Wednesday, 13 August 2008


After completing my technician course I was sent to my old station and had a week of working with a training officer. This was to get us newbies some experience prior to be let loose on the public with another crew member. In our area it would be 2 trainees with a training officer but because I was the only one in my area there was just the 2 of us.

I remember my first 'Red' drive (blue lights & sirens), it was to a chest pain about half a mile away. Before we even got out of the garage I had everything going, everyone in the crew was looking out of the window probably thinking 'what a twat, there goes another trainee on a red call!' Anyway within 60 seconds or so we were on scene. The house was a small end of terrace and had an immaculate garden, there was a neighbour waiting outside and showed us the way in. We were presented with an elderly lady, probably mid 80's, sitting in an armchair. She was complaining of shortness of breath (sob) and chest pain. She was pale, clammy and had an irregular pulse. With that I popped on some oxygen (O2). We gathered her meds and got out onto the vehicle where we assessed her vital signs and applied a 12 lead ECG, there was no sign of a heart attack on the reading (this doesn't mean that someone isn't having a heart attack!). However it did show AF (atrial fibrillation) which is basically an irregularly irregular rhythm. She had no history of this so the training officer decided it was an acute episode and that we needed to get going asap. He popped in a IV and gave some pain relief, I gave her some aspirin and GTN spray and then drove on 'Red' to the hospital. I didn't really think about what happened to this lady...................................... until several years later.

I was now a seasoned technician and working with Rob, a paramedic, one of the larger than life characters we have on base. We got a job in town, the address sounded familiar, we approached the house and I realised it was probably the same patient that I had attended on my first red drive. What are the chances of that happening! We were greeted by the gardener and this time led into the bedroom. We were confronted by a lady, this time in her nineties. She was lying on the bed wailing in pain and throwing her arms up in the air. Rob and I looked at each other and shook our heads. She was complaining of chest pain but every time someone else came into the room she would become almost normal again and start barking orders like don't forget the grass cuttings or remember the papers. She seemed to over exaggerate her symptoms. Anyway Oxygen on and onto the carry chair. Whilst wheeling her out, we agreed quietly 'It's all in her head'...........................until we looked at her ECG, it was showing massive ST elevation, a sign of a heart attack! Rob wanted to put an IV into her hand, easier said than done, no veins! I looked down and saw what resembled a blue biro mark on the back of her left hand. It was a vein. Yippee!! Out came a selection of cannulae, all went back in the drawer except one, a bluey. This is smallest we carry, I mean they're tiny. It was nail biting stuff, the sweat was building up on Rob's brow, I almost felt sorry for him. One vein, one shot and then we go is what he said, he punctured the skin, 'it's in!' he yelled, 'it's in!' Neither of us could believe it, now he could give some pain relief. It was quite comical because we forgot about the patient for a split second as we were so impressed at this quite remarkable or should I say lucky cannulation.
You had to be there, we still talk about it now.
At the hospital and after a repeat ECG in the A/E dept we wheeled the patient into the coronary care unit (CCU). The patient was having a big heart attack and needed clotbusting meds, she was too old for us to do it (our limit was 75 back then). The CCU nurse was drawing up the drugs while the DR was doing something else. She said to Rob 'have you given this yet out on the road?', 'nope, not yet' he replied. 'Well here you go then' said the nurse passing him the syringe. He administered the relevant doseage and shortly after, the ECG started to resolve it's self. It was working.
We sorted out the trolley and packed up our defib and other kit then had a nice cuppa joking that it was all in her head, how wrong we were!
Unfortunately the patient died a week later following complications, namely heart failure.

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