Wednesday, February 27, 2008

big drinker

‘No. I don’t know him, as such. He’s my boss. In fact, he owns the company. This was just a little works outing. I don’t know where anyone else is. All I know is – his name’s John, and he’s about forty-three.’
We’re all standing around the man lying on the pavement outside the hotel: an inner circle made up of me and Frank, the witness and two police officers, and then an outer circle of Thursday night survivors, insulated and indestructible through the magic of alcohol. They smile and shout stuff, strutting around.
‘How did he fall? Did you see him go down?’
‘It wasn’t a fall. He kind of – leant against the railings – like this – then slid down on to his arse – like this – and then out.’ The guy stares down at the hulking figure sprawled on his side on the pavement. He looks like a slaughtered pig dressed in someone’s best blue suit and a curly black wig for the craic and the phone cameras. Awash from head to foot in what looks like minestrone soup, but probably isn’t.
‘You don’t know if John’s got any health problems, do you?’
‘Nope.’ The guy pauses, gives a little nod and a sniff. ‘He’s not very well now, though, is he?’
But at least he has the basics – breathing, pulse, responds to pain, no blood anywhere, no limbs awry. He was probably asleep when he reached the pavement, rolled flat by a barrel of pints, tucked up amongst the cosy slabs, awaiting collection.
And this is the problem. As soon as we pulled up on scene we saw the problem. Not so much medical as removal. It’s a while now since I looked, but I don’t remember the section in the manual describing the Safe Four Man Lift of the Doubly Incontinent and Vomit-Covered Drunk.
But we’ve managed it before.
We thank the witness, who stumbles off to find a taxi. Working like green, skilled spiders, we wrap the patient in blankets, use a scoop stretcher and the two police officers to lift the patient on to our trolley, load the trolley back on to the vehicle. As I’m putting the tail lift back up I wave to the dustcart that’s just arrived and standing off scene, its flashing orange lights an interesting change to blue. It wants access to the hotel, so I hop in the cab and we move off.


Shade said...

I always feel so guilty about calling ambulances for people that are that drunk, even if they're unconscious. It just seems such a waste of an ambulance.

Spence Kennedy said...

It is quite a problem.

I think for the most part people ring with good intentions. They don't know whether someone's drunk or ill, so they call us. I don't mind those too much.

The ones I find more annoying are the friends who call for an ambulance after spending the night drinking with someone and then seeing them crash, without any thought ever having been made for the consequences / taking care of each other etc. Getting absolutely wasted is seen as the mark of a good night out, and if an ambulance is called - well, that's just a part of it that will add to the story they'll tell later.

Whatever the reasons - cheap drink, extended hours, social relationship with alcohol - it's a colossal drain on police, ambulance and hospital. I don't know what can be done, though. A charge for trivial use of an ambulance? The danger would be that someone who really needed it would be put off calling, I suppose. But maybe you could put in place a system where 2 signatures were required to incur a charge - one from the ambulance crew and one from the receiving staff at the A&E, where 2 sigs = payment required. Open to appeal. But a deterrent, like parking charges!

The other approach would be to operate 'drunk patrols' - dedicated teams on the busiest nights who scoop up the drunks and take them to a supervised 'drunk tank'. I can imagine some heavyweight litigation, though - and maybe the fear of being sued will stymie any real initiatives in this area.

What do you think?


cogidubnus said...

I'd guess he had more than a brace of pints mate...unless it was pints of spirits!

I'd guess the job is made doubly horrible by the need to clean the ambulance and sundry equipment of vomit and worse afterwards...

Couldn't do your job Spence!

Spence Kennedy said...

You're right about the 'brace' thing! I thought a brace of pheasants meant all the birds you shot that session - but I just looked it up, and it means '2'. D'oh!

The job can be pretty grim. Once I got smacked in the face by a vomitty hand when I bent down to look closely at a patient on the floor and she swung her arm up... yeurrgh.

S :)

Judith said...

Yeurrgh indeed. One of the reasons that I left nursing to work with books was that books don't hit you - or vomit - or die - or bleed on your shoes.

Spence, you are now on my daily visit list.

Shade said...

Well when I was a student, I did a lot of SJA duties in the students union - we did act a bit like a drunk tank. Quite often we had people that we dealt with until closing time. I think we did stop a good number of them being taken to hospital because they spent a few hours being looked after and managed to sober up enough to make their own way home - it was only the people that were in a REALLY bad way or just incapable of waking up longer than the time it takes to vomit (again) at the end of the night that we ended up sending.

I do like the idea of a drunk tank - it's a way of looking after people to make sure that they are safe but without taking up valuable spaces in hospitals and ambulances. It's also a way of charging people - you charge them when they leave in the morning for the care etc... - without putting off people from calling an ambulance.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

That's just disgusting! I've got friends who like you say, see having to call an ambulance as just part of a really good night, more drug related than drink I suspect, I'm not sure as I don't and won't go on such nights out. The worst part is that as A&E nursing staff they simply see it as an entitlement and last time it happened were furious with the ambulance staff who quite rightly gave them a good telling off. Bendy Girl

Anonymous said...

love this blog....your stories put a smile on my face every time (and bring the odd tear to the eye). Keep 'em coming! Thanks.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks for all your comments! I really appreciate it.

BendyGirl: I do find it weird that the staff on the desk at our A&E make such a big deal whenever we bring a drunk in, but then you overhear them talking about their own sessions, and they're really just as bad. Don't get me wrong - I love beer, wine, spirits... (pause for another sip)... but why can't a great night be good company, good food, plenty to drink - and then a walk / bus / cab home at the end of it. Throwing up in the back of an ambulance doesn't really figure.

Emily - I vote for the drunk tank. I think there is the manpower out there to cope with it(St Johns etc). BTW - what does STA mean?

:) S.

Spence Kennedy said...

I meant - SJA! Students in Jeopardy from Alcohol? Spectacularly Juiced with Absolut?