After complaining in my last post about the numerous calls we get to “man lying in the road”, what did I happen to find on my way to work yesterday? Yes, that’s right, a man lying in the road. Flat on his face, outside the tube station, in a pool of what looked like urine, a man in his 40s wearing ordinary clothes and carrying a rucksack full of books.

I pretended I was in some kind of first aid training exercise and did the whole routine. Check for danger (no knife wielding maniacs or runaway steamrollers in vicinity… good), check for response (unlike in any first aid exercise I have ever done, the response was “mnurgh”, whatever question I asked or instruction I gave), do secondary survey to determine if patient has anything horrible like a broken leg or a medical bracelet on (nothing apparent).

A gaggle of bystanders appeared, apparently encouraged by the fact I’d started prodding the patient. I was very glad that I was wearing a long coat which concealed my greens, otherwise they might have had me down as a competent professional or something.

“What shall we do?” said one passerby. “Is he drunk or is he sick?”

“WHAT’S WRONG?” I asked.






I knew there was a good chance of the patient just being drunk, although I couldn’t smell any alcohol on him, and thought that maybe he’d had a fit or a diabetic problem or something horrible like that, and anyway, as the other passerby said, even if he was just drunk, we couldn’t just leave him there because he would freeze to death, and as he wasn’t able to speak except for “mnurgh” we weren’t going to have any luck getting a friend or relative to come and look after him either.

So very reluctantly, I pulled out my mobile and became that person who calls 999 for the “man lying in the road”. This felt like a training exercise too, and I could have parroted off exactly what the call taker said to me. I was tempted to add, “and by the way, this is Mark Myers from the North East Desk. I am due in at 7pm so if you make this one a priority I won’t be late!” but I didn’t. I didn’t say who I was at all because in my experience there is nothing worse than taking a 999 call from a fellow professional and reeling off instructions that you already know they know, but you have to say because you will get marked down otherwise. It makes you feel like a right tit.

I spent the next five minutes monitoring the patient like I tell callers to do every day. It felt rather odd being on the other side of the fence and I must have done too many first aid scenarios with St John because I was totally convinced he was going to stop breathing or have a fit or something dramatic, which of course he didn’t.

NEE NAW NEE NAW! The FRU came steaming along the road (beating ORCON by three minutes, I was pleased to note. There I was, bolstering the North East’s stats before I was even in work). Of course, those blue lights and nee naw sirens worked a miracle that my repeated efforts had failed to. My patient raised his head and made an abortive attempt to get up.

“He was completely out of it when we got here!” I said apologetically, imagining the FRU paramedic with a little thought bubble coming out of his head saying “Oh great, another pisshead. Nothing wrong with him at all. Call this a Cat A?” I rearranged my coat, praying he wouldn’t see that beneath it, I was wearing an LAS uniform just like his.

“What’s your name?” said FRU Paramedic to the patient.

“My name is Sergei. I am Russian!” said the patient and then fell over again.

“Well, thanks for your help!” said the FRU Paramedic to us, and that was my cue to leave. I shuffled off to work feeling very sheepish, but you will be glad to know that due to the fast response of the North East desk and Mr FRU Paramedic, I was not even late for work and got there about the same time as Sergei got to the local hospital. I never did find out whether he was just drunk or if there was anything really wrong with him. At least I know that when faced with a “man lying in the road” I do not turn into one of those people who call 999 from a hundred yards away, shout at the call taker, then go on my merry way leaving the patient either to die or recover and walk off so the ambulance crew have to spend an hour searching for him.

Published Dec 08, 2008 - 15 Comments and counting

15 Comments on “Irony”
  1. Kayjayoh Says:

    Good on ya!

  2. Mary Says:

    “Of course, those blue lights and nee naw sirens worked a miracle that my repeated efforts had failed to. My patient raised his head and made an abortive attempt to get up.”

    Hahaha, yes, I know that one. My boyfriend did it to me a few months ago.

  3. Always Tired Says:

    At least you did stay with the patient. Nothing worse than someone who says ‘Oh I’m not with him now, I have to get to work’ WTF!
    even if there is nothing wrong and you feel like a numpty, better a numpty with a patient who is alive and will be ok than complete idiot who has walked off hoping for the best and a dead patient

  4. Police Call Handler Says:

    We get plenty of these, too, and this post rings a lot of bells with me. The daftest one I’ve taken was from someone who found such a person and refused to go over and check him despite the fact that the unconscious person wasn’t carrying anything, the caller couldn’t see or smell any sign of alcohol, and he had two colleagues with him. We had no choice but to send officers, and call for an ambulance (thanks, Ambulance!). The guy was fine, of course, but the thought remains with me that he might have died during the time it took those officers and ambulance to arrive and that my lack of persuasiveness may well have meant the difference between life and death.

    I’ve also taken the other kind of call you describe, when someone sees an unconscious person from their car and decides to call it in when they get home perhaps half an hour later and can’t quite remember where it was.

  5. Emma Says:

    I work for the ambulance service (in control) along with my boyfriend, and unfortunately he had to call an ambulance for me last week. Our colleague recognised his voice, so she got away with not reeling off the PAIs. It was quite embarrassing though, because I’ve been off work for the last 5 months with a serious illness which we’d managed to keep private from our direct colleagues. Not any more!!

  6. Sewmouse Says:

    Oooh, Lady Karma, she has an ironic twist, no?

    I do hope Sergei was only the worst for drink and will be fine. Just like politicians, I think it does everyone good to get out of their job “comfort zone” and see the world from the other side of the phone/desk/sales counter!

  7. Vic Says:

    Well, at least he was Russian which would have excused him being in a drunken state. Anyone who knows Russia will know Votka (its correct name) is the staple diet for everyone from infants to granddads. If there’s one thing Russki like is getting tanked.

    As the EU opens up further, expect more – and a lot more.

  8. Matt Says:

    You did the right thing, I know people who wouldn’t have hung around because they wouldn’t want to be late for work…B***ards!!

  9. Mary Says:

    Merry Christmas, Mark. Hope the work side goes as smoothly as can be hoped and the nonwork side is fun. :)

  10. The Driving Instructor Says:

    Merry Christmas Mark, and wish you the best for the year 2009. Keep up the good work.

    The Driving Instructor

  11. dungbeetle Says:

    read and weep:,0,4033454.story

  12. Lee-Jams Says:

    Thanks, Dungbeetle, I read and I wept! Shouldn’t come as any great surprise from a country where a woman can successfully sue a supermarket for not providing a creche or play area where parents could leave their unruly rugrats whilst shopping. Reason for suing…. as a result of children not being properly supervised by their parents the lady tripped over a child lying on the floor and injured her leg. The child was… wait for it… HER OWN. DOHHHHH.

  13. XaDvAnT Says:

    An article you may be interested in: Timewasters could have emergency number 000 blocked,23739,24854271-952,00.html

  14. norbert Says:

    That was a great article. Tnaks for the input!

  15. chris Says:

    excellent article, it really shows the true nature of helping ppl.

    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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