Sunday, August 02, 2009

last delivery

The garden centre is on the outskirts of town, high on the edge of a ruck of ground, its pointed canopies dark against the sky.

Man collapsed. This has to be a member of staff. The place won’t have opened yet.

Rae swings the ambulance round into the broad and empty car park, up towards the glass frontage of the building. There is a man standing just off to the right of it, and he points with a straight arm off to his left, to a track that runs around the side of the building.
‘He’s in the loading bay,’ he says as we draw level. The only way to get there is to go back out of the car park and drive round, but that’ll take a while, so I jump out, grab the resus bag from the back, and tell Rae I’ll see her there.
‘We’ve been unloading the lorries this morning,’ the guy says as we walk quickly, side by side. ‘This was the last delivery. The driver fell asleep in the cab and we can’t wake him.’
There’s one lorry parked with its cab towards us at the end of the track. I can see the driver high up behind the wheel, leaning back in his seat with his head resting to the side against the window, his eyes closed and his mouth slack.
‘We don’t know anything about him. He’s not a regular.’
I open the passenger door and climb up into the cab. Before I even touch him I know he’s arrested. I brace myself between the steering wheel and the chair, give him a thump in the centre of his chest, and start compressions as best I can in that position. He’s a heavy man, probably twenty something stone. The cab is about six feet off the ground. The man who brought me here is looking in through the passenger door.
‘We’re going to need you and a couple of your mates to get him down onto the ground. Quick as you like.’
But Rae is here now and a couple of other centre workers have come out by themselves. Rae tells them to grab hold when I open the door. I pull the latch, the driver sinks out head first into the open air and is handed down in a lurching descent to the ground. The workers step aside. I get back on his chest.
‘Anybody know anything about him?’
‘He’s from up North.’
‘How long do you think he was like this?’
‘Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. Not much longer.’
A second ambulance arrives.
We follow the protocol, but get nothing.
I check the man’s pockets. A handful of coins, some keys. I ask one of the garden centre workers to look for ID in the cab. He comes back with a wallet and a mobile phone. I read out the man’s name from his driving licence.

We can’t do any more here, but the patient is still well perfused.
We scoop him onto our stretcher and run him off to hospital.

There is a crash team waiting for us in resus. I call out the story as we slide him from our trolley onto theirs.

When the team are well into their run, I leave the room to go and book the patient in and start on the paperwork. I’m half way through when one of the crash nurses comes out to me.
‘They’ve called it,’ she says. ‘Someone has to ring the family.’
And she taps his mobile phone gently, absently, in the palm of her opened hand.


Tom102 said...

Unfortunately, I share similar experiences.

I recall being despatched to a pub. We were quickly ushered downstairs on arrival only to see an elderly gentleman collapsed in the cellar. There was no sign(s) of life.

Apparently, he had retired some years earlier, but liked to keep busy. He was missed as the staff prepared to open the doors, and someone was sent to look for him.

Your poignant post reminded me of a memory long lost. Well written and insightful blog.

MarkUK said...

Shouldn't telling the rellies be done face to face? Even if it is the police?

Mum's the word said...

Hello Spence,
I didn't expect this post to be what it was. When I read the title, I immediately thought it would be a 'happy little story' about a baby delivery, a beginning, not a dark story about an ending.
Do you have 'happy' stories? I'm sure they're few and far between, but sometimes it must happen.
I'm a glass half full person.
Have a good evening.

petrolhead said...

I'd hate to be the poor member of staff who has to do that - it's got to be one of the worst parts of working in A&E.

Good to have you back, by the way! xx

loveinvienna said...

Oh dear :( Any cause given? What an awful way to find out Dad/Husband/Brother etc. has died - just on a routine trip! Very sad.

Must add though, sounds very gung-ho (in a good way :) ) when you start doing compressions in the cramped cab of the lorry :D Spence to the rescue!

Liv xxx

Spence Kennedy said...

Tom - It's always much more poignant when you know someone's died without anyone around. Even though their actions might not have made any physical difference, you don't like to think of anyone suffering in isolation.

MarkUK - I think you're right. And prob in this case the nurse would've handed the responsibility on to someone more senior, someone who knew the proper procedure. I think the police would've been contacted in the area the patient came from, and they would've gone round in person.

Jo - Sorry! Yet another rather grim anecdote. I do worry that the blog tends towards the bleak. I should make more of an effort to lift the tone (but that's not always easy for some of these jobs). We cope at work by remaining outside the emotion of the job for the most part, staying objective about the whole thing. We also have grim ambulance humour to keep us sane - but that doesn't often translate well on the page! I promise I'll make more of an effort to lighten the load, though. You must think I glide through my working day with a cloak and and a scythe...

Thanks PH! We went camping... :0/

Liv - I suppose it does sound a bit gung-ho. But once I was in the cab and was waiting for everyone to help get him out, I thought I might as well try a pre-cordial thump and some compressions (even though they weren't effective). I must admit I do like those jobs where you break down doors, climb in through small gaps and hang off the side of stuff. I'm a frustrated fireman/stuntman/cat burglar/maniac (delete where app.)

Thanks for all your comments! xxx

Grace said...

So sad. However, I don't think you should worry about these posts being too bleak. You really humanize this for us and are always sympathetic and non-judgemental. That is what I love so much about this site.

Mum's the word said...

I really love reading your blog, don't change.
I'm heading into Social Work, so I'm sure at some point over the next few years, my blog will take a darker tone too.
x jo

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Grace. I do try not to be judgmental, even though sometimes it's really hard not to just come out and say what I think about such & such!

Thanks Jo. Good luck with the social work. A great thing to do - really interesting and worthwhile. I admire you for going into it.


uphilldowndale said...

Sad as it is, it's a blessing he wasn't driving his truck down the motorway when he 'fell asleep'.

Spence Kennedy said...

I hadn't thought of that, UHDD! x