Joe is a paramedic who’s had enough. He works on an FRU in an area notorious for misuse of the service and unsavoury characters. He has spent the last umpteen years dashing through the streets on blue lights to be greeted with pregnant ladies brandishing their neatly packed suitcases or twenty-year-olds with colds who wanted him to bring them the paracetamol. He’s filled out endless LA52s (‘incident report forms’) after being abused by the local scrotes and That Regular Who Dribbled on Reynolds’ Arm. Joe can’t remember the last time he was sent to someone who was actually seriously ill. I think if you offered Joe a nice little job in a cake shop instead, he’d snap it up – and to be honest, he’d have more chance of using his skills there, should someone overdose on cake and arrest on the shop floor.
Joe likes to phone us on the desk for a good-natured whinge about most of his calls. He knows all our names, and we recognise his voice instantly. Usually he calls after he’s finished with the patient – “You’ll never guess what – she’d had the rash for six years and decided to call 999 now, at 11pm on Saturday night!” – but occasionally he can’t contain himself and calls on the radio whilst speeding to the call.
Saturday was one such occasion.
“Why is this swine flu call a Cat A?” he complained.
“Because the patient is having chest pain…” said the radio op.
“He’s probably got a cough! Why do I have to go… I know, I have to…” sighed Joe. “Okay, thank you.”
Thirty minutes later, my phone rang. On the other end was an extremely animated Joe.
“What happened?” I asked, anticipating another tale of outrageous timewasting.
“This 24-year-old, right, been in bed with swine flu for a week. Looks rough and sweaty, but people generally do with flu. He tells me he’s feeling much worse and that his chest hurts, so I wire him up to the heart monitor – that’s protocol for anyone with chest pain. I read the monitor printout, and he’s only having a heart attack! At that point, the ambulance pulls up, so I shout over to them to get a move on so we can blue light him into the cardiac hospital. We get him on the trolley, and he goes into cardiac arrest right in front of my eyes! I couldn’t believe it!”
“What happened next?” I asked.
“Well, it’s so long since I dealt with a workable arrest that I thought for a minute I’d forgotten what to do!” said Joe. “But it all came back. Two shocks with the defib and we got him back. He was only down for about thirty seconds and he’s partially conscious now. Crew have just blued him in, I followed them to hospital in case he went down again, but he didn’t.”
“You didn’t want to go on that call,” I reminded him. “You thought it was another time waster – admittedly, so did we! Just goes to show, you can never be sure. I bet you won’t complain about the ‘rubbish’ calls we sent you on in future.”
“No!” said Joe. “Never again! I’ve learned my lesson!”
Do you think Joe ever complained about a call again? Yes, of course he did. But he was quiet for at least a week…