I remember going to an elderly couple, they had been burgled while they were still in the house. She was in tears while he was trying to keep that British stiff upper lip going. He'd fought in the war and now, years later, someone the same age as his great-grandson had smashed through a window and stolen money from them.

I remember the police being as supportive as they could, but they knew that it was unlikely that anyone would be punished for this crime. I checked the couple out and prescribed a big cup of sweet tea.

He had collapsed and his breathing 'wasn't right', the woman who had been smoking heroin with him had called the ambulance and then fled the scene. Unfortunately it was one of those blocks of flats that hides around the back of other houses, so it was a hard place to find. We carried what seemed to be the whole contents of the ambulance up the three flights of stairs to find our patient.

It's risky going into drug houses without police backup but we do it all the time – on the fly risk assessment and all that.

He was lying on the bed, turning blue and breathing twice a minute.

There was a ninety year old woman that I recall. She was one of the few cases of truly random violence that I'd been to. Her health was normally fine and this was the first time that she'd ever been in an ambulance. She had been doing her shopping when someone had come behind her, pushed her to the floor and stole her purse. She was a little shook up, but was otherwise fine.

We let the police use the back of our ambulance as an interview room so they could collect her details. Then we gave her a lift home.

Our heroin overdose wasn't breathing properly, so I pulled out the oxygen and ambu-bag and started breathing for him. Eventually he stopped breathing altogether. If we'd been a minute later, or if we'd waited for the police he'd be dead.

My crewmate drew up the heroin antidote, placed a needle into his arm and pushed the drug into his vein. The police arrived about this time and turned off the small TV that I'd been half watching while forcing oxygen into the man's lungs. Around the TV were pictures of two small girls, girls who I would later discover to be our patient's daughters.

Another house burgled. The family had come home from an evening out to discover their house had been ransacked. The children were crying and the parents were distraught. I remember the father sitting in my ambulance wringing his hands. Drawers had been turned over, and the contents lay around the floor. The children's Xbox had been stolen and they were being cuddled by their mum. Once more, no injury and nothing I could give them for the pain they felt. Once more we were called to deal with 'shock'.

Our heroin user had woken up, he seemed fully aware of what had happened, so it was unlikely that he had any brain damage from a lack of oxygen. He'd been smoking the heroin and had passed out, the next thing he knew there were police and ambulance people in his flat. He wasn't aware that he'd come so close to dying.

We walked him down to the ambulance to take him to hospital. He told me that he'd just been released from prison. I asked what he'd been in there for and he told be that he used to rob and burgle people.

“For drug money?”, I asked.

“Yes”, he said.

I know that whenever my car was stolen the thing that made me angry was that I was so powerless to stop it. I know that should someone break into my flat while I was away, they could utterly destroy my life. The irreplaceable things that they could take and the trespass against me would reduce me to a shadow of the person I am now. It would take years for me to get things back to normal. I would wish for them to die, and to die in horrible, horrible ways.

So we saved his life, but as I sat in the cab of the ambulance writing up the events on my paperwork, I wondered who we had helped.

We helped him keep breathing.

Did we help his daughters? Would they hate us for keeping an addict father in their lives? Or would they thank us for letting them keep their daddy, addiction and all?

Did we help the people who had been burgled by him? Or have we just sentenced more people to suffer the anguish of being robbed when our patient goes on to steal more things for drug money?

When confronted by someone who isn't breathing, or is seriously ill, there is no time to think these things through – we do what we do to save lives in the immediate present. If a paedophile stops breathing we have to attend to them in the same way as we would a war hero. It's something that sometimes rolls around my mind keeping me awake at night.

But who am I to judge?

25 thoughts on “P.O.V.”

  1. No, by definition the victim is the person getting robbed and the villan is the one doing the robbing.Addiction (depression, bad genes, etc etc) may be one of the motivators, but it is not an excuse.

  2. Having been on the receiving end of burglary (on about 5 occasions, with various degrees of theft involved), I would agree about one thing: you DO wish for them to die, and to die in horrible, horrible ways… and also seriously consider taking active participation in it.I can now live very easily with the feeling of invasion (add locks here and there…), and the loss of property (after all, what is REALLY important, such as photos or small souvernirs, is often not stolen), but what I find difficult to live with still to this day is the knowledge that 1) they got away with it2) they profited from it3) they are laughing about it (although the one laughing may be the drug dealer who actually got the profit, but that's the same). My only consollation: at least, while my house/flat was burglared (with nothing gone that the insurrance didn't replace), it meant that a little old lady's was not. There a positive note in everything!

  3. Talking of war veterans, reading your post made me think. “Ours is not to reason why, ours is just to do and save lives.” Yeah, I know it doesn't scan.

  4. Ones job is to save lives, not to decide whose life to save. That would be down to the invisible sky bully.

  5. Very well writte, Tom.reminded me of TRAFFIK.

    The series on channel 4 rather than the bad Hollywood copy.

    It's about connections.

    Just because you're a victim doesn't mean you can't be a villain as well.

