We were crawling along in peak hour traffic, trying to get back to branch so we could go home. We were already nearly an hour past our scheduled knock off time. My partner and I both had dinner arrangements to go to, so we were starting to get edgy. It seemed like everybody else had the same idea as the hoards streamed out of the city. You quickly learn not to make plans to do anything immediately after your shift – inevitably it will be the night when you get a late job.
We had almost made it to the start of the freeway when the traffic ground to a complete halt. We were doomed. Any second now we would be the closest car to something…We could almost feel it coming... Bamm!!!! The MDT (mobile data terminal) let out the noise. “Sorry about the timing guys but you are the closest car”. I pushed the acknowledge button and reached for the street directory. Sure enough, we were almost on top of the job. Signal 1, conscious overdose. My partner flicked on the beacons and siren and she edged us out of the evening gridlock to do a U-turn and head back towards the city – we were both going to be late for dinner.
The police were also attending the same case as the patient was known to have a history of aggression towards emergency services when she was intoxicated. She answered the door and it was immediately apparent she was drunk. “Hello darlings” she boomed at us in a voice that was just slightly louder than normal limits. Our patient was a woman of about 50 with wild looking hair and very few teeth. She also had a very thick eastern European accent. While I did an assessment and got a bit of a story my partner and the police searched her house for the tablets and alcohol she claimed she had taken. It turned out to be very little and probably not enough to make her more than a little drowsy – however it was her intent that we had to take seriously. So I told her she would be getting a trip up to hospital. At this she brightened up considerably and started telling me that it would be good to get out of the house because people had been looking in her windows and watching her lately. She fluctuated between cheerful and distressed while I spoke to her. Clearly she needed some assistance.
As we walked down to the ambulance, she kept apologising: “darling sorry I walk so slow… but always my ribs hurt”. I asked her why and was told she’d had an accident many years ago. Then she said “its ok, I just walk slow.. like a fish”. That made my night. It was such a good visual image, I was chuckling all the way to hospital. We all hopped into the truck, said thanks and goodbye to the police and moved off. While I wrote up my case notes I saw she was staring at my blue ambulance gloves, so I gave her a pair. Her face lit up and she wore them all the way to hospital. The last I saw of her she was sitting up in bed in a hospital cubical waving a blue hand at me with a big toothless grin. I could still hear her shouting ‘Tank you darling” as I headed out to the truck, eager to get home and walking nothing at all like a fish.