Thursday, January 06, 2011


I glance over the notes that Control send through, but I hardly need to. We’re both very well aware who Jasper is.
The radio buzzes.
‘Sorry guys. We tried to deal with this one our end, but he started speaking in riddles, so we had to pass it to you.’
‘Yep. No worries. We like a good riddle.’
‘Control out.’

The last time I saw Jasper he was roaring like an outraged banker, face down in the A&E car park, Geoff the security guard sitting on his legs. Geoff had waved pleasantly as we parked, comfortable enough. Apparently Jasper had attacked one of the nurses with his stick – an ineffectual attempt, but unpleasant nonetheless - and then run off. Geoff had rugby tackled him just before the ramp.
‘So much for the Parkinsons or whatever it is he claims to have.’
‘Bless you.’
Frank pulls up outside the address.
‘Here we are then. This should finish us off nicely.’

There is a finely needled drift of rain in the air; a Christmas tree lies next to a shining black paladin, one red bauble and a few scraps of tinsel hanging from its branches, as if the thing hadn’t been dumped so much as jumped out of the tub and run away. The whole street has a post-event feel; the half-drawn blinds of the house make it look hung-over.
Jasper lives in the basement, down a dark and precipitous drop of stairs.
‘Just right for a patient with mobility problems,’ says Frank, clicking on his torch.
‘Let’s get this over with.’
I knock on the door – a scarred and battered affair with the number painted on in black with a decorator’s brush. I ring the bell, too. After a long pause, I knock again.
‘He’s working on his laptop,’ says Frank. ‘I can see him through the curtains.’
I bang on the window.
‘Yes? Who is it?’
‘It’s the ambulance, Jasper. Can you open the door please?’
‘But I called to cancel. Look this is simply ridiculous. Are you sure you need to see me?’
‘Well you rang to say you had chest pain. Is that right?’
‘Yes, I do have chest pain, but look – this is outrageous.’
‘Are you saying you don’t want to see us? Because that’s fine, Jasper. We just need you to sign our paperwork.’
‘Oh for goodness sake.’
He carries on talking, a bitter and bothered kind of mumble, but the shadow behind the curtain finally draws back and we can’t hear anything else. Eventually we hear a shuffling coming towards us along the hallway, and the door opens.
‘What do you want?’
‘Hello, Jasper.’
He stands swaying in the gloomy light from the hallway, immaculately dressed in a formal white shirt and dark trousers, and a pair of slip on shoes with fancy silver buckles. In his right hand he clutches an ornate black walking stick and a plastic yellow grabber. His face is doughy and unremarkable, with an affronted hang to his eyes and mouth, like a sulky child called in too early.
‘How are you feeling?’
‘How am I feeling? How do you think I’m feeling? I’ve got excruciating pains in my chest. I can’t breathe. My doctor couldn’t care less. I’ve got business to attend to and now this. What did you want?’
‘If you’ve got pains in your chest, Jasper, you should let us check you out.’
‘Check me out? Whatever do you mean?’
‘You should come up to the ambulance and let us do an ECG. And really you should come up to the hospital to see a doctor.’
‘This is ridiculous.’
‘But you don’t have to do any of that if you don’t want to. It’s a free country. Sign the paperwork and we’ll leave you alone.’
‘Oh – come in, then. If you must.’
‘You only need to get your keys, wallet and a jacket, Jasper. Then we’ll go straight back out to the vehicle.’
‘But can’t you do all your checks here?’
‘We can form an impression of what’s wrong, but the only definitive way to rule out any heart problems is to come to hospital for a blood test. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to risk anything happening tonight.’
‘No. Of course not. But they all hate me up at the hospital.’
‘I’m sure they don’t.’
‘They’re all tenants. They’ve all got their little axes to grind.’
He shuffles back along the corridor and I follow reluctantly.
‘Just get the essentials,’ I say.
‘Don’t rush me,’ he snaps over his shoulder. ‘I’m not so sure this is a good idea. I don’t know what you think you’ve got to achieve by making me do all of this.’
Frank loiters in the hallway. Above him, a tangle of electrical wires and heating ducts run exposed along the top of the wall; the flat feels half-finished, an abandoned project. Inside, Jasper is living in one room, an unmade double bed in the centre, a pine kitchen table over by the window covered with letters and magazines, a laptop whirring in the middle of it all.
‘It’s not my flat,’ he says, rootling around in the paperwork. ‘Excuse the mess.’
‘Just your keys, phone and some money for a cab home,’ I say, checking my watch.
‘Just a minute, just a minute,’ he says. ‘Now. Where are my cuff links?’
As he dresses he huffs and sniffs; now and again he seems to stagger – an unconvincing detail, like a poor actor forgetting his limp.
‘How’s that chest pain?’
‘Like I keep telling you, it’s absolutely crushing. I can’t breathe, I feel sick.’
‘All the more reason to come to hospital.’
‘Yes. Yes. Look. Could you hold these, please?’
He dumps into my hands a Blackberry, a glasses case, a packet of chewing gum, five pounds in loose change and a letter from his doctor. Frank smiles at me and delicately extracts the letter.
‘It says here you refused an ambulance yesterday, and ignored the doctor’s advice to go to hospital for investigations.’
Jasper tips his head back and with his eyes half closed seems to sniff the air, like a snake exploring the size of a mouse by the heat it gives off.
‘Well that’s my useless doctor for you,’ he says finally. ‘What does she know?’
‘You don’t have to come with us,’ Frank says, placing the letter carefully back on my precarious pile. ‘You’re perfectly at liberty to refuse treatment.’
But Jasper has found his cuff links. He snaps them on expertly, then swings his jacket over his shoulders.
‘Let’s go,’ he says. ‘You first.’


jacksofbuxton said...

