It’s only after we’ve started chest compressions on the naked man, got the defib pads on, shocked once, PEA, carried on, passing smoothly on into the more advanced reaches of our resus protocol, that we notice just exactly what sort of room this is.
The bed frame has several metal loops bolted along the side with lengths of chain threaded through; there are handcuffs attached to the metal rods of the headboard; something leaning up against one wall like a medieval ironing-board with spikes and shackles; a wardrobe hung with capes and straps and one-piece zippy leather things, and a treasure chest spilling with toys, including a mini-cricket bat with a dildo for a handle.
Kenneth, the friend who called us, peeks round the door.
‘Is he okay?’ he says.
‘I’m afraid Steven’s heart’s not working at the moment but we’re doing our best. Can you tell us what happened again?’
‘Steven said he wasn’t feeling all that well and he needed to take some medication. I went downstairs to .. erm ... go to the toilet and freshen up, you know. When he didn’t come down after about twenty minutes I went back up to check and found him unconscious on the bed. The lady on the phone said to put him on the floor. Is he going to be all right, do you think?’
‘Like I say, we’re doing our best. Kenneth, could you do us a favour? There’s another crew on their way. Could you keep an eye out for them and show them straight up?’
‘Will do. Can I get you a cup of tea or anything?’
‘That’s very kind but we’re fine for the moment. When the other crew get here I’ll need to get some details from you, his date of birth, address, that kind of thing.’
‘Well I don’t know much. But I’ll do my best.’
He snatches a brief, appalled look at his friend, then goes back downstairs.
* * *
The supporting crew have a senior paramedic on board who takes over the resus. They fit a Lucas to Steven – a machine that delivers chest compressions automatically. It’s a brutally efficient thing, a big rubber plunger on a piston, pumping up and down at exactly the right speed and depth. A curved board goes underneath Steven’s chest, fixed right and left into the gantry of the mechanism. A harness passes over his shoulders and behind his neck to stop the machine slipping down, and his hands are strapped up either side of the machine, too. With the chest compressions taken care of, it frees me up to go downstairs and get some details from Kenneth.
His next door neighbour, Janet is sitting with him. She saw the ambulances outside and came round to give him support. A sturdy woman in a white towelling robe, she clatters around in the little galley kitchen making tea.
After ten minutes or so I go back upstairs to find that Steven now has an output. I relay what information I’ve gleaned from Kenneth, then go out to the prep the vehicle and bring a chair back in, roughly clearing what I can from the hallway and the stairs as I go.
It’s an awkward space. But between the four of us we manage to manoeuvre him out of the room, round the corner and down the stairs. I’m aware of how strange it must be to see Steven in our chair with what looks like a bright plastic printing press strapped to his chest, but the effort of negotiating the steep stairs takes my mind off it somewhat.
Kenneth and Janet watch from the sitting room as we pass. Kenneth puts a hand out briefly to touch Steven on the arm. ‘I’ll come up and see you later,’ he says, then pulls his hand back and rests it on his own chest.
‘Oh, Kenneth,’ says Janet, and takes a sip of tea.