Thursday, August 25, 2011


The morning has grown in stature until it stands warm and wide and cloudless blue with everything before it. Even the sun wears shades; it pushes them further up its nose and leans in to scrutinise the bustling summer commerce of the city below – the cars and vans, bikes and buses, the pedestrians, joggers, buggies and wheelchairs, the skateboarders and bikers on the ramp, the early picnickers through the trees, the tennis players, toddlers, dog walkers and street sweepers, and that ambulance, like a wedge of pure sunshine, indicating to move over into the lane that leads to the park.
Inside the cab, Frank reads out the latest job to come through.
Man fallen from bike.
‘Not another one,’ he says. ‘How many of these are we going to do today?’
‘It’s the nice weather, Frank. Everyone gets their bike out.’
He writes the incident number on the sheet and tosses the board onto the dash.
‘If you ever see me on a bike,’ he says, ‘It’s not me. Call the police.’
But then the update comes through and he straightens in the chair.
‘OK. That would explain it. Cardiac arrest.’

Luckily we’re just a few streets away. As I pull round the corner we can see a group of people leaning over a figure in the road. I park up just beyond and protect the scene with the truck; Frank jumps out and when I join him he’s already giving CPR. As I stick on the defib pads Frank is asking the distraught woman leaning over him what her relation is to the patient – wife – what happened – he complained his arm had gone numb then he pitched off the bike – what he suffers with – angina. He tells her that her husband’s heart has stopped working but we’re doing what we can. I nod at the man who made the call, and he gently leads her to one side to give us more room.
‘VF. Hands off.’
Frank lifts his hands.
I deliver a shock. The man’s body gives a convulsive shudder, then Frank is straight back on the chest.
Another crew turns up to help.
A minute further and we shock the man again. This time a viable rhythm settles in to the monitor. A pulse at the neck, increasingly effective breathing. We cluster round the man’s attempt at life with the care of primitives tending a flame. Every bit of kit that could possibly keep the fire going is out on the road now. Until finally, incredibly, it seems as if his condition has stabilised sufficiently to package him up and load him onto the truck. The second truck tidies up and follows with the patient’s wife. At hospital he is stabilised further in Resus, then taken to the cath lab. He finishes the day in CCU.

‘Like I said,’ says Frank, taking a sip of his coffee and studying the sky, the light needling from the rims of his dreadful seventies sunglasses, ‘If you ever see me on a bike...’


Mike said...

Lovely picture you paint at the start and a happy ending; what more could we ask for?

Nice one Spence.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Mike. It was a good day... 80)

f2f said...

"We cluster round the man’s attempt at life with the care of primitives tending a flame" wow, amazingly fitting analogy. or metaphor, or whatever it is...

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Wonderful writing. Spence. We just lost my younger brother to a heart attack the day before he turned 48. Unbelievable to say the least. I am glad this fellow had a happy ending.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks f2f. You do feel a bit like that when you get a result. It's always a fragile thing, and needs careful tending. Amazing when it happens.

Lynda - Forty eight is tragically young. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss.

A lot depends on circumstance. The man in this piece was lucky (heart attack aside) in that an ambulance was literally round the corner. Early CPR is the key, but sometimes it's just not available, for whatever reason.

jacksofbuxton said...

Morning Spence,

Back in my salad days I used to do a lot of cycling.Roads were a lot easier to cycle on,and cyclists used to stop at red lights *cue "Hovis" music* (Dvorak,New World Symphony).Not like that now.

Cycling injuries include a scar on the back of my head after I'd blacked out because my blood pressure had dropped too low,chipped front teeth because I couldn't get my right foot locked into the cleat on the pedal properly so I gently rolled into the back of a car leaving parts of my teeth in the rear windscreen and finally a 3 inch scar on my left leg through not concentrating properly when I was shaving my legs (don't laugh.Well,go on then just don't laugh too long)

Great read as always Spence.

InsomniacMedic said...

These are, without a doubt, the days we live for. Pun intended.
Good times, Spence, and fabulous writing as always...

Spence Kennedy said...

Mornin' JoBs
When we lived in London, I used to cycle everywhere. But now we've moved out to the country, I hardly ever do. So I'm living a much less healthy life (can't stand going to the gym).

Had my fair share of tumbles off bikes / bicycles. Worst thing I did was break my left thumb. Still aches when I play the guitar for long periods (which spares people's ears, at least)

Weirdly - the lower half of my legs have become hairless... In god's name why?

IM - You're right! They come along all too infrequently, but when they do, it's grand!

Cheers for the comments! Hope the rain's stopped where you are and the summer's back on track...

Christine said...

f2f, you took the words right out of my mouth (or off of my keyboard, whatever). Love the analogy of tending the fire like primitives. Awesome writing.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thx, Christine! It's an odd combination - sophisticated equipment but quite brutal interventions. When you do a resus you're absolutely focused on the job at hand, of course - but afterwards I always feel sorry for anyone (esp. the relatives) who witnessed it.

Thanks for the comment.