I’m thankful that Christmas is over, and as I sit here nursing a sore knee, I think back on some of the jobs that I went to over the holiday period…
Our patient was in his mid forties, he had called us from his mobile phone to tell us that he had suffered a fit. While I’m used to people calling us if someone has a fit in front of them, the patient themselves phoning us is unusual (and normally means that they haven’t had a fit at all).
We found him sitting on the floor, beside a bus stop. It was one of the really cold days and so it came as no surprise to me that he felt like a block of ice. Our ambulance is warmer than an A&E department so I decided to sit and chat with him a bit so that he could warm up.
He told me that he was an alcoholic and that he hadn’t eaten or slept for the past three days. A look into his eyes and I could see that it wasn’t just alcohol that was his problem. I questioned him further and he admitted to taking ‘speed’. If he was taking speed then I wasn’t surprised that he hadn’t slept for the past three days.
I checked him over to see if the cause of his seizure was anything we could treat. All his vital signs were normal although we couldn’t check his temperature as our electronic thermometers stop working if it gets too cold.
His home address was on the other side of London, so I asked him why he was on ‘my patch’.
“It’s my daughter you see”, he told me, “She’s in foster care around here, but I want to see her for Christmas. I even bought her a present.”.
I looked around in vain for something that may be a Christmas present for a little girl.
“I sold it, so I could get some cider”.
He’d been sleeping rough and in hostels after losing his daughter to social services, he’d been drinking so much that he had started to have alcoholic seizures. Instead of eating properly he had been drinking cheap strong cider and taking amphetamines. Then he had bought his daughter a Christmas present and sold it for a few cans of cider. If I left him where he was there was a good chance that, without a decent meal inside him, he’d freeze to death.
So I did the only thing that I could do – I took him to hospital.
Then I had to put it out of my mind and do my next job.
For those that are interested I should be in today's Guardian 'society' supplement, more on that later.