There is always a danger that you will become over cynical in this job, that you will be so determined to not be 'fooled' that one day you may make a mistake in the treatment of someone.
Take the call we had the other day, it was given as a 'male, collapsed in the street'. By the time we had arrived an FRU had been on scene for some time.

It was obvious that the man had been drinking, he also had the rough beaten hands and skin tone of someone who spends large parts of his time drinking in the park. We were just down the road from the hospital and he still had a dressing on his hand where someone had removed a cannula.

But he wasn't waking up.

He had a small wound to his head, consistant with him falling from the bus stop seat that we found him lying under, this was his only obvious injury.

Unfortunately no-one had seen what had happened, so we had ourselves a drunk man, but who was rather more unconscious than we like.

If we had been feeling cynical it would have been easy to throw him up on the trolley and drive him back to the hospital that he'd originally come from. It would have been easy enough to do that, to assume that he was 'just' drunk.

But we were in a good mood so we treated him as if he'd been hit by a car, because he may well have been. We collared and boarded him, checked him out from head to toe and, because he was still unconscious, we ended up blue lighting him straight into the resus room.

We started our handover to the doctor as, “He's probably just drunk but…”

Unfortunately this isn't one of our regular hospitals, so I'll never find out if he was just drunk or if it was something a bit more sinister.

But in the end, no matter how embarrassing it is to us, I'd still rather be over-cautions than end up giving evidence to a Coroner.

6 thoughts on “Caution”

  1. Working on a campus as a first responding EMT many times I was chastised for calling the ambulance for small things such as stomach pain in a female patient, usually I would rather be careful. One time it was stomach pain, and the medic made her walk down four flights of stairs, and yelled at me for taking up time and resources on someone who couldn't handle pain. Later I found out her appendics had burst and she was rushed into surgery later that evening. Rather be safe than sorry.

  2. Actually, it show's that despite your (natural) growing cynisism (sp! I know) with the world, occasionally you blow it out of your system with stuff like this…It's like a pressure valve you've let off to allow the “I do care!” to come back…

  3. It's one of the problems with Huntington's Disease – the stumbly gait and slurred speech it causes are easily confused with just being drunk. Even people who should know better – like the staff of (don't-)care homes – make this mistake, often with pretty terrible consequences.

  4. As I tell some of my colleagues sometimes, it is far easier to assume that someone is “just drunk” than work on suspicions relating to mechanisms of injury. I always just think, is it worth the risk for the sake of spending an extra 10 mind on scene, doing it right.It's just a shame you can't get the feedback from the hospital to clarify your suspicions.Good job Tom!

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