Sunday, July 01, 2007

Reg springs a leak

We were way out of our usual area and it was late. I had never even heard of this particular suburb before, let alone been there. There were no available ambulances on that side of town, so my partner and I had been sent Signal 1 all the way across the city, flying along the wet freeway to try to get to a place neither of us had heard of. The job was given as a “Possibly dangerous haemorrhage”. I had the street directory on my knees and was calling out directions to try and find our way in to the big new estate with lots of dead-end streets. At one point we found our way blocked by a house. The map clearly said the street kept going, but the house in front of us was irrefutable evidence that it didn’t. Cursing, my partner hauled on the steering wheel and turned us around.

The house numbers were unreadable as usual so we took a small guess and pulled up out front of the only house in the street with a light on. Bingo! Our call-takers usually ask people to put an outside light on, lower the drawbridge and chain up the hounds. We like this because it usually means we don’t get eaten. However we do still occasionally turn up at houses with no lights on, large dogs running everywhere and padlocked 6 foot gates to try and get past.

Nanna met us at the front door - let’s call her Doris. She was wearing a dressing gown and looked like a normal old lady, except for the fact she was covered in blood. It was caked all down the side of her face and over her shoulder and front. She was wiping at it with a towel but much of it was already dried. She asked us to come inside and told us we were actually there to see her husband. We stepped into the hallway to be greeted by a scene out of a splatter movie. There was evidence of blood everywhere, Sprayed in arcs up the walls and all over the carpet. As we passed the bedroom Doris paused and told us that her husband Reg had been lying in bed next to her when she had woken because her face was wet. I looked in the bedroom and it was a real mess. Above the head of the bed the walls were sprayed with more arcs of blood which had dripped downwards. The sheets and pillows were dark red.

We were shown to the bathroom where Reg was seated on a stool in his pyjamas holding a washcloth to his head. “Hello” he said cheerfully “I’ve sprung a leak”. Carefully stepping into the bathroom to dodge the blood drops on the floor, I asked him what had happened. The sink and mirror next to reg were also covered in blood where he’d clearly been trying to get a look at where the blood was coming from – this resulted in an unusual bathroom makeover. Reg said he’d had cryosurgery that morning to remove a handful of skin cancers from the top of his head that morning. Cryosurgery uses (I think) something like dry ice to remove the spots and usually leaves a scab behind for a while. Reg told me he’d tried to stop the bleeding but it just kept going. Immediately I figured Reg was probably taking Warfarin which reduces the blood’s clotting ability.

Reg had obviously knocked one of these scabs off and somehow disturbed an artery. The scalp is highly vascular and tends to bleed a lot at the best of times, but Reg was clearly going for the record. I gingerly pulled the washcloth back from his head to get a look at the wound – a jet of blood sailed over my shoulder and I quickly pressed the cloth back hard. “Well I wont do that again in a hurry” I joked – very glad I was wearing my safety glasses. My partner prepared a dressing and bandage while I checked out Reg’s vital signs. His blood pressure was a little low and he had lost a fair bit of blood volume. We wrapped his head up like a mummy, got some IV access and loaded him into the ambulance. Doris was going to come along but changed her mind – I think she was aware of how much cleaning up she was facing. I hope there were some relatives to come over and help. We took the blood-soaked Reg in his striped pyjamas off to hospital to get his leak fixed.

I kept wondering what would have happened if Doris didn’t wake him up.