Whilst working on a response car, I sat on standby watching the latest box set on a certain streaming platform that rhymes with betflix the MDT flashed to life.
“999 – Fire in progress – persons reported”
I started to head towards the job when my radio kicked in, our control room were trying to call me. However, this was not unusual as when working on the response car they like to tell you about updates as they come in ensure a safe drive.
“BG1 this is control, this job has been passed by fire who are on scene at a fire in a residential property. They are currently treating a 104 year old female and have requested our assistance”
I turned the corner in the street and were met by a car park full of fire engines. I got out of my car and met the paramedic team leader who was acting as the incident commander. He told me that fire had put the fire out and the patient was inside. I grabbed my response bag, defibrillator and oxygen. In my head I was going over my plan for airways compromise because of burns and also thinking about Mersey burns scores.
I walked into the hallway which was still full of acrid black smoke to be met by a firefighter turning on an industrial fan to try and clear the hallway. I walked into the room to be greeted by a carter and a firefighter. They were stood in front of the patient.
In the arm chair was a very frail old lady, with long hair which was a dirty grey, singed by the smoke that had been in the room not half an hour before. The right arm of her chair had various cigarette burns in it; as did her clothing and floor around her.
It was evident that this wasn’t the first time this had happened. It happened a lot. The firefighter explained that this wasn’t the first time they had been here. She also knew the crew by first name.
I quickly examined her and found her to be fine. I explained to the carers, patients and firefighters that she had been lucky. They explained that the patient has smoked since she was 12, had refused to stop but also had no mobility. She lights her cigarette, smokes it then tries to put it out. She normally misses. Usually, she sits with a fire blanket on her lap. It had fallen off.
The fire service were sorting the safeguarding out so I chose to talk to the patient.
“Has anyone talked to you about giving up?”
“Yes young man, many have tried. The thing is. This is all I have. I have not died yet and won’t die any time soon. I’m not sure what the fuss was about. I feel perfectly fine” – she croaked back.
“How about the fact you almost set yourself on fire?”
“Young man, don’t be so dramatic. The fire was out before these gentlemen arrived and they only come for the tea. ”
I looked around, the firefighters had explained this. The care staff were prepared for this. I was shocked.
The patient looked up again. “Young man, do you smoke?”
I shook my head, no.
“That’s good – it is a bad habit. My family only ever have one thing to say to me”
“What’s that then?”