It's all just so depressing. I'm sitting in the FRU car on standby, listening to the radio presenter and all the callers moan about society's ills. Nobody has the time to be polite. Nobody stands up for a pregnant woman on the train. Nobody helps the elderly with their bags of shopping across a busy street. Everyone's far too busy to take a minute to be nice. For a country supposedly known for it's friendliness and manners, we seem to be losing the plot.
The programme glides smoothly and disturbingly from society's ills in general, to neighbourly relations in particular. Dave calls in to say that he wants to burn down his neighbour's house because of all the loud music she plays. Mary rants about the apartment downstairs always cooking spicy food and making her place smell. Den thinks that his neighbours' house is a drug den... Not one single caller has a positive view on life next door. So much anger, so much frustration, so much to make you lose faith in humanity.
I'm snapped out of the gloom by FRED, the computer dispatch system. He's got a call for me. An elderly lady's collapsed. Time to move. No time to sit and get all melancholy about all that I've been listening to.
I arrive on scene, greeted by a frantic windmill-like man. Rose is at the back of the house, lying on the floor. Her eyes are closed, her face pale and clammy, and she's surrounded by vomit. She makes a feeble attempt at responding when I call her name. Her breathing is weak, her oxygen levels low, her pulse about half what it should be. I place an oxygen mask on her face and check the rest of her observations. The ambulance arrives only a short time later, and we move Rose off the floor, into the chair and onto the ambulance. We continue to treat her, give her drugs to try to improve her pulse, check that there's nothing else obvious that we've missed and could be dealing with. Then the ambulance pre-alerts the hospital that they're on the way with Rose, and they leave on lights and sirens.
I get back in the car to finish the never-ending task of paperwork. As I'm doing so, there's a hive of activity. The neighbours. It was one neighbour who'd first heard Rose's strangled cries for help and gone to investigate. It was another neighbour who'd stood by the road-side waiting for the ambulance. Yet another who'd now gone to get a mop and bucket to clean up where Rose had vomited. They were together now working out the best way for them all to help, who had keys, who would arrange to take some clothes and other essentials to the ward, who could collect Rose from hospital when she was discharged. I watch this outpouring of selfless activity and think back to the radio that I was listening to just half an hour earlier. I want to call in and tell them how wrong they are. That there is still kindness, there are still generous people about, that there are still neighbours who thrive on being able to help. I want to call but I'm too late. The programme is now talking about something else.
I want to go up to these neighbours and say thank you.
Thank you for caring.
Thank you for helping.
Thank you for restoring my faith.