“19 year old male, chest pain”, that's a blue light, sirens, whizzing through the streets sort of call. Not because he's nineteen, but because it's a chest pain. Remember, chest pains are one of the things that we need to get to in eight minutes or the government will slap us on the wrist.
Nineteen year olds don't often have heart attacks, not unless they have been hitting the cocaine rather hard. Where they do have heart problems it sadly tends to be of the sort that causes the heart to stop suddenly.
So we arrived and the young man was very pleasant. He certainly didn't look like he was having a heart attack, he was upright, he wasn't sweaty, he wasn't dizzy and he wasn't having any trouble with his breathing.
“I've had this pain for half an hour, and I've seen those posters, the one with the belt around the chest, so I thought I'd call you”.
So we popped him into the ambulance and did all the tests that we normally do including an ECG and a full history.
He'd been working out at the gym the day previously, the pain got worse if he took a deep breath in and the ECG was more normal than my own.
I told him that we couldn't be sure, that the only way to be certain would be with blood tests, but the patient seemed happy that he wasn't having a heart attack.
“I suppose you think I'm silly”, he said.
“No mate, I'd rather come out to someone who is thinking they are having a heart attack than to come out to someone lying dead on the floor because they ignored their heart attack”.
Sometime I moan about people calling the ambulance for inappropriate reasons, the verrucas, the runny noses, the period pains – but I never moan about people calling me out for chest pains.
Chest pains are 'boring' jobs for us, you need to do a lot of things and run over the same questions and there is seldom any change in the circumstances of the patient.
But I don't go to work to be entertained. I go to work to
get paid help people, and that is why you should call for an ambulance if you get chest pain.