Monday, June 18, 2012

seven night voices

1.      ‘Shut the door, will you? Only I don’t want the neighbours knowing any of this.... He says he can’t breathe, he can’t get his breath, you know what I mean? It’s freaking me out. He said his heart’s thumping, he’s gone all dry and shaky. Can I give him some water?... About an hour ago he took this Viagra he bought off a friend down the pub. We get all our coke off him, and it’s always good stuff. And the Viagra looked all right – little blue triangles with some white in the middle when you break them open. You know? Didn’t bloody work, though. Absolutely nothing. And then he said he started to feel light headed and peculiar. And these blotches came up all over his body. I phoned my dad and he’s like “Call the ambulance, Shell. He’s having a reaction.” So I did....  the other thing is he went cold turkey on his Citalopram last week, so that’s probably not helping. He’s been a bit stressed out at work. And he’s a type one diabetic and when we did his sugars just now they’d gone through the roof. ... I can’t believe I’m telling a couple of strangers about our sex life. It’s weird. Anyway, he’s just in here. Can I get you a coffee or anything?’

2.      ‘George had an episode about a year or so ago when he ate a cookie and his face swelled up. That’s when they found out he was allergic to  nuts - and melons, for some reason. Not tree type nuts – ground ones, the legume family. Anyway, nothing happened after that. We were always really careful. They gave us an EpiPen just in case and I always carry that. A bottle of Piriteze.... I was making supper and we had a little dish of cashews on the go and George said could he try one and for some stupid reason – I don’t know, I was in a rush, I wasn’t thinking – I said yes and let him have one. He spat it out immediately thank God and then about five or ten minutes later started being violently sick, his face began to swell up again, his eyes and nose running like mad so I gave him some Piriteze and then jabbed him with the pen.... I just can’t believe I was so stupid. I don’t know what came over me. I feel terrible... Whatever kind of mother am I?’

3.       ‘She was all right in the pub but when we got outside,  it all got too much yeah and she was sick just about everywhere and then crashed out in the doorway. I tried cleaning her up because no-one in their right mind would take her like this, would they, hey babe? Would they? But in the end I had to call because I couldn’t think what else to do? I’ll help you lift her up on the trolley if you like? Have you got a blanket because she hasn’t got much on.... But I’ve still got your shoes, Beth? Yeah? Your shoes? That’s the good news, hunny babe. You might have lost everything else but you haven’t lost your shoes.’

4.      ‘It’s my hen night and we’ve all had quite a bit to drink. Kelly was the worse, though. She was completely wasted. She didn’t look all that great, to be honest, so that’s why I called you. But when they said it might take a while I called her boyfriend Grant. So then he turned up he said he’d take her home. So he picked her up and staggered off down the road. But I could see he was struggling a bit and the next thing you know he’s dropped her on her head. I went over and tried to make him leave her where she was and wait for you guys but he wouldn’t listen and he picked her up again. But no sooner had he done it than he dropped her on her head again. Anyway, he still wouldn’t listen, so he picked her up again and staggered off in that direction. I thought I’d better stay here and wait for you. I don’t know where she lives, but it’s somewhere in that direction. Do you think you could have a drive around and see if she’s okay?’

5.      ‘Now and then I bleed myself to help me cope with things. I’ve been pretty good lately but everything started to pile up on me again, you know, so I got one of my cannulas and bled myself over the sink. I did it for quite a while this time, maybe forty five minutes or so? And I don’t feel too bad, to be honest, except I’ve got this terrible urge to open it up again and just keep going. That’s why I called you. I didn’t think I could resist letting it run.’

6.      ‘Poor papa was recently diagnosed with PSP – which isn’t PlayStation, by the way. It’s a bit like Parkinson’s disease, apparently. Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, it stands for. Quite rare. It means his balance is affected and he’s prone to falls. He’s had a pretty tiring day today, which hasn’t helped. He was up at the hospital for more tests, and he’s just started on a new course of drugs, so all in all it’s been quite a harrowing time for him, hasn’t it papa? I don’t think he’s hurt himself, but he’s just too heavy for me to get him up. I’m so sorry to call you out like this. Have you eaten? This is very nice. We call it Dhokla – made with chick pea flour and spices. Mama’s speciality. Try it. And I’ve got some fresh mangoes you might like, also. Very juicy.’

7.      ‘So we were in the hostel common room with Tina for an hour or more. There was no one else about, no numbers to call, nothing. Tina was just sitting there on her own with this big, black and white cat on her lap, and she was stroking it like this, with her head down and her hood up, and she’d listen to what we said and then just say “I’m not going to hospital. I’m not going.” She said she’d only called NHS Direct for advice about the overdose, and they were the ones who’d called us, not her. I can’t tell you, Spence, we were there for ages. We used every angle we could think. Threats about the police, good cop / bad cop, everything. We even used the cat. But absolutely nothing worked. “I’m not going to hospital. You can’t make me.” She just kept on and on she wanted to be left alone to die. So then Claire has an idea and she goes out into the hall and looks in the visitors book. When she comes back in she starts talking about this friend of Tina’s called Vicky, and could we give Vicky a ring and what would Vicky say about all this? Which starts to get a reaction. Turns out Vicky’s four months pregnant, and Tina says it’s too late to ring her. So then I start in about how lovely it’ll be to see Vicky’s baby when it’s born, and how would it make Vicky feel if Tina wasn’t around to help out? Which also seems to get a response. So finally after a bit more of that she shoos the cat off her lap, stands up and says okay, she’s ready to come to hospital. I tell her how pleased I am she’s seen sense. Claire fusses around getting her bags and whatnot. Tina says she only didn’t want to come because they’re so mean to her up at A and E, so I say stuff about it’s no excuse but they get very stressed and it’s difficult to be sympathetic when you’re snowed under with work and how sometimes they’re not aware that they’re coming across a bit harsh. So then I asked her when was the last time she was in A and E. And she says she’s been really good lately and it must be a month or two. So I say that is good and well done and we go in. And it’s only when I handover to the charge nurse and she takes the name that she sighs and says “Not Tina again.” And I say “What do you mean?” “Well,’ she says, “I’m surprised you didn’t know. Tina’s been in every single day this month.”


