Bernie has fallen out of the loft. She slid down the ladder head first, scrabbling with whatever limb she could to slow her progress, then crash landing on the wooden floor on the point of her elbow to save her face. She got herself up, hobbled downstairs to the kitchen, sat on a chair to get her breath. Her parents phoned for an ambulance.
Frank was first on scene in the car. He put a collar on Bernie, then stood behind her holding her head whilst he waited for us in the truck.
When we come into the kitchen he greets us with his usual shtick.
‘Here they are, the cavalry. Sorry to roust you out of bed, Spence. He’s such a grouch when he doesn’t get his eight hours, Bernie.’
‘So – guys. This is Bernie.’ He tells us the story of Bernie and the Loft.
‘Wow! That’s quite a way to fall.’
‘It’s no biggie. I’ve done it before.’
‘Any neck pain? Back pain? Numbness? Pins and needles?’
Everything checks out, apart from her elbow. But because of the height she fell and the distracting injury, we play safe and go for a full immobilisation.
Ten minutes later she’s trussed up on the floor and we’re ready to go. I’m with Frank at the head end, Rae at the feet.
‘On your call, Frank.’
We’re crouched down, ready to lift.
He starts to count.
‘On three. One.... two...’
The next thing, he’s pitching forwards, head first into Bernie’s lap. I just have time to put out a hand to deflect some of his weight off to the side. I look into his face which is white and slack. ‘Frank? Frank? Are you all right?’
He staggers about, but I manage to get him away from Bernie – who apart from a little shriek when he began to go seems incredibly stoical about the whole thing.
‘Jeesh!’ she says, looking upwards with her eyes. ‘This is hysterical.’
‘Are you okay, Frank? What happened?’
‘I – erm – I’m not sure.’
‘Sit down for a minute and get your bearings. Have you got any pain?’
‘No. I’m fine. I think it was a postural.’
‘Let’s get Bernie out to the truck, then we’ll come back for you, Frank. She’s no weight. We can manage just the two of us. Then we’ll get you on board and wire you up.’
He sits on the floor with his head in his hands. We carry Bernie out, then whilst I check her over and settle her in, Rae reappears with Frank in tow. She runs through the usual checks. Everything seems fine.
‘He can have the trolley,’ says Bernie, wriggling in her straps. ‘I’m not that fussed.’
‘Are you going to be okay, driving back to base?’ I say to Frank. ‘We can always get someone running.’
‘No. I’ll be fine. I think it was just bending down too suddenly.’
‘Take the rest of the shift off, though. Get some rest.’ I squeeze his shoulder. ‘I’ll write you a note.’
It’s a shock to see him like this, vulnerable, pale, objectified. A patient.
‘Thanks guys,’ he says, ripping off the ECG dots. ‘Sorry to be a pain.’
‘And you’re sure you’re okay to drive back?’
‘It wasn’t nearly so exciting last time I fell out of the loft,’ says Bernie, squirming in her collar and blocks. ‘Last time I just got a spoonful of Calpol and a telling off.’