A-One, two, three, four…. (drums, bass, guitar and fiddle) …. Well, good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls. Please don’t be shy now - let’s fill the floor right up, now, so we can see how you’re made, how you parade, if you’re two-tone, free-fone certifiably dismayed. Because Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, tonight, live all night, you’ve got the quick blue straight to you Old Time Amb’lance Aiders. The cruel wind may be a blowin’ and the storm clouds may be a growin’, but we’ve got the attitude if you’ve got the gratitude, we’ve got the bus if you’ve got the fuss, we’ve got the croppers if you’re down on your uppers, we’re the team can take you places you only ever dreamed of on your little ol’ TV screen – yes, folks, it’s a big wah-wah welcome to another sensational Saturday spelt S-A-T, A and E and I don’t know about you but we’re itchin’ for another hot n’ handy all-nighter …..
Ready? Well, come on and Dosado!
The call is given as Cat A unconscious female overdose, downgraded to a Cat B conscious and breathing two minutes into the run. We’re told she’s outside a seafront hotel with some friends; we’ll be flagged down. We cut through the stuffed up streets and make it there as fast as we safely can. I see the group waving to us. We sweep round and jump out to see what’s happening.
A teenage girl in a white denim cut-off jacket and skirt is leaning against a van. She bats her friend away as she tries to make her stand up straight, catches us with a feral look as we approach. There are two teenage boys to make up the pairs. The one closest steps in front of me and starts telling me what he wants me to do. I ask him to stand aside whilst I talk to the patient. He keeps close to my shoulder, rolling a toothpick round in his mouth, a baby gangster in a bad movie. The other boy and girl waylay Rae and lobby her to take action. Meanwhile, the patient tells me that no, she does not have any medical conditions, no,she’s not sick in any way, yes, she has had a drink, no, she doesn’t want or need to go to hospital, she’s just tired and wants her bed. BabyGangster steps in front of me again.
‘Are you going to take her home or what?’ he says. The matchstick swirls in his mouth. He does not meet my eyes, but looks past my shoulder. This is a very poor script.
‘Okay. You tell me what’s happened tonight.’
‘What you mean – what happened? It’s obvious, mate. The taxi won’t take us with her like that, so how we supposed to get home?’
‘You do know what an ambulance is for, don’t you? Heart attacks? Broken legs? That kind of thing? Your friend is drunk. It is not a medical emergency.’
‘You’re not listening to me. I told you. The taxi won’t take us. If she falls down and cracks her head on the pavement it’ll be your fault.’
I look across to Rae to catch her eye, but she’s getting much the same treatment from the others and is struggling to make them understand. BabyGangster is getting angrier. He makes big gestures close to my face and his voice gets louder. I try reason once more, without any hope of success.
‘If the taxis won’t take you, you’ll have to go home on the bus.’
‘No. No, mate. It’s too far.’
‘We are an emergency vehicle. We’re not a taxi. What arrangements did you make for getting home before you came out tonight?’ I ask him, realising how ludicrous this sounds in the light of what he’s said so far. He shakes his head and his chin drops, as if he’s reaching the end of his tether with me. It seems as if this could get physical soon.
‘Just a minute,’ I say to him, then call over to Rae. ‘Can you come to the vehicle, please?’ She follows me.
BabyGangster thinks I am going to get some kit, but then it dawns on him that we may be leaving.
‘Where are you going?’, he shouts, throwing his matchstick on the ground. But we’re already in the cab and securing the vehicle with the central locking button. He strides over and begins banging on the door and pulling on the handle. ‘You can’t fucking drive off. I’m calling the police.’
‘It’ll save me the trouble,’ I say through the glass, and Rae puts the ambulance in gear. ‘Stand away from the vehicle, please.’
The other guy has come round the back and is trying to force the doors. The other girl is shrieking at us: ‘I want your names! I want your names!’, kicking the door. We drive off, pull over in a quiet spot, report what happened to Control, and clear up.
