An apology for calling an ambulance usually indicates one thing. There's no need for the apology. Nine times out of ten, if we're greeted at the door by "I didn't know what else to do, I'm sorry to have called you", it will be a genuine call. That doesn't necessarily mean life-threatening, but calls don't have to be, just to qualify them as a reason to call.
Dennis's wife met us at the door. "He's over there - on the stairs. Your control people told us not to let him move".
"Morning Sir", I start. "How are you feeling?"
"Bloody stupid. I'm sorry we've even called you. I think the Missus has panicked a bit". He looks frustrated and a little embarrassed.
"All it is, is these dizzy spells. They happen a couple of times an hour, and when they do I seem to lose a few seconds and come round a bit fuzzy in the head. The wife says I've blacked out a couple of times too. I just think she's overreacting as always. You know what women are like!"
I tell him that I've been married long enough to know exactly what he means. "You wait til you get to 45 years."
'The Missus' gives me a look that tells me he needs no encouragement.
I change track.
"How long's it been happening for?"
"A couple of weeks. Saw the doc and he gave me some tablets for vertigo. Told me to come back in a month if there was no improvement. Don't know what she's gone and called you lot for. Nothing's changed!"
"Well this Missus disagrees with you!" It was Dennis's turn for a glaring look from his wife. "He's been getting dizzy more often, and keeps going out for longer. It's not really long, mind, just 10 seconds or so, but he's properly out of it! And it happened again, just before I called you, and he was just coming down the stairs."
His vital signs are all normal, he has a strong pulse, a healthy blood pressure, looks a good colour and doesn't feel in any way unwell. When asked why he's sitting on the stairs he just shrugs his shoulders, looks over to his left, turns back to look straight at me and just says "I told you. Blame the Missus".
She seems happy enough to take the blame, but isn't going to let him off lightly. "Just shush and do as you're told for a change". He doesn't have much of a choice. We get him the wheelchair from the ambulance which he tries to refuse.
"I'll walk, thanks. I've got legs haven't I?"
"Well, just in case you get one of your dizzy spells and keel over. My back's not gonna be happy picking you up off the floor again." He relents. Not for his benefit, apparently, but for mine, so I smile and thank him for his consideration. The move to the ambulance is uneventful, and once there he takes a seat on the trolley.
"I'd like to do an ECG, to check your heart. Just in case that's what's making you dizzy". We attach him to the monitor, recheck his pulse and blood pressure, and start putting the sticky ECG dots onto his chest.
"Wouldn't it be better to stick them on my head? It's not my chest that gets dizzy y'know!" He winks at my crew mate and me, and I can't help but laugh out loud.
The Missus gives him another of those looks that even I now cower from. "Will you please be serious! I don't want you dying now that they're here!"
"Well, if I was going to, don't you think it'd be better to do it while they're here and not after they've gone?" I got the distinct feeling that their entire marriage had been this sort of banter. Him the boy that never grew up, she the responsible adult.
The ECG appeared on the screen, and the machine printed off a copy. It all looked almost normal. A first degree heart block, a slightly slowed response between the heart's electrical impulse to beat, and the actual beat happening, was the only irregularity. It's fairly common, and many people live with it for years and never know a thing about it. Nevertheless, I suggested to Dennis that it would be wise for him to be seen at the hospital, if for no other reason than to put his mind at ease and give them a chance to monitor him in case he had another episode.
"And it'll stop The Missus nagging, I s'pose", he added. I didn't dare respond.
Five minutes into the journey, Dennis turned ghostly pale, complained of feeling dizzy, and then passed out. The ECG started making a shrill beeping noise. The kind you expect to hear on TV when a patient's heart stops and they "flatline". Which is exactly what Dennis had done. About twice an hour for the past fortnight, Dennis's heart stopped beating. Just for a few seconds. Just enough to make him dizzy and pass out and not let him remember it.
After those few seconds, he opened his eyes, looked around him, and with a resigned groan muttered "It's happened again, hasn't it?"
"Yes, sir. But at least now we have a clue as to what's causing it. I knew it was a good idea to put those stickers on your chest, and not your head..."
We got Dennis to hospital with no more dizzy spells, handed him over to the staff who stared with some bemusement at the ECG that we'd manage to catch, and were about to go and clear up the ambulance. Catching us just before we left the A&E department, he thanked us both for our help, and apologised for being difficult.
"You know what the worst thing now is don't you?" I ventured the fact that he might have to spend a while in hospital that was worrying him, or that he might have to have some procedure done.
"Oh, it's nothing like that", he grinned.
"It's just that I suppose I'd better thank The Missus too."