  6. wow, what an astonishing lack of empathy you have for people. To claim heroin addiction is an excuse shows how little you truly understand about what these people are motivated by.Ugghh, I feel sorry for you. Maybe you should try volunteering at a local drugs project or educate yourself as to how these people are motivated, then start calling them villains. Such things are rarely, if ever, black and white.

  7. “But who am I to judge?”Well, yeah. The alternative is to appoint yourself as a vigilante executioner. Do you support the death penalty, and would you support it if it were down to invididuals to arrest and try the criminals, with no court system or jury behind them?

    Still, I can see why these thoughts would fill your head, on seeing the effects on the victims of crime and then having to help those who perpetrate it. Not an easy one.

  8. Excellent post tom, I've been reading your blog for ages but this is the first time if posted a comment. I have nothing but utter admiration for paramedics, especially in the LAS, as a Met response officer you folks are without question our best friends and saviours!! At the time you're dealing with a casualty – whether a smackhead or not – you can't sit back and think about the benefit or detriment to society that the person contributes. However anyone who says that drug addicts are as much of a victim as the ones they assault or steal from has obviously never dealt with one of those actual victims and seen the heartache. I have never met a crack or smack addict that hasn't been offered treatment to get off it, the one's who do choose to stay on it do so for purely selfish reasons, they don't care about the misery they cause, just as long as they can get their fix. Having no form of actual punishment and having drugs freely available in prisons is the main reason we (the Police) are seen to be so ineffective. I know you guys deal with the same people day in, day out, just as much (if not more) than we do. I would love to know how much these people actually cost to society with the time taken up by NHS treatment, prison space, Police time and economic damaged caused by increased cost of goods/repair.

  9. Exactly, this being the thrust of the post.(For the record, I'm against the death penalty but for euthanasia).

  10. I remember seeing the young woman's face. The fire brigade arrived and said, “What's this place then?” “It's a residential drug project” was the reply. “Oh God!” one of them responded, rolling his eyes. I looked at the young womean's face and i knew it confirmed, yet again, that she was worthless. Her parents and grandparents were drug users. Drugs had been the entire 19 years of her life. I prescribe understanding.There was a policeman who stopped and searched a young man on the street. He is a known drug user, but he explains to the police officer that since he last saw him he has stopped using drugs and is on a programme. The police officer knows him well and is aware that he comes from an extremely dysfunctional background. He wishes him the best and they give each other a hopeful smile.

    Another house. An ambulance arrives to an 81 year old lady who is on the floor and in pain. With her 'stiff upper lip' she apologises to the EMT for “wasting your time”. He replies, “Don't worry love, i'd rather come out to you than druggies”. She wept. She cried because both of her sons are drug users and have been for all of their adult lives. She is worried that if this is the attitude of most EMT's her sons will be poorly treated should they ever need medical help. Her sons may be 'smackheads' or on methadone for over 30 years but they have families and have worked their entire lives. They have never mugged or burgled anyone. She was left shocked and saddened by this interaction.

    I know that my friend is totall messed up by what her dad did to her. I know that if he is ever burgled or mugged the police and the ambulance service will see a sweet, vulnerable elderly man. I know different and i wish him to die, and to die in a horrible way.

  11. Look im sorry but as you are a police officer you are not going to see the addicts that do get help are you? Your job is inherently negative as you will always be dealing with people that have had crime committed against them and then see the heroin user as the villain.”they don't care about the misery they cause, just as long as they can get their fix.” If this isnt a description of someone who is a victim of a drug then I dont know what is.

    If we want to stop drug crime, get addicts of heroin and make them a part of our society then we need to prescribe morphine for addicts on the NHS. Simple isn't it?

    Oh I have had to deal with the victims of drug crime, being mugged twice, burgled twice so far and have had friends mugged and assaulted. The trick is to not give in to the right wing daily mail knee jerk reaction and a longing for corporal punishment which is proven to do nothing

  12. Thank you for putting that which I have been trying to say over 3 posts all day, and in a more powerful and effective way.

  13. Excellent comment and has reminded me not to be so quick to judge a person or a situation cos you just don't know!

  14. Very good point Mumbles. I agree that 'you can't rehabilitate a corpse'. Not sure if you were relating to Tom's blog or my comments or both? In my comment i was just emulating some of the wording in Tom's post to give an alternative viewpoint. Actually i don't wish anyone to 'die horribly'. All of the scenarios i wrote are true. The only falsehood I wrote is that i would want anyone to die horribly. I don't.

  15. HiI certainly wasn't aiming anything at you directly or indirectly for that matter, I thought your comment was very well written and raised some excellent challenges to stereotypical views people have about things.


    For those of us in the helping professions we have to suspend personal beliefs for professional values, this is the thrust of Tom's blogentry for me.

    I would write more and be more considered but I have to see a servce user now and I don't want to be late for her πŸ™‚


  16. Well, you run around sorting out people in dodgy care homes, you cover for GPs out of hours, and you try and make amends for social workers' failings.Now the time has come for you to pick up the slack in the justice system.

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