A woman steps out and waves to us with one of her crutches.
‘Paul’s over there,’ she says. ‘I can’t get him up.’
I play the torch along the street and pick out a huge, snoring form, face down on the grass verge.
‘Did he fall?’
‘No. That’s just where his friends dropped him off.’
‘It was a free bar,’ she says. ‘I’ll have to go back inside now. The kids.’
Paul is lying with his face scrunched up on his work bag and open wallet, vomit over everything, his face, his eyes, his clothes. His shirt has ridden up, revealing an expanse of flesh vast as a de-bristled hog. The ripe smell coming off his trousers suggest other, deeper horrors.
I wipe his nose and mouth clear and reposition his head to ease the breathing.
Rae unloads the trolley and brings it over with the scoop. We pause for a second, gauging his weight. Can we lift this guy without a second crew? Because on the way here Control were in meltdown, constantly putting out all-calls for outstanding jobs with no-one to assign. If we ask for back-up, it’ll take a while.
‘What do you think?’
‘We could have a go.’
‘Come on then.’
Rae takes the foot end, I get the top.
‘Ready, set... lift.’
It’s only from the ground to the trolley, but Paul is at the very limit of what we should be lifting. In the few seconds it takes to get him over, I have a vision of all my vertebral disks popping out of my back, shooting up in the air and exploding like a line of clay pigeons.
On to the vehicle, and Paul resists painful stimuli to the point where I try putting an airway in. But he reaches up and pulls it out again, so his GCS isn’t as low as I’d thought. I take his obs en route. Halfway there he pulls off the oxygen mask and hawks up a wad of half-digested food.
‘Don’t spit!’ I tell him.
He ignores me and carries on.
* * *
The hospital has been besieged by drunks and bad trippers all night, and the staff have a crumpled, antsy kind of look.
‘You’ve just had too much to drink’ says a doctor, leaning over a young girl whimpering on a trolley. ‘You shouldn’t be taking up a hospital bed.’
We get nods from the other crews as we wheel Paul in to the department, appreciating all the nuances of size, age, smell, mess.
‘Good god!’ says the triage nurse, coming over. ‘What the hell have you brought me now?’‘It was a free bar,’ I tell her.