Wednesday, 10 February 2010


The sky is once again dark and menacing. The threat of more of the snow that plagued us a few weeks back is on the not-too-distant horizon. There have even been a few flurries, just to whet our appetite this morning. Not really sure I'm all that hungry. During the last batch of snow more cars crashed, more roads were closed, more people fell and broke limbs, fewer trains and buses ran, and more people couldn't (or possibly wouldn't) get to work. We don't seem to cope with it very well, and now there's more on the way.
Someone should probably warn Bernie.
He's a nice old chap is Bernie, although when I first met him it was difficult to reach that conclusion, given the fact that he was lying in the snow in a heap, not responding. Another, younger man stood over him, barking orders at Bernie to get up. He even tried to physically lift Bernie from the wintry pavement, but his seemingly lifeless body wouldn't cooperate. It was at that point that I was driving past, on the way back from a separate call. I called in a "Running Call" to the control room, and asked for an ambulance to attend for an unconscious patient.
Bernie was unconscious but at least he was breathing regularly. It was one of those shifts where I had an observer with me (told you that they do sometimes get to see things happen), and I sent her back to the car for a couple of blankets. Always handy to have an extra pair of hands, as well as an extra blanket. One to put under Bernie to try keep him off the frozen ground, if only a little, and one to go on top of him. I asked the other man if he was a relative or if he knew what happened.
"Never met him before. I just bumped into him and he fell down. Now he won't get up!" He seemed unaware of the fact that he was shouting, much like someone conversing whilst listening to music plugged into their ears.
Bumped into him? Staggered was probably nearer the truth. The smell of several pints of alcohol on his breath would probably have made him fail a breath test whilst stood 30 feet from the machine. He instantly became aggressive and I had some difficulty moving him away from the patient and us, so as well as an ambulance, I asked for police back-up. Just in case.
Turning our attentions back to Bernie, we'd put him on oxygen, tried to get some baseline observations and elicit some sort of response from him. None was forthcoming. The roads were as treacherous as the pavements, and the call rates had increased exponentially, so we knew that back-up in the form of either the ambulance or the police may take a while. Just as I'd finally managed to get one arm out of a sleeve to check Bernie's blood pressure, he sat bolt upright, the look of bewilderment on his face complemented by the confusion in his voice.
"Where am I?"
"You're on the floor, sir, in NearBy St. Can you tell me your name?"
"Hi Bernie. I'm Ben, and this is Shelly. We're from the Ambulance Service. What are you doing out and about at this time of night?"
"I've just been out for lunch. Now I'm going to meet Jerry. Where am I?"
And there, in one discombobulated sentence, the repeated question, the lack of time awareness, was our main problem. Was Bernie confused before the fall? Did he know where he was going when he left his house? Did he ever get there? Was it the fall itself that left its mark in the form of possible concussion? More importantly, did he fall, or did he collapse?
We tried to keep him still, but he kept threatening to get up off the floor and walk off. We compromised by Bernie agreeing to move as far as the back of the FRU. At least it was light, dry and warm in there.
The ambulance turned up, closely followed by the police, each to deal with one customer. We handed the once unconscious Bernie to a slightly disbelieving ambulance crew, and the once aggressive drunk, now sitting on the floor shouting at nobody in particular, over to the equally disbelieving police. I apologised to both for the call not being exactly as it had originally been described.
Bernie was moved into the ambulance, where the observations were repeated, the questions reinforced, but the confusion remained. The police had no reports of any missing person, Bernie couldn't remember where he lived, although he was adamant that he was going home, and the crew spent a while convincing him that hospital was the best option. At least for now.
At least until he doesn't have to wander the snow-covered streets in the middle of the night.
At least until we can find out more than the fact that his name is Bernie.

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