One of the disadvantages of working solo on the FRU is that I don't have the luxury of being able to walk out of the room if I get a fit of the giggles. And it happens. All the professionalism in the world doesn't prepare you for some of the funniest moments that we have.
The 30 year old woman who stripped off in the middle of the street telling us we should do an ECG as she thought she was having a heart attack.
The lady who uses a phrase that we always laugh about on station, but nobody really says, or do they?
The elderly gentleman who called an ambulance to tell them that his phone wasn't working.
The elderly lady who was spotted in a phone box, playing a violin, topless.
The teenager who challenged his young siblings that he could beat them in a running race if he was running backwards, then tried, then fell and cracked his head open.
Sometimes, patients say and do the funniest things. Sometimes you can laugh along with them, and the joke is appreciated all round. Sometimes you have to wait until later to laugh. Sometimes, for no apparent reason whatsoever, you just get a fit of the giggles, and have to walk away.
And very rarely, you get to go back to the same patient, and have a laugh about the last time you had a laugh.
Mr and Mrs Oapsky are an elderly couple who live on the top floor of a 3-storey apartment block. At the moment they are sitting on a bench outside their flat, watching the fire brigade tackle a fire in the place they've called home for the last 15 years. They got out before the fire really took hold, and as per all the rules, stopped for nothing. Except Mrs O's make-up box and comb. Can't go anywhere without them. They're uninjured, having only inhaled a very small amount of smoke, if a little concerned for all their belonging, but are stoic in a way only the older generation tends to be these days. The smoke billows out of the windows, and one of the firefighters comes over to tell the couple that although the fire is out, the flat is heavily smoke damaged, but most of their belongings were still intact. They seem relieved, and decide that for now, as it's about 2am, they won't wake their relatives, but will go to the hospital and make all the arrangements in the daytime.
Mr and Mrs Oapsky seem familiar, but I can't place why I seem to know them, until, just before they leave in the ambulance I need their details for my paperwork and ask for their first names. "Oh, I'm Gillian, and this," she says, nodding her head in her husband's direction, "is Jacob. But everyone calls us Jack and Jill." I can't help it. I laugh out loud, and my memory is finally jogged to the call a few months earlier, when I was on a proper ambulance.
The call comes in for an elderly gentleman, confused and talking nonsense. Sounds like my kinda guy. We're greeted on our arrival by Gillian "Please call me Jill" Oapsky, who's looking mildly confused herself.
"He keeps saying the strangest things! First he wanted to know where the cat was, when we've never had a cat, and then he started picking up the telephone and telling it off as if it were a small child!"
"What's his name?" I ask.
"Jacob, but everyone calls him Jack." The corners of my mouth turn up ever so slightly. Reena, my crewmate, gives me the "don't-you-dare-on-pain-of-death" stare. I can't help it. The giggles are lurking. Somehow I regain my composure, and approach Jack to ask him how he feels.
"I'm alright. Nothing wrong with me. Don't know what she's making all this fuss for." He denies having any pain, knows his name, date of birth, who the prime minister is, and can count backwards from 100 in sevens. I can't do that under normal circumstances.
Then, all of a sudden, he yells.
"PASS ME THAT PHONE. I'M THROWING IT OUT THE WINDOW. IT KEEPS SPITTING AT ME!"
Well, that does it. My composure is destroyed. I look at Reena, look at Jill, look at Jack, and finally I look at the phone. It's the phone's innocence, just sitting there placidly, not even ringing, that does for me. I crumble into giggles. I'm given the threatened death-stare, but it's a lost cause. Jill tries to look disapprovingly, but eventually gives in to the giggles too. Through all the laughter we check Jack's observations and ask Jill what medical problems he has. Apparently, for a 70-something year old, he's as fit as a fiddle.
"The doctor's just started him on some new medicine, but I'm not sure what it's for." We have a look and find that it's a tablet for diabetes. Having just checked his blood sugar and found that it's very low, we're not at all surprised. Most people I've met with the level he had were unconscious, but Jack was just talking to us as if nothing was wrong, except for intermittent bursts of phone-rage.
"WILL YOU STOP SPITTING! DIDN'T YOUR MOTHER EVER TELL YOU IT WAS RUDE TO SPIT? COME HERE! I'M THROWING YOU OUT THE WINDOW!"
On and on he went about throwing this phone out the window. How it kept spitting and swearing at him. The more he continued, the more raucous the laughter became. We tried to give him some oral glucose as well as a glucagon injection to bring his sugar levels up, but neither seemed to help. Eventually we decide that the only choice we have is to give him IV dextrose. It's not an ideal solution, as it tends to mess up the sugar levels for the next few days, but it is a miracle cure.
Jack lets Reena cannulate him and give him the IV, and within no more than about 2 minutes he looks up at us with a very confused look. "Who are you two? What are you doing in my house?"
"Welcome back Jack! We're from the ambulance service and we're here because your blood sugar was very low. Your wife was worried because as well as not being your normal self, you also threatened serious violence against your phone." Once again, Reena, Jill and I all collapse in hysterics. The treatment has done the trick. Jack is back to normal. A little bemused at all the merriment around him, but it's soon explained, and he laughs along too. We take him to hospital just so that he can have a check-up and make sure that his new medication is the right one for him. I've just about managed to calm down by the time we have to hand him over to the staff.
Several months later, back at the scene of the fire, Jack takes one final look out of the ambulance, and just as I'm about to close the doors he calls after me.
"Oy! Make sure they don't throw my phone out the window! I still need to tell it off about all that spitting!"