. There was hope right up until the end.It still. Hurts.

    The worst thing? – my memory of, his confused face, on the trolley just before he died – and that was the last time I ever saw him.

    I kicked his trolley by accident as I left the room from our final goodbye (him groggy, me barely holding it together) and he looked up, all wondering and so very hurt by his illness – I was the architect of his misery when I would have given almost anything to see him peaceful and accepting.

    Before that, I saw his sad eyes when normal, decent bodily functions failed, his daily small personal pain when that glorious body he once had, no longer responded bit by bit.

    All I had to fill my mind in the immediate days and weeks of sharp grief after his death, were those memories. Those pictures.

    NLP people say we remember according to sound, looks and image in parts according to our nature – but I doubt anyone doesn't know in grim photographic details what a loved one LOOKED LIKE last time their saw them.

    My mental snaps? They weren't good, they didn't do him justice.

    Memories are all the bereaved have left, and the most immediate ones are the most important ones at that time.

    It's taken about 10 months for me to get to a place where the pictures of him, happy, enjoying life, can be as present as that apocalyptic, horrific, pain-raddled few weeks.

    Tom (Brian, if anyone prefers) did a good job by leaving an impression of dignity, peace and self-hood for those people, for their loved one. I admit I wish someone like that, in a similar situation, had been there for me and mine in January. Ouch, being emotional – shutting up.

  20. I have always been impressed by the dignity and respect our local crews show the patient. Its the little things that matter because it shows they genuinely care.Its things like making sure (at a cardiac arrest) that the wires from the defibrillator pads arent underneath the hands of the person doing the CPR, so that the patients body is not to bruised/damaged any more than is absolutely necessary.

    Or talking to the patient and apologising for subjecting them to vigorous CPR and a battery of invasive procedures Sorry to be doing all this to you, and we dont even know your name.

    And when its all over and despite everyones best efforts, the patient dies, they then straighten the room, then remake the bed and gently put the patients back into the bed from which we had to swiftly unceremoniously haul them half an hour before.

    Its how you would want your family and friends to be treated.

    Also I always feel sorry for the home helps or people from the warden service who often seem to be on scene, they have probably been looking after the patient for years ( maybe seeing them twice or more a day.) Many are very upset by what happens, and they seem to have had little preparation, training or back up from management

  21. I will just be for ever thankful for the doctor that made my Dads last night so comfortable as he died of lung cancer.. This must have been so awful for the family

  22. I can't imagine any greater service than cleaning up in a case like this. That, and giving the patient some dignity, and the family something to remember besides the times that'll make them wake in a cold sweat at night.Good for you and your crewmates isn't even close to what I don't know how to say.

  23. See Tom, even the lads think you're cute, it's not just me.Better make the washing powder non-bio unless you want calls out to mysterious rashes.

    (A friend rushed her toddler to ED, fearing the dreaded Meningitis, only realising days later that the doctor wasn't doing market research on the side when he asked if she'd recently changed brands. I couldn't help the look on my face, and she now introduces me as the friend who thinks I'm stupid.)

  24. I'm guessing that my less than 20 second flash on screen is't going to overload my servers…It's funny, but I spoke for over an hour on tape. I think there were more establishing shots of Towerhill train station than images of me.

    Still it was good for a laugh to do and they had a *lot* to fit into the hour. Can you imagine trying to fit the whole influence that the internet has on art into one hour?

  25. im a little surprised to see the other 2 'star' bloggers are actually named in the write up of the show, however they dropped you. was it your idea to be in uniform or theres?

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