• Michelle Partington

Those little things mean the world.

So I’m sat in the hairdressers contemplating the last couple of weeks. I’ve just walked through town and whilst in the bank a police car and van came speeding past and pulled up short of the bank. Everyone in there turned around wondering what on earth was happening but thankfully it was nothing to do with the bank and everyone relaxed. Walked out a little later on and a lady was being pushed into the back of the police van.

So anyway, I’m currently sat with bleach on my hair, under the hairdryer trying not to fall asleep!! I have quite a few minutes now so I thought I would talk about something which has touched me at work. I work on the Urgent Care Desk as a Specialist Paramedic, triaging people who have phoned 999 wanting an ambulance. My role is to quickly assess the need for emergency assistance and I am sure it will come as no surprise that the vast majority of people do not require a blue light response, if at all any response from the emergency services is required. So many ambulances are wasted because people “can’t get an appointment with GP” or can’t afford to get a taxi to the nearest Walk In Centre, Urgent Care Centre or ED. Others phone an ambulance rather than taking themselves off to ED because they say they will “get seen quicker rather than having to sit for hours in the waiting room”. Newsflash people, this is not true in the majority of cases!! Everyone is seen on a priority basis and that doesn’t change just because you’ve been driven to hospital by an ambulance who has not been able to attend a patient with a life threatening injury because you needed a taxi!

The type of calls we have are from people who have bent their finger back and needed an xray. Now this person lived that close to the hospital that if she looked out of her window she would have had site of it. No joke!!! Other calls are from people who don’t want to go to the hospital but want someone to ‘just come and check them over’. Some phone having had a really bad cold for a few days……had this pain for almost 2 weeks (having taken no pain relief), or that they have been ‘waiting for an appointment for a scan and i want to go into hospital as an emergency because i will get the scan quicker’. It is beyond me how people can do that and it saddens me. Some people phone and quite clearly just want someone to talk to. We have a few frequent callers and most of them come across as very lonely. Some have no family and others sadly have family who they don’t see from year to year. I do have a laugh with some of the callers. I’ve had them singing their favourite songs, telling me about their life, one lady telling me she has one of Ken Dodds tickling sticks on her wall.

Then there are the individuals who you know immediately they need the ambulance but ‘didn’t like to bother us’ or they ‘thought they could manage but it’s just too much now’. I feel ever so sorry for the guys who really need medical attention but wait until they are in dire need before they ‘have to phone’. You have the usual calls from nursing homes to come and pick up or assess a poor old lady or gent who has fallen. The calls that upset me the most are from carers who have arrived at the home of someone they tend to and they have fallen or are unwell. These types of calls upset me because some (not all) carers state they cannot wait with the patient until the ambulance arrives because they have other people to go and see. This really gets to me and makes my blood boil. If people have felt the need to call for an emergency ambulance surely they have a duty of care to stay with the person until that help arrives?

There are certain calls that will always remain with me. Ones you can’t shrug off and sometimes I do follow those people up. One that sticks in my mind is of an elderly gentleman in his early 90s who had fallen. His son had made the call but we had been informed that the only access was through an upstairs window!!! Without going into details I couldn’t work through an effective triage because I was not being given the answers to the vital questions I posed. When we cannot execute a quality triage we pass the call back and an ambulance will turn up to the property regardless. At this point we normally put the phone down and start the next call but something just didn’t feel right. I decided to phone the fire service to see if they could go and try to gain access to the property. I asked them to carry out a quick assessment on the old gentleman once they had gained access and to call back if an emergency ambulance was still required. We did have a crew going to the property but not as an emergency at this point.

When the fire crew arrived they gained access through an upstairs window. It was apparent that the gentleman had been living in the one room for years. There was no access down the stairs and to the front door as it was all blocked by piles and piles of ‘rubbish’. The crew got to work trying to clear a route downstairs and out of the door. One of the crew assessed the man and identified he was really poorly. An emergency ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital. I had to put in a safeguarding concern because the gentleman had obviously been neglected for years, the house was infested with fleas and quite obviously unhabitable. It was just so very sad and it touched me. My thoughts went to my grandad who was only just younger than him. I couldn’t understand how anyone could neglect a member of their family in this way but obviously I had no way of understanding their circumstances. It came through very clearly by the responses on our phone conversation that his son also needed some form of support or intervention.

I phoned the hospital that night, and the following day or 2 to check on him and he was doing fine, improving by the day. He was going to be transferred to a nursing home and will have all the support he needs. I’m not sure what happened to his son but he hadn’t been to the hospital to check on his dad. How very sad that he had been trapped in that one room for years on end. He had lost his wife and apparently hadn’t coped well with her passing. I can’t help thinking that if he’d had the right support at the time then he may not have been in this situation. He must have been so lonely despite having his son there.

I couldn’t imagine that happening to anyone I loved. Family’s are really complicated and as I touched on earlier, we don’t know what relationship family members have with each other, if any. Family’s and relationships fracture sometimes to the point they cannot be mended. However, if you do have a family member, or friend who you haven’t spoken to for a while then perhaps you could get in touch. A simple text, message, phonecall or visit could make such a difference to someone’s life. If your relationship with that person is broken beyond repair then I’m not going to say you should get in touch. Only you know if that’s possible. What I am saying though is if you can, then please do. There are so many lonely people out there and that saddens me. Sometimes you can have people around you and yet be so very lonely. I speak to people on the phone who say their son or daughter are really busy people and don’t have time to pop in. It’s so sad that our lives become too busy to spend even half an hour with someone we love. It’s half an hour of potential inconvenience to you but it could mean everything to that person.

If you have time to text a friend, or go outside to smoke a cigarette etc you have the time to phone someone who is missing you. I know that fueds of whatever nature can get in the way and too much water has gone under the bridge, but if that’s not the case then please take that time because as so many find out; some day it could be too late. Thankfully for that lovely old man he is now safe and being looked after for whatever time he has left. It could have been so very different for him.


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