My goodness Spence,you do get them don't you.

Ever fancied running the ambulance on a sun drenched island?Laid back locals and the odd sun burned/over lubricated Brit on holiday to deal with.

You've painted such a picture that I can imagine Jasper as a David Niven style gent.Love the idea of I must get my cuff links.

Another beautifully written piece Spence.

BB said...

I guess it's safe to say that patience is one of the top requirements for your job?! Wow.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks v much, JoB.

Funnily enough, as I was out walking the dogs this morning in the pouring rain, I passed another guy doing the same, equally drenched, and I said: That's it! I've had enough! I'm emigrating. I meant it, as well. The only thing is, I've no idea what I'd do for a living (and I'd hate to take the kids out of school now). Otherwise...

Hey BB. Patience is def a requirement. Patience, and the ability to step outside yourself and think about other, calmer, nicer things. Something to aspire to, anyway!

Jane Brideson said...

'Nowt so queer as folk' eh Spence?
Another strange one.
Roll on spring then at least you get to work in sunshine.

Unknown said...

I am way too irresponsible for your job. I don't think I have that kind of patience and empathy in me. Luckily, there are people like you out there.

Sorry that he didn't just sign off on the papers though.

One more post today awards you with a Blog Award since you happen to be one of my favorites:
Stop by to pick it up, if you'd like.

Thanks for another great post.

The Real Housewife of Greensboro said...

I just thought it was crazy that of all things he felt the need to find his cufflinks. I mean come on man. Give me a break. I couldn't be an EMT because I'd be like "Look dude, if you have your wallet, phone, and money, then let's get the hell out of here" But that's why I'm not in public service. LOL

saffy said...

i for one am glad you guys do have patience....not that i call my local service at all, (luckily i dont have the need to yet ) but knowing some of the situations they have had to deal with, i think that must come in the job discription
when my own brother was having one of his heart attacks he decided that he had to make sure that his whole family were catered for , ie had breakfast set out etc so i can believe these people exist...
Maybe Jasper does have Münchausen syndrome, but hey we all have problems and i am just glad you and people like you are there to help us

Spence Kennedy said...

Jane - It'll be so great to work in sunshine again. There's only so much damp, drizzle, rain, sleet (check thesaurus for variations...) a man can take. And where did I put my SAD lamp?

Nari - I'm patient in some things but horribly impatient in others. It depends on the circumstance (time of day, whether I've eaten etc).

Thanks v much for the nomination. I really appreciate you thinking of me. I'll send you an email to explain it all further!!

RHG - It was all part of his dumb-ass, gentlemanly schtick - the tedious game he plays with ambulance / police / hospital staff etc. We could've wrapped the whole thing up sooner if we were of a mind, but there's always a part of you that says: watch out! he may actually be ill this time, and the whole incident might come back to bite you. Hey ho! Life with the frequent flyers. If only we had an extra bit of kit - a .45 would do it. :/


Thanks v much for all your comments :)

Spence Kennedy said...

Hey Saffy! (Sorry - your comment came through just after I'd published & replied to the others...)

You're right - all these situations def come in the job description (the real, unofficial one).

By the sounds of it, I wouldn't put your brother in anything like the same category as Jasper. Your brother sounds like a genuine case; Jasper is a vexatious waste of time and money - it's his mission in life to cause as much frustration and disruption as he can. He's been arrested countless times, and thrown out of A&E even more so. I wouldn't actually describe him as Munchausens; his ailments are more consciously adopted to cause disruption & attention.

Unfortunately, in the current climate of litigation fear, no-one seems able to take responsibility and take action that might cut down the number of call-outs and attendances this man has. Everyone's afraid that something will be missed and it will rebound on them. So he's treated each time as if his presenting complaint is genuine, even though logic and experience tells you that the likelihood is extremely low.

But like you say - it's part of the job script. I don't really think it's patience that you adopt in these situations. I think it's actually more like the demeanour of a prisoner 'keeping his head down and doing his bird'. You make yourself as aerodynamic as possible, adopting a smooth emotional shape to let the nonsense flow around you. Sad, I know. But a coping strategy for all concerned.

Thanks for the comment, Saffy. I hope your brother's made a full recovery. I love the way he made the breakfast like that. He's obviously a very caring and redoubtable individual!

Spence Kennedy said...

Nari - do you have an email I could contact you on? Drop me a line via the profile if that's okay (but don't worry if not!) :)

saffy said...

He is doing ok but keeps having a lull in his potassium level , hence i guess so many heart attacks...
His nurtring for the family stems from,that he has four others with varying digrees of mental illness, that he cares for and he is last of list.... so gets exhausted. sometimes he would do good to put himself first but wont. then again its human nature to care for those that we love above other.....and no put like that Jasper dont sound anything like him.
hugs and light