The great pretender.

My overtime night shift last night was spent mainly dealing with students who’d had a little too much to drink.

“Goodness”, you may think, “on a Wednesday night??”

Well, yes. Sadly, this is becoming more and more normal for the ambulance service. What used to be reserved for Friday and Saturday nights, is now almost a 24/7 burden on the NHS frontline.

One of them got particularly ‘chopsy’ after his “mates” abandoned him drunk on the pavement in the  middle of the city. My crew mate and I, while being perfectly civil, reminded him quite sternly that he had gotten himself into this situation, and if he was grown up enough to go out and get drunk, then he was grown up enough to deal with the consequences and he would do so by showing respect to the healthcare staff that now had to treat him for nothing more than being drunk and unable to look after himself! (and breathe!)

We did consider calling the Police, but they’re busy enough as it is, and as he was unable to stand let alone walk, they wouldn’t want him in their cells in case he choked on his own vomit – a perfectly reasonable concern in my opinion.

The A&E were delighted to have their beds filling with people who’d had their first taste of a lager beer, a red wine or a spirit and gotten a bit giddy to the point they had vomited upon their finest evening wear. Oh dear, what a pickle!

We also had a man who was faking having a stroke. Now, a stroke is a life threatening emergency that we treat aggressively and rapidly. Within a certain time window, there is a good chance that an individual can make a good recovery. While our patient had right sided arm weakness, a facial droop and slurred speech, it was only when he remembered he was being watched (it’s worth mentioning that he was in his 50’s and was also drunk).

It’s not worth not treating it as if it was a stroke, so we gained intravenous access, performed the necessary tests and ‘blued’ him to the nearest A&E. The doctor shared our cynicism but had protocols to follow the same as we do, so went through the motions. I believe he was admitted ‘just in case’. People often pretend to have chest pain, abdominal pain, visual disturbances or anything else we can’t disprove (usually for some attention from an ex’, or for a bed for the night), but a stroke has some very specific symptoms that can’t really be faked.

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