Monday, 18 October 2010

Head for Heights

The message comes down the MDT from the police. "Please approach with caution - no lights or sirens. Patient threatening to jump".

Out of area as usual, we don't really know the names of the buildings, but this one has its name on a sign that can, for a change, be seen from a couple of blocks away. As requested, we make a silent approach, as much as is possible in an almost 5-ton truck with a large diesel engine, and await further instructions from the police officers on scene.

In front of us, still about 100 metres away, looms a large apartment block, and I count at least 12 storeys. If she jumps from there, our presence will be superfluous. In contrast to our orders, the police seem to be turning up in force, blue lights bouncing off the surrounding buildings, giving the street a look of a club on a Saturday night, the staccato lighting beating in time to the music. The street is cordoned off at both ends preventing traffic from approaching, and any pedestrians, though very few at this time of the day, are shepherded away from the scene on a long detour. A chorus of complaints comes from one group of bystanders who want to see the action, as they are firmly removed and asked not to return. A police Inspector approaches us, his two-pipped shoulders confirming his command, and explains the situation.

"At the moment, we're talking to her on the phone. She says she's in flat 55, and threatening to jump from the balcony. It sounds like she's had a lot to drink too, so anything could happen. There are, we believe, six flats on each floor, so she's probably on the 10th. We're just trying to see exactly where she is and what she's doing, and then we'll decide what we're going to do about it. You two just hang back and wait." He ends abruptly and walks off, retaking his position in control of the out-of-control situation.

Only once before have I been involved in something similar. Back then, when I was still only in my probationary year, we sat waiting for four hours. We drank tea, read books, snoozed and generally sat still as nothing continued to happen. At the end of it all, despite negotiations and attempts to get into the building, he jumped, and there was still nothing that we could do.

So once again, we sat. I don't tend to take a book with me to work any more - there's never really any time to read it - this time, my phone would have to suffice for entertainment. A police officer was sent over to us and informed us that she was our liaison. As soon as it was safe for us to approach, she'd get the message on her radio, and advise us to advance. We made ourselves comfortable for what could be a long stay.

The message arrived after less than fifteen minutes.

"Suspect detained indoors, advise ambulance safe to attend."

We drive the short distance to the block, and find that it's split into three separate entrances. Several more officers walk out of the middle of the three. Some are smiling, some are laughing, some just walk by silently. We take out our equipment, and advance on the entrance.

"I hope there's a lift. Don't fancy a walk up 10 flights of stairs."

"Wouldn't worry about that", chimes in an officer, a mischievous grin on his face. "The lift's working, tells you which floor you need just outside the door".

We look at the sign stuck on the wall by the lift. Graffiti is sprayed and scrawled all over it, some of it legible and unrepeatable, some of it just looks like streaks of dirt. Through it all, a list of floors and it's corresponding flat numbers is just about distinguishable. All the while, officers are streaming down the stairs next to us. You've had a long walk down.

Eventually, we actually pay attention to the sign.

Ground floor - Entrance

First floor - 53 - 56

Second floor - 57 - 60

Third floor - 61 - 64...

And so it goes on. Up to the twelfth floor, and flat number 96, four flats per floor, not six.

"What number did we want?" I ask my partner.


"Are you telling me that all this was for someone who was going to jump from the first floor?"

"Apparently so..."

We don't bother with the lift, and walk the dozen or so steps up onto the first floor and into flat number 55. The room is littered with empty bottles of vodka and ashtrays filled to the brim. The patient looks up at us and before we even get the chance to say a word, starts yelling.

"I would have jumped you know! If it wasn't for these coppers I'd have done it! There wouldn't be nothing left of me except bits of brains on the floor, and it'd all be your fault!" She points randomly at one particular officer, who'd only just entered the room, and was forced to respond as the patient was being clasped in handcuffs.

"You might, if you were really unlucky, have broken your leg. There'd be no brains anywhere!" "Especially in your head", he adds, just loud enough for us to hear.

"Well I'd have jumped from the top floor", she bites back, "but I might've hurt myself. And anyway", she rasps, years of smoke having damaged her vocal cords, "I've got no head for heights".

1 comment:

TOTWTYTR said...

Duh. I once had a patient that tried to hang himself by tying a rope to the security bars of the window and jumping out. The basement window. Which was at street level. We cut him loose and he walked to the ambulance.

You really can't make this stuff up.

You'll be shocked to know that alcohol was involved.