Thursday 24 May 2012


When you hear about parenting you think of newborns, toddlers, the terrible twos, starting school and tantrums about eating peas. Everything is new when the responsibility of parenthood is thrust upon you and as a result, every new thing that happens gets talked about and analysed. Obviously, parenting is a lifetime thing and the teens are a huge part of that. GCSEs! I remember them like they were... oh god that is terrifying! 11 years! Now i'm annoyed! Is it really that long?! Anyway, I remember my parents badgering me to revise, the pressure of exams and being desperate for it to be over. It is therefore no surprise that so many kids are desperate to get out of it! What I am saying is in May be extra vigilant. It is not a coincidence that every teenager has a headache, a cold, and random pains, and funny turns that they don't normally have! Be aware, GCSEitus is real! Don't fall for it!

"16 year old female, chest pain"

Every year, May signals the start of GCSEs. Really, they are what 16 year olds have been working towards since day one at reception, at the tender age of 4. 12 years! It doesn't seem so long now; I can remember 12 years ago with relative ease, and these days the years are flying by. For a 16 year old, 12 years is an unimaginable length of time. Probably because they are far too busy worrying about being moody, petulant, image conscious and of course... their GCSEs. When I look back, it wasn't a pleasant time at all. Parents pushing me to revise (thank you), teachers drumming it home that these exams could well shape our future. No GCSEs means no A levels, no A levels means no degree, no degree means you might as well end your life as you will never get a job, never earn money, you'll be homeless and live a life on benefits inhabiting a studio flat that smells of Special Brew. You'll turn to crime, get arrested, go to prison and be stuck in that self-destructive cycle for the rest of your short life until you die from liver cirrhosis from all the excess drinking. OK, a bit dramatic, but I do think the scare mongering that goes on only adds to the stress, sometimes unnecessarily. GCSEs are important but they are not the be all and end all. I did OK, I don't have A levels and didn't do a degree and I like to think I turned out alright! 

During exam times, there is a sharp rise in what I like to call GCSEitus. As important as they are, the students will try anything to get out of them. To what end I don't know, a couple of days extra revision, a bizarre thought that they may be able to find out the questions for when they sit theirs maybe? We are frequently called to schools for all sorts. It normally comes down as 'a faint', 'a fit', 'DIB' or something which can easily be faked. The pseudo fits, pseudo faints and the dying swans are normally found in the first aid room with a member of staff, a pained look on their face and a fascinating aptitude for spontaneous recovery on making it to the back of the ambulance. I've never known one of these jobs to be anything worse than a panic attack and today was no different. In the first aid room was our patient (complete with pained expression), her teacher (with an exasperated look on his face) and her mum (with a terrified look on her face).

When I walked through the door my suspicion was confirmed. Apparently she had been breathing really fast and as she was about to go into the exam she 'fell' to the floor. After being 'unresponsive' for a few minutes, with the assistance of her teacher, she was able to 'walk' to the first aid room. Her breathing was now fine. Her mum was called and told her daughter had 'collapsed' and an ambulance had been called. Naturally she was worried. The teacher was standing patiently waiting for his fifth ambulance of the week. Naturally he was fed up! I spoke to the girl about her symptoms and she described a panic attack. She didn't have any symptoms remaining so I didn't see the need for hospital. When I suggested coming to the ambulance to check her over properly before leaving her, the pained expression turned to one of desperation. She stood up to come with us and 'threw' herself to the floor. On helping her up again, she could no longer walk or weight bare on her left ankle. My crew mate examined her. There was no bruising, swelling or obvious cause for her pain. She certainly didn't go over on it or suffer trauma to it. Little did she know that my crew mate used to be a sports physio. He knew she was making it up, I knew she was making it up and so did her teacher. Her mother still looked terrified!

Our problem is that although she was acutely suffering GCSEitus we are in no position to accuse her. We have to take what she says as true, so the 10/10 pain had to be treated with entonox. As she 'couldn't' walk he had to get a chair and carry her. It's all part of the game. We took her to hospital. The nurse taking the handover took one look at her and said to me:

"In the middle of GCSEs?!"

