Thursday, 25 November 2010

Sleeping Partner

The bed is covered in blood. The floor is too. Apparently there's loads of the stuff in the bathroom as well.

"We left it there, unflushed, just in case you wanted to see it!" I'd seen enough already, without having to go snooping in someone else's toilet bowl.

Another one of my return customers, Greg and I had met on a previous similar occasion, and probably about a year had passed since then. Maybe eighteen months. The alcohol he'd taken on board over years, slowly destroying him from the inside out. He looked pale, gray even, and was sweating as though he'd just run a marathon in the Sahara Desert.

"I'm gonna die, aren't I?" Greg asks. The fear in his voice is only too real. "Not in my ambulance you're not". I think it, but don't say it. Patients who genuinely fear it, and voice that fear, often know.

"No, Greg, you're not. We're going to get you up to the hospital as quick as we can, and get you sorted."

"We? You're the only one here!" And he's right.

"Another ambulance is on its way. They'll be here soon enough!" I hope my prediction is a self-fulfilling one. I need them in a hurry. In the meantime, I start getting some fluids into him. It's another case of salty water replacing blood, but at least it gives the heart something to work with until we can get him the real stuff he needs. The blood that's left inside him will have to work extra hard to pump round the oxygen that's free-flowing into him through the mask on his face. At least he's stopped vomiting for a while. I don't know how much he's lost internally, but just from what I can see in front of me, he must have expelled a third of his blood volume. By the time the crew arrive, he's had about a litre of fluid back in through a thankfully large vein in his arm.

I hear them downstairs and yell: "Bring a chair up with you!" Often crews backing up first responders will come in to see what's going on, and only then decide what extra things they'll need. Usually it works just fine. Luckily the crew recognised my voice, and the urgency in it, to know not to ask questions.

"Last time I needed surgery. And they gave me nearly twenty bags of blood apparently. But I don't really remember anything. They told me if it happened again, if I didn't stop drinking, that I'd probably kill myself."

He started sobbing.

"I have, haven't I? I've killed myself! And now, two days before my son's due to be born!"

A neighbour was with Greg the whole time we were there, but no-one pregnant.

"Where is she Greg? Where's your partner?" I thought that a friendly face might help calm him a little.

"She went up to her mum's last night, up north somewhere. I've got her mobile number, but I don't want to call her now. It's too early!" Barely in control of his own body, he was still worried enough about his partner and unborn child. "I didn't mean to drink so much. I shouldn't have had anything at all. It's the first time in months!"

We moved Greg to the ambulance, a creaking flight of wooden steps leading down to the front door and out into the cold night's air. Dawn was breaking across the horizon, and the traffic was just starting to build as normal people started another working day. Leaving my car on scene, I travelled with Greg, an extra pair of hands always helpful with a particularly ill patient. The siren blared its way, ensuring the cars cleared the way for us to make a smooth but rapid journey to hospital.

"I don't want to hear the sirens! I don't..." He wept again. "I just want to hear my baby cry..."

We arrived at the hospital, a team ready to meet us was standing round the designated bed.

A doctor listened to the handover and asked for some blood almost immediately, as a student nurse hooked him up to the machines. A nurse thanked his luck for finding a decent vein and put a second needle in the arm I'd left alone.

Greg's tears flowed, and he was barely able to catch his breath between sobs. "Just help me see my baby! Just once! Please... Please..."
Another nurse left the cubicle without a word, and hurried to wake his partner.


Nicki said...

Those calls are so sad! Our repeat was Charlie. Charlie was an old drunk who only called us when he was out of booze so it is way different than your call. None-the-less, when I took care of him the day he died of a stroke, it was sad! I am so sorry. I hope he did live by the grace of God and is able to clean up for good!

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Fabulously told with all the emotion needed to awaken me and sadden me. The last line"without a word" really took me.

Mental101 said...

I have been reading your blog for a while and I don't know why but this one really hit a nerve with me. It is incredibly well written. Do you find that one of the down sides of your job is not always being able to know what happened to the patient after you left them?

Thanks for the great reads.

Anonymous said...

I have read your blog for a while now...and this one has hit me alittle hard much so that it is my dad's anniversary on 10th dec and him too was an alcoholic. 8 years down the line and it never gets easier...I saw him exactly like this man, vomiting his own blood up from a gastricinternal bleed. Not nice to say the least but however, my 'calling' to be in a profession to help conquer these demons many people face spurs me on in my life :-)

Anonymous said...

was it oesophagal varices or a GI bleed?