The door opens a crack and a wizened old face peers round.
‘Ye-es? Who is it?’
‘It’s the ambulance.’
‘Oh. I suppose you’d better come in. She’s in the front room.’
There are three of us; Eric pulled up on scene in the car at exactly the same time, so we are two paramedics and a technician – the ideal team for a resus. We busy in with all our bags like champion shoppers home from the sales.
‘I’m afraid I’m no use to you,’ the old man says. ‘I’m blind, you see.’
I ask him to take a seat in the kitchen whilst the other two dump their bags around a female figure prone on the carpet.
I help the man sit on a wooden yellow chair. I ask him what happened.
‘Absolutely no idea. One minute she’s talking about roses or something – could have been box – no, definitely roses, because I remember…’
‘Sorry to interrupt, but I just need to know what happened to your friend.’
‘She is not my friend. She’s a voluntary visitor. I had nothing to do with it.’
‘Okay. Whoever she is. Did she complain of feeling unwell? Did she cry out? What happened?’
‘As I was just explaining to you – we were talking – she stopped – I asked her what she was doing – she fell out of the chair. I couldn’t do anything as I’m blind, you see. So I called you. And there you are.’
He places his left hand on the melamine tabletop and touches a wristwatch with his right.
‘You won’t be long, will you? She was only supposed to be here for half an hour and it’s already a quarter to.’
‘We’ll certainly be as quick as we can.’
‘Do I just sit here then?’
I tell him I’ll be back with an update in a few minutes. He sighs as I hurry out.
Back in the sitting room, Eric and Rae have turned the woman over, cut her top off, stuck defib pads on; Eric is cannulating whilst Rae compresses her chest. I join in, prepping drugs, helping Eric intubate, taking over the compressions. The woman is only about sixty, fit and trim. She has no health bracelets or anything on her that suggests any kind of illness.
After ten minutes of The Works – fantastically – we have plumped her up into a shockable heart rhythm. Two zaps later and her heart is beating again, and she is making some respiratory effort. Whilst Eric and Rae continue treating the woman, I set to making ready our escape.
The front room is tiny and cluttered with years of accumulated junk. There is barely room for us to work around the patient, but getting her out horizontally – to maintain what feeble blood pressure she has at the moment – is going to be a challenge. I clear as much of a space as I can, dumping an antique rocking-chair onto a settee, nests of tables and footstools onto the sofa, pushing the magazine racks, piles of books and the television as far as I can into a corner. Eric and Rae are already zipping up the resus and drugs bags; I pick them up and haul them out to the ambulance, which I prepare for take-off. I unload the trolley and make it ready just in the street by the front gate, then come back into the house with the orthopedic stretcher. The plan is to scoop her up on that, manoeuvre her through the sitting room door and tiny hallway out to the trolley.
It all goes to plan, although it is a struggle in such a confined space. We have her out on the vehicle pretty quickly. She still has an output, and I hurry back inside to gather the last of the bags and to tell the man what’s happening.
He’s still sitting at the kitchen table.
‘I’m afraid we’re going to have to hurry away now. Your – er – the woman – is very unwell and needs to go to hospital right away.’
He turns his face up to me, rucked up and livery with discontent.
‘First you must put my room back exactly how it was.’
‘Sorry,’ I say, ‘We really have to go.’
I can feel his outrage boring holes in my back as I shut the front door.