Half sashay family!
The call is given as a Cat A unconscious 1 year old boy, but a couple of minutes from the scene and it’s downgraded to a Cat B - sick, unspecified illness. The block of flats looms above us in the drizzling rain. We can’t make out how the numbers are running, but a guy coming along with a carrier bag filled with cans points out the way.
We are met at the flat door by the father, a middle-aged Bengali man in a smart arran knit jumper and leather jacket. He shows us into the living room where his wife is sitting on the sofa with a little boy on her lap. The boy is dressed in a perfect, scaled-down version of his father’s outfit. He gives us a wide smile as we settle down in front of him with our bags. The father is the only one who has any English. He tells me that his son vomited, once, about two hours ago. And this seems to be it – no breathing problems, no fits or floppy episodes, no diarrhoea, rashes or anything that might be taken as a sign of anything. No calls to the doctor for advice, no NHS Direct. No popping down to A&E – about a five minute walk away. It seems the only thing they have done is to dress the child formally, and brush his hair, which lies neatly and thickly across his perfect little head.
He child smiles at me, alert and enjoying everything.
We lead them out to the ambulance and make them comfortable in the back. Just before we set off, the child vomits once more – a tiny amount, almost apologetic – and then resumes his contented enjoyment of events. His mother wails.
Split the outside couple!
‘We were stood on the pavement having a lover’s tiff, when this black geezer comes past and says to me: white scum. So I says to him ‘You what?’ and he says to me ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t mean anything’. So we carried on. Then a little bit later he turns up again, pushes Janine over, and she whacks her head on the pavement. So I absolutely lost it. I pummelled the shit out of him – look at my knuckles. He was down in one hit. I beat him to shit and back. Then the police came and arrested him. He was lucky they did, ‘cos I was set to kill him. I mean – why do some people feel like they have to get involved?’
We are standing in the lobby of a smart hotel, which uncharacteristically has allowed this couple in to wait for the ambulance. There are no police, which is strange. Only a massive doorman standing discretely just a little way off. He waved us to the entrance and conducted us through the revolving doors to the patient, a young woman in a smart black suit who sits stiff and straight in one of the lobby chairs.
‘I mean, we all have tiffs, right? But why do some people feel the need to get involved?’
His girlfriend had not been knocked unconscious, but she does have a significant bump on the back of her head, and we agree with her partner that she should go into hospital for observation. She groans her assent, but it seems that the groan is more to do with the general run of events than her condition.
‘I’ll bring her shoes and bag,’ he says, gathering her things to him in a tidy fashion.
…and then Box the Gnat!
‘Josh went a bit vacant and then lay down on his bed and didn’t say anything – didn’t respond to us – and then he started twitching, his left leg was jerking a bit – and he went really white – and then he threw up.’
Josh sits on the edge of his bed, his face in his hands. His younger sister peers round the door, and his stepdad crashes around in the kitchen.
‘How do you feel now, Josh?’, I ask him, sitting beside him and feeling his pulse.
He looks at me, and his pupils are like little black saucers.
‘I feel fine.’
His pulse clatters away as if he’s just run in from outside after being chased round the garden by a lion.
‘So have you any idea what could be the matter, Josh?’
‘No. Not a thing. I had a few drinks with friends last night and I felt a bit hungover this morning. I haven’t had much to eat today. But other than that – no idea.’
‘Well – let’s go out to the vehicle, run a few more tests, and then take it from there. Okay?’
I’m hoping that his mum won’t follow us immediately, but she comes straight out with us.
On the vehicle, after wiring Josh up to the ECG and noting other obs – including an elevated BP – I ask Josh if he’s had any recreational drugs today.
‘No! God, no!’ he says, with his dark side of the moon eyes absorbing all the light in the vehicle. ‘Some of my friends were smoking dope, but I’d never do anything like that.’
‘Josh is a good boy,’ his mum tells us, hugging his jacket to her. ‘What do you think it could be?’