Thursday, 22 March 2012


One two seven High Street, Suburbia.

I know that address. I know that it's not where we're actually needed. It's the centre where emergency calls made by mainly elderly patients hitting a panic button are received. The computer instantly recognises the address from the phone number and dispatches us anyway. Two miles down the road, the address updates and sends us three miles in the other direction.

The call is given as a possible collapse. Someone has pressed the panic button and then contact was lost. All attempts to reach the ninety-four year old, either through the emergency call box or by phone, failed. There was even a mobile phone number on the records, a rarity for someone of that age, but it appeared to be switched off.

With no other options, we were sent. The next of kin, a great niece who lived somewhere in the middle of nowhere, had been woken up and informed of the problem, but even at top speed couldn't get there in under two hours. The police, as is so often the case, had sunk under a tidal wave of their own calls and had no units to send. If there was any need to break in to the house, we'd have to do it ourselves.

As we pull up outside the house, the computer updates with the latest message - there's a key safe hidden behind a pot plant - so no need to break down any doors. As I punch in the four digit code and push open the lock, a bunch of four keys falls onto the floor. There's only one door and one lock, so the need for four keys is unknown, but on the third guess, the key moves the lock and allows us inside.

The house is in total darkness. There's no sound either. Initially I use a torch to find our way round, but feeling too much like a burglar, we opt to switch on the lights. We search the downstairs and find nothing, except for the reason for the other keys. Each door, one to the kitchen, one to the lounge and one into a dining room that looked as if it had been accidentally left behind in the 1800's, was locked. On closer examination of each room, we find them uninhabited.

There were three rooms upstairs too - a bathroom and two bedrooms. In the second bedroom, oblivious to the two strangers wandering around his house calling his name, was Jimmy.

A gentle, almost inaudible snore emanates from the sleeping man and his breathing is calm and restful. Strapped to his wrist, unmoved by the commotion, is his panic button and next to him on a small bedside table is a barrier between between Jimmy and the outside world.

A pair of hearing aids.

We creep back down the stairs, turn off all the lights, lock the door and replace the key in the safe box. As it clicks gently back into place, we both, almost subconsciously, mutter the same three words.

"Good night Jimmy."


Andy in Germany said...

Over here we have an extra layer of care for elderly people at home in the form of a first aid trained person on call 24h a day for this sort of thing. They have a car with blue lights and a lot of keys, and they'd respond to this kind of call and only call an ambulance if there was a real emergency when they arrived. A friend of mine does it as a part time job while a studying, and he's told me calls like this re commonplace, but at least they don't tie up an ambulance crew.

Shady said...

It seems strange to me that you wouldn't wake Jimmy up to let him know someone had "broken' into his home in the middle of the night. Maybe I'm just creeped out by the idea of anyone coming into my bedroom while I was sleeping, even if it was with good intentions.

Anonymous said...

lordy, bless him, he would have had a heart attack.
Nice one guys.
night night.

TAZ THE AMBO said...

Dude, I've had the same job almost word for word. Generally our Constabulary do get the Ambo's to attend first, those lock boxes are such a good idea to.