Working in an urban setting you get used to the nightlife. With various pubs, clubs, casinos and gentleman’s clubs on the patch; dealing with alcohol fuelled injuries and situations was not uncommon.
That’s why; when the next job came in whilst working the night shift on a pay day weekend in July, my crew mate and I were not shocked.
The first year student we working with – was.
The student – a very well spoken young man called Tom was on his first placement with the ambulance service having embarked on his degree in Paramedic Science. He had moved around 200 miles to study. His parents were both solicitors. He had; up until now, led quite a sheltered life.
We were being sent to a busy taxi office in the city centre for a “concern for welfare”. The patient was a 33 year old man. No more details had come in so far.
We headed towards the incident. The Emergency Care Assistant was driving, and the student was going to attend with me for support if he needed.
“What does concern for welfare mean?” Tom shouted through the hatch in the back.
“It means that there is some suspicion the patient has come to some harm. Usually the caller is not with the patient so the call handlers struggle to categorise the call” I replied.
We pulled up in the road, it looked like something out of a cheap zombie movie. There were people staggering in the road everywhere as they went from one bar to the next.
As we drove down the road towards the location that had been given to us I could see a crowd building. This normally meant one of two things; a fight, or a patient.
I quickly explained to the student that we would make a quick assessment. If it was a fight we would hold back and await the police. It soon became clear however, that they would not be needed.
There in the middle of the crowd. Sat on a bench. Was a man; crouched down, head in hands. Completely naked.
“Tom, I think your going to need to grab a blanket” I called through the gap separating the back of the ambulance from the front.
I watched through the divider as the student fumbled with the locker, attempting to get a blanket out, clearly embarrassed.
“It’s ok, we only need one”. I gently called through.
Eventually, the student managed to grab one. I opened my door and stepped out. The warm air immediately striking us. I opened the side door and took the blanket from Tom.
“I’m sorry we didn’t know what to do, so we had to call”. A voice from behind me said.
I turned around and was met by a couple of young ladies; dressed for a night out – looking concerned. The taller of the two had spoken, and was looking bemused.
After a brief discussion I found out that the man on the bench was unknown to the group and had been found by them being kicked out of the taxi office. According to the group, the patient had been trying to get the taxi rank to let him use the phone. However, they had been adamant that he could not and had forced him to leave. That is where the group had found him.
We approached the patient. As we approached he looked up. You could see from the immediate flushing in his face and his widening eyes that he was embarrassed.
“Give him the blanket Tom” I quickly said to the student.
Tom shuffled from side to side. For a minute I could not tell who was finding this more awkward; Tom or the patient. Tom extended his arm and the patient gratefully took the blanket and wrapped it around himself. A sort of NHS toga.
Sheepishly, the patient headed toward the ambulance. The plan being to get him inside and try and recover some dignity while we established what had happened.
The patient sat on one of our seats, wrapped in his thin NHS issue blanket. “My name is Matthew, I live on the street behind and managed to lock myself out my house. My dog was chasing something in the garden and the door closed behind me. I can’t get back in” He quietly said.
“So you went to the taxi office?” My ECA said, bemused.
“Yeah it was all I could think to do – I needed to use a phone. They wouldn’t even let me in!” His eyes scanned the ambulance and all three of us. “I’m sorry I called. I don’t need an ambulance” He added.
We drove around to his street. Astonishingly he must have walked past a couple of pubs and betting shops on his way to the taxi rank. I wondered why he hadn’t gone in any of them to get help. When we pulled up outside his house he asked us to go and knock on the door. No answer.
We tried the windows. Locked.
The ECA tried the back – met a friendly and excited little dog and then found that door to be locked too.
Matthew stared at the floor the whole time. We asked him if there was anyone he could call to let him back in. Turned out his wife was deployed abroad with the armed forces and his family were a couple of hours away with no key.
20 Minutes Later…..
I watched as the fire service got to work. Unscrewing the locks to Matthews front door. We had come to the decision that we would have to call them to help him into his property. They usually are good at opening doors that need opening and can get into most places somehow. They were very careful to ensure that the door was able to be secured again.
Of course, there was the banter. Then we had the conversation about things we had seen before in taxi ranks. We were all in agreement that this was probably the strangest.