See, it's not just us who notices the increase in 16 year olds attending hospital in May. It's the whole health care system. Hospital waiting rooms are full of them and I'm sure GP surgeries are inundated with 8am emergency appointment requests for generalised pains and breathing problems. I don't know what the cure for GCSEitus is, there probably isn't one, but I reckon by starting off convincing them that a D in German will not resign them to a life of crime and Special Brew is a good place to get the ball rolling. As for our cherub of a patient, it turns out she self-discharged out of A & E after her x-ray showed no damage. Oh, and she walked without a limp by all accounts. Miraculous! Another life saved!


  1. wait!!! if you say you are in a lot of pain they give you gas and air?????

    *dials 999.* im in 'agony' please bring me some! :O) Its my finger you see! Its agony!

    1. Just saw this comment! I recognise that sentence from a certain blog of the week lol!

  2. Also im adding you to my blog roll.

  3. As the person who taught me how to get gas and air. Oh how i love gas and air.

    (not really!... well not today anyway... ahem.)

    1. Ok, some tips....but ssshhhhh, I didn't tell you!

      1) When asked for a pain scrore between 0-10 don't say anything from 0-4 or 8-10! I'll only give it for a 'genuine' 5, 6 or 7! Too high, you get something stronger, too low you get paracetomol!

      2) Don't ask for Entonox or I will assume you are an entonox junkie, curling up in pain will add to making it believable but don't over act. Just look uncomfortable.

      3) If asked if you have taken pain killers say Yes! Paracetomol every 4 hours or Ibuprofen every 6 hours or both. This will endere us to you because at least you have tried.

      4) Despite being in 'obvious pain' insist on walking to the ambulance. If you make us carry you and we expect you are putting it on it will decrease your chances!!

      5) Don't tell us you have been scuber diving in the last 24 hours, you wont get it. Don't have a head injury or admit to being a violently disturbed psychiatric patient.

      6) Don't tell us you feel sick or dizzy prior to getting the Entonox. We won't give it to you.

      7) Once you have it, don't get carried away, keep it real! Dont say the pain has gone or we will take it back, say 'it's taking the edge off'.

      8) Be thankful for having it, massage you ambulance crews ego.

      9) Pretend you have never had it before, you'll then get a lesson on how best to use it and get the most benefits from it.

      10) Don't become recognised by crews, change your apperance and locations you call from. Once you are tagged as a regular you'll get NOTHING!!

      **NB** This comment was meant in jest and I always give drugs in accordance with the JRCALC guidelines and service protocols. This is for all the trolls out there who believe I am giving real medical advise lol!!

  4. Ha ha. My mum's a nurse, I could never get away with that kind of caper. A fever, V&D or a proven broken limb were the only things that would get me a sick note!

  5. I usually would jump to the same conclusions you have except for once I encountered a case similar to this except it wasn't fake, or a panic attack. A young woman preparing for this has been awake for the past three days on large amounts of energy drinks and coffee to do everything she could to do well on this. The past month was roughly the same pattern. Energy drinks in excess (10 +) a day and coffee and a poor diet and little sleep is very hard on the body. The day she went in for that test she started complaining about chest and arm pain, difficulty breathing and was lightheaded. My crew obviously thought it was just another panic attack, well by the time we had got there she had collapsed. Lo and behold the girl was actually having a massive heart attack and had to be rushed away to the hospital. Since then I try not to judge these prematurely even though for the better part they are fake there are a few occasions where they do happen to be real, like this girl who was trying so hard to do well she literally destroyed herself in the process.

  6. ha. When I was in AMU the other day, a 17 year old was brought in by a crew, in a chair, accompanied by her grandmother. She certainly had a pained expression. I wonder if AS-itis is also a problem at the moment?!

  7. Just been reading through your archives, and you made me think back to my A-Levels when I had a migraine that was genuinely the worst pain I have ever had in my life (though thankfully I've never had a serious injury. It was worse than being hit in the crotch by a 70mph softball though, and lasted a -hell- of a lot longer). Did stress contribute? Probably, but I wasn't faking it.

    Still didn't call an ambulance though.


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