Tuesday 15 May 2012

Once You've Popped, You Can't Stop

"33 year old female, burn to stomach"

This job never fails to amuse. Very rarely do you go through an entire shift where you don't see some form of sheer stupidity, or a bizarre injury, or a faker, or something that makes you question people's right to reproduce. I mean seriously, some people just don't get it! It's an emergency ambulance service predominantly meant for emergencies. OK, a lot of what we do isn't an emergency or even urgent but it is often necessary and that is fine. The term emergency is subjective and a trivial complaint to one person is an emergency to someone else; I get that, I really do. But, sometimes I really do wonder the thought process behind what some people do. Were they really brought up with such a little amount of common sense? Do they have no perspective on what constitutes an emergency? In the past month alone I have been to people with: a cold, a stubbed toe, a cut finger, a headache, a 'vomited once', a stiff back and a bad dream. Surely these things have happened to everyone?! Unfortunately, time and time again, valuable resources are being wasted because we are too scared of litigation to say no! 

Today, I didn't say no either. I treated what I discovered, I was polite but firm, and although I didn't and wouldn't ever refuse hospital, I did strongly advise against it and instead offered three other alternatives. It was a weekday morning and we were in the queue in Costa grabbing our daily fix; on this occasion our fix would have to wait! Our radios started blaring so off we went in haste! If only you could hear our moans and groans on seeing what we were going to. To be fair there was a fair bit of laughter too, but it was a frustrated 'is she serious?' laugh. Above is the abridged version of what the call was given as, this is what we were sent to:

"33 year old female, burn to stomach, let off party popper on stomach"

I can safely say this was my first Party Popper related injury. We headed round to the address and gave 3 slow knocks on the door. We were greeted by a young woman who seemed perfectly calm and not at all flustered or injured. 

"Hello there, who are we here to see?"

"Me" she replied as she walked off into the living room.

I asked what had happened and she explained she had been fiddling with a party popper and it had gone off and hit her stomach. She lifted her top up to reveal a small pink area the size of a 2p coin. It wasn't burnt; she was fully dressed at the time... I KNOW!! Why call an ambulance? Don't get me wrong, I know there are dangers around party poppers. The pulled string ignites 16mg of explosive charge which when combined with air pressure causes the popper to launch a small rocket of joy. Avoid the face; don't aim it at  aperson, especially from close range, blah blah blah. Let's be honest though, if you are hit by one on your torso it isn't life and death!

"Are you in any pain at the moment?"


"What would you like us to do?!"

"Take me to hospital for a check-up." 

The hot head inside me wanted to scream and rant at her! The girl in green said:

"What are you worried about? I don't think you need to go to hospital to be honest."

"Because people don't always have pain when they have internal bleeding do they, so it's better to be safe than sorry isn't it?"

I spend 25 minutes trying my best to alleviate her fears. I did all her obs and explained if she had internal bleeding there would be signs and symptoms. I also did a full abdominal examination to put her mind at rest. Alas, my offers of: staying in the comfort of her own home, referring her to her GP or taking her to the walk-in centre, were all declined. Sadly, we cannot refuse hospital so as futile as it appeared off we went. My handover at hospital consisted of:

"The lady sat over there has been hit in the stomach by a party popper. There is no injury. All her obs are fine. There is no bruising or swelling. See has no pain. She declined to stay at home, see a GP or go to the WIC. We are here because she fears she has internal bleeding"

"Waiting room"


  1. Oh the things I wish we could say to "clients".I call them that because rarely do I have anyone that deserves the term "patient".

  2. How the hell do you stick with it?
    Cannot refuse hospital? Just watch me!
    Don't think I'd last long in your job.

  3. You should hear the stuff call takers refer to nhsd or cta. We're more likely to take stress breaks over those idiots than the babies in cardiac arrest.

  4. Again, on our patch she would have been assessed on scene and marked hospital inappropriate. She would be free to make her own way but not in an ambulance. The public are entitled to an "ambulance response", not a free lift.

    1. Would love to be able to do that! Clearly your bosses have confidence in your on scene opinion and are willing to stand by a refusal to convey!

  5. She would have fulfilled our criteria for a 'Self Care Pathway - Minor Inj' and therefore refused transport even if she wanted to attend ED.


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