We received a call to a male who was suffering from amnesia…
… when the crew arrived, no one could remember making the 999 call…
Today, Banana Man did not ring to offer us a banana once.
He rang to tell us that he is getting married.
Today I was allocating the central part of the South East desk. I like this desk. The reason I like this desk is because it contains Waterloo Ambulance Station, which is directly behind Control. So when you send an ambulance to a call, you can see it drive past the window on blue lights. For some reason, this makes me happy. I’m easily pleased.
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…
Since the deaths of Enid Whiner and Horace Halfpenny, the East Central desk has been somewhat short of regulars. We only really have two, a crazy pensioner who consistently tells us she’s had a fall and then shouts at the ambulance crew when they have the temerity to turn up at her flat, and a nasty psychopathic drug user who calls from phone boxes telling us about his nuclear weapons and occasionally dribbles on Tom Reynolds’ uniform. Today, however, saw the return of one very regular regular, one I had never hoped to hear from again.
Back in my call taking days, the ambulance service was absolutely terrorised by one very persistent individual, who would make call after call after call, mostly to the same fictitious address in Bethnal Green, and occasionally (just for a change) to Gatwick Airport. The diagnosis was always a variation on one of three themes: offering or requesting a banana; telling us about his itchy penis; requesting help because someone had collapsed due to dizziness (often on the airport runway). It is not an exaggeration to say this man made thousands of calls or that every single call taker had been driven to distraction by him. However, in August last year, the police finally caught up with him, and to everyone’s relief, the calls stopped. It emerged that he was a disabled teenager, and for this reason the police went easy on him, and I heard Social Services had tried to show him the error of his ways and arranged a visit to Ambulance Control to show him what we do. (Personally, I am not sure this last bit was a good idea. There are a few people in Control who would have had difficulty maintaining a polite demeanour if they had known who he was).
Anyway, today – a busy Friday afternoon – I was sitting in front of a screenful of calls of varying seriousness and wondering how I was going to cover the lot of them with two cars, a green truck and a push bike, when a familiar address in Bethnal Green popped up.
“Good god no!” I exclaimed. “It can’t be… it is… NO!”
“What??” said G from the radio, thinking something important had happened.
“It’s…. HIM! BANANA MAN!” I howled.
“NOOOOOOOO” said G, and everyone else within earshot. They were all traumatised by Banana Incidents from the call taking days, too.
I’ll tell you one thing, though – now I’m an allocator on the East Central Desk, there is NO WAY I am going to allow Banana Man to resume his reign of terror. I am NOT having him jeopardising the safety of my patients and I am not having my ambulance crews running around on wild goose chases after his dizzy itchy runway banana! I have started a log of all of his hoax calls (there were eight this afternoon) and I will be passing it on to Management, the police, the local greengrocer and air traffic control. Banana Man will be stopped! No bananas on my manor!