Tuesday, 18 August 2009

On the frontline

I was out with Springburn Ambulance Crew tonight. I joined Frank and Peter on an evening shift for a couple of reasons. First I wanted to find out what kind of pressures they face in the job. And secondly I was interested in knowing how alcohol adds to the pressure. I will be able to post in a more informed way in a few weeks because I got so much out of it that I've asked to do a Saturday night shift. Tonight was only 3 hours but it was an interesting taster.

Callout number 1 to a 56 year old man who had drank rather a lot of whisky and then overdosed on 12 of his wife's anti depressants. We got there and he was refusing to move because he wanted to watch the Celtic game. The crew couldn't leave him - they have a legal "duty of care" and managed to persuade him. Part of me was thinking "don't be so ungrateful" but of course part of me really felt for the guy who lost his job last year and was turned down for one last week. We dropped him and his family off at Stobhill and headed out to ...

Callout number 2 and a 58 year old woman who was having chest pains and numbness in her left arm. She'd had a stroke a couple of years ago and was very nervous in case she was having another one. She got a bit upset in the back of the ambulance because her sister had died at 58 and she was scared it was her turn. The crew were great with her, put her at her ease and were very reassuring. We took her to Stobhill too. Hope she's okay.

Callout number 3 was a 44 year old man who was, what can only be described as "morroculous" - is that how you spell that great Glasgow word meaning drunk out of one's mind? He'd wet himself, was lying on the ground unable to get up and his hands were covered in needle marks. He was so out of it he could barely hold his head up. What a waste of money that is taking someone like him to spend the night in hospital when he really doesn't need it. But what can you do with him? The guys in the crew have given me some ideas on that and I'll post once I've looked into it a bit more.

The last guy had me shaking my head in despair - what a mess he was. I felt angry and frustrated with him for having so little self respect that he could do that to himself. I wanted to shout at him to sort himself out. And that is a natural reaction I think. How many times have you passed someone in that state in the street? How often do you feel any sympathy for him? Not often I bet. But the trouble is that behind every man or woman like that is someone with a terrible story to tell. A story that you'd have to be incredibly cold hearted not to sympathise with.

So whilst I wanted to shake him, part of me wanted to just give him a big hug. I didn't obviously - no matter how compassionate I was feeling, there was a whole load of urine there and I didn't fancy getting it all over me. But as I looked at him struggling to tell us where he lived, his mouth dripping in blue tinged saliva, I wondered what had happened to him and I wondered how differently his life could have turned out with a little more luck.

So it's been interesting for me but I want to see more and I want to get a feel for how bad things can get on a Saturday night. Therefore I'll be doing a full night shift as soon as I can fix up a date.

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