Bathrooms and lifelines

This isn’t a recent event, but I’ve only really just remembered it.

I was on my base-station but had no crew mate. This meant I had a few options (actually, I had none, but there was one of a few things that my control manager would tell me to do).

Option the 1st: Stay solo on the ambulance, first responding to Red calls (life threatening) being backed up as needed.

Option 2: Drive to another station to crew up with someone else who was also solo.

Option 3: Stay put and wait for someone else that had no crew mate to drive to me.

Option 4: Take a Paramedic off a rapid response vehicle (RRV) to crew up with me – They don’t like doing this as RRVs are very good at getting places in 8 minutes, which keeps the government happy, but they also know that double-crewed ambulances are the Trust’s most valuable resource.

Eventually, option 3 was decided on and I would wait for a Technician from another station (12 miles away) to drive to me. This suited me fine as I actually had time to check my vehicle, providing a Red call didn’t come in in my area!

So ‘Berk’ as I’ll call him, arrived. I immediately didn’t like him. He seemed arrogant and dismissive and bitched and moaned about having to drive to my station (in an ambulance, not his own car) to crew up with a ‘Student‘!

“This will be a long 12 hours” I thought to myself! Then I always remind myself that it is only 12 hours and for some of that, one of us is in the back with a patient anyway. ‘Keep calm and carry on’.

Actually, my short but stale encounter with Berk is not at all relevant to the story, but it’s good to vent. Berk!

 

First job around comes in: 78 year old lady, fallen in Bathroom.

“Priority 2 backup for an RRV please chaps”

“Roger, wilco’, all received”

We decide who’s ‘wheeling’ and who’s ‘healing’ and jump into our seats. Blue lights on, off we go.

It’s a short and uneventful drive to the address in a small, nearby village. We park up outside the bungalow and walk through the open front door.

“Hello, ambulance” standard entry call of the ‘medic.

“Through here guys” standard reply of the ‘medic.

We walk through to the bathroom where our Paramedic colleague tells us the story. Everything about a patient can be gained from a good history, so we listen intently.

“This is Joan (name changed, of course). Who 3 days ago….”

“Sorry mate, was that 3 hours ago?”

“‘fraid not guys, 3 days. 3 days ago, Joan walked in to the bathroom, lost her balance and fell into the [empty] bath. She was unable to get herself up. Thankfully, a neighbour became concerned that she hadn’t seen her so used the key safe to get in, finding Joan. We were called immediately.”

This poor poor lady had been stuck in the – thankfully – empty bath for 3 days!! Her feet were at the tap end, so she cleverly used her toes to turn the tap on and use a small just to fill it with water to drink from.

She was wet, soiled, cold, sore and afraid. And bloody relieved to see us lads in green!

She had a dreadful amount of pain in her back and bottom where she’d been led for so long, so we gave her some good pain relief before moving her. Once that kicked in, there was no other option than to man-handle her out of the bath and onto our wheelchair.

As we did so, we stripped off her wet clothes. She had an enormous pressure sore on her back and urine burns on her legs and buttocks. We cleaned her, dried her and put her into a hospital gown (always worth carrying a few on the ambulance) after dressing her wounds.

Systemically, she was well. Her blood pressure was excellent, her heart rate was normal and even her blood sugar was OK. She was, of course, mildly hypothermic, but otherwise stable.

We wheeled her to the ambulance and got going to hospital. I was in the back with her on the way, and she recounted the story to me through tears.

She genuinely thought she was going to die in the bath. She wept and I could do nothing but hold her hand and tell her she was safe. I recommended a ‘life-line’ pendant to wear around her neck so if she falls, she’d be able to summon help more quickly. She agreed that she would make enquiries when she got home.

I gave my clinical handover to the Matron in A&E who sent us to the High Care area of A&E with her. There she was given a comfortable bed while waiting for the doctors to come and see her. I told the nurses about the turmoil she’d bee through and they said they’d take good care of her. I knew they would.

 

Stuff like this terrifies the life out of me! We get called to people found dead by loved ones who have fallen and been unable to summon help. I cannot recommend life-lines enough, they are just that! It may take a while to get someone there, but someone will always get there. It makes me angry, as well, when people have them but don’t wear them, I feel like I’m forever telling off pensioners who have them hung over the bedside lamp! This is one of those ‘forever problems’. It’ll be a problem, forever.

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