Starblade said...

Always amazing the variety of the people - all so different and yet somehow so similar.

jacksofbuxton said...

Was that one of your quieter shifts Spence?

Alan @ It's not work, It's gardening! said...

This can't be from a single night, can it Spence? Even if not, I don't know how you can do it.

There is much weight in this post, but a good kind if you know what I mean.

Spence said...

Starblade - One of the perks of the job!

Jacks - God I was tired by the end of it. Made it back to base and spent the last half an hour in front of the Le Mans coverage - staring at the cars going round and round with their big square lights... their big square lights....

Alan - Yep - in fact, there were a couple of other jobs I can't remember too well. One was an assault, I know that. A strange, star-shaped laceration behind his left ear - either he was punched by someone wearing a ring, or he's an alien who had a transmitter removed and now can't remember what his mission is. Prob the former.


Anonymous said...

Was this a remotely typical night? I find it interesting that, aside from number six, they all involved an element to which the problem was at least partially self-inflicted.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for some time now and absolutely love your writing. It's so charged with atmosphere I can see whole scenario. You have an amazing skill to be able to do that.
This is the first time I've commented although I've wanted to lots of times in the past...anyway, just to say you have an admirer, not only for your writing but for the incredible job you do as well.


Spence said...

Anon - Well it was only atypical in that we didn't have one elderly put-back-to-bed when normally we'd have at least two. But otherwise, yep, usual stuff. And you're right, a lot of what we deal with is self-inflicted. But I suppose you could argue that's a broad category. I know it's a stretch, but you could say an RTC is self-inflicted, in that you chose to drive a car, and an MI, because you smoked, ate a poor diet and took no exercise &c &c. I have a lot of sympathy for MH patients, for example - much more than for intox in the street, but that's just me. Everyone's different, everyone has their thing. But whatever the job, you pretty soon develop a pragmatic approach and deal with each category much the same. It's what we're paid for, after all. If I wasn't doing this I don't know what I'd do... (thinks... hmm ... I tried teaching and that was a disaster... I wouldn't mind diving but I'm prob too old now... landscape gardening, now there's a thing .. hmmm).

Sally - Thanks v much, that's kind of you to say so. And thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.


Hannah said...

He's her son?!!!!!
In my mind they were a middle aged childless couple, feeling a bit stupid they were careless and then BANG, actually negligent parenting...

I was kind of hoping this was the highlight reel from a block of night shifts...
Such hard, hard work,

Alexia said...

I've said this before, I know, but I am going to repeat myself:
1. I do not know how you do it.
2. Thank God for you and those like you.

Spence said...

I suppose it's that kind of stupid incident every parent has at one time or another - when you do something awful because you're not thinking or you're distracted, and afterwards go into a kind of shock. I know we've been guilty of it. And it's only down to good fortune that nothing happens. *shudder*

Night shifts are particularly hard, I have to say. Esp. around four o'clock, for some reason - when your spiritual tide's out, so to speak!

1. It's funny - I think it's easier to do the work than to read about it afterwards. When you're actually engaged in the incident you're preoccupied with the practicalities and don't have time for much else.
2. That's kind of you to say so. Of course from our point of view the work's interesting; you get paid a reasonable wage (I could moan about the pay freeze/cut the last 3 years and other stuff but I'll resist...), time off &c &c - so there are plenty of good reasons to be doing it!

Thanks for the comments! :)

StPMedic said...

This is a brilliant post!!

Just read it aloud to my girlfriend who often wonders what I get up to when on the ambulance and is often concerned at my humour sometimes.

Great insight into types of people often come across!

Spence said...

Thanks v much, SPM!

I think it's one of the most (diplomatically) difficult thing to get across - ambulance black humour. Even though I think people understand that you have to insulate yourself against the ups and downs of the job, it's still tricky to write down some of the things that get said without sounding incredibly callous or just plain wrong!

Cheers for the comment.

Anonymous said...

First time I've heard PSP mentioned but I've attended a patient recently with it, perhaps it's becoming more common. It's a horrible disease, my Mother in Law died from it. It's incurable and a slow and horrific death.

Spence said...

Hi Anon

So sorry to hear about your Mother in Law. A dreadful thing to happen. I hope she and the rest of the family got all the help they needed.

Thanks v much for the comment, Anon. Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

number 5 was me 6 yrs ago. i let it go to far & was sectioned (again). I used to hate the people who would say that one day it will all work out & be ok - but i now have a job, have been there 6 months - longest time i've held a job so far & its more hours that i'd planned to ease myself into work! Life isn't perfect but it has improved. I hope that person was able to get some further support that night after seeing you. My dream would be to create a charity safe house with medical staff too where those who harm could go to for support & treatment.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Anon
Thanks v much for writing.
I'm really glad to hear that things are picking up for you. It sounds like you've had a tough time of it.
Your idea of a safe house with medical staff is a really good one. There should be somewhere we can take people at times of crisis where they can get as much or as little help as they need. A&E is often not that appropriate - not through lack of interest from the staff, but often it gets so busy that it's simply not possible to give MH patients the time and space they need. But of course, in the absence of any of this, we struggle on!
Thanks again for writing. Hope everything's good with you.