Monday 25 June 2012

Stars in their Eyes

"31 year old male, ? Stroke, numbness in left arm, stars in eyes"

I have to admit reading that on the screen made a fine spray of vanilla latte spray onto my paperwork. In fact, so much so that I had to start a fresh PRF! Stars in eyes made me think of Matthew Kelly introducing a badly ageing man doing his best to look like Tom Jones and singing "Sex Bomb" as he comes out of a cloud of stage smoke! Not a good mental image! We headed round to the address not expecting much from the job. I doubted very much that a 31 year old was having a stroke, but as always I kept a semi-open mind until I arrived! Because it was early in the morning on a Sunday, and as we were less than a mile away, we were on scene within 2 minutes of him dialling 999. In fact, he was still on the phone when we arrived. 

We got past the usual pleasantries of 'I can't believe how quick you came' (*snigger* "you wish") & 'wow, that was fast', and by that exchange I was happy that a) he wasn't having a stroke b) he wasn't remotely ill. I'm no doctor but it didn't take much to work out what was wrong!

"So what's been going on today?"

"Firstly my arm was numb, like completely numb, with tingling all over my hand and fingers"

"What were you doing when this started"


"Where were you?"

"In bed"

"Had you been sleeping?"


"What side do you sleep on?"

"Of the bed?"

"No, do you sleep on you left side, right side or back?"

"My left side"

"So you woke up lying on your left side, your arm was numb and you had pins and needles in your hand?"


"How is it now?"

"It's gone now"

"Did you have any other symptoms?"

"Yes..." (he didn't expand without a prompt)

"What were they?"

"I saw stars in my eyes"

"When did that happen?"

"As soon as I stood up from bed I felt dizzy and there were stars in my eyes"

"And are they gone now?"


"So what did you want us to do?"

"I'm not sure, I had a numb arm and stars in my eyes so thought I was having a stroke, am I?"


"What do you think caused it?"

"At a guess, you had pins and needles in your arm because you slept on it and felt dizzy because you stood up suddenly. Did you look at a light before you stood up?" 

"Actually yes, my wife turned the light on, do I need to go to hospital?"


I'm not Doctor Gregory House, Head of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine, but this was pretty cut and dry as far as I was concerned. Surely in 31 years he had experienced pins and needles!? He must have! Maybe I'm wrong, do people never feel slightly dizzy after standing suddenly? Do they not see the light burnt on their retina after looking at a light bulb?! I do! Do people really call an ambulance the second they feel a symptom of any kind?! Do they not wait even 2 minutes to see if it goes away?! Clearly not! We have all seen the stroke advert on TV, the droopy face, the paralysed arm and the slurred speech, but I'm sure it doesn't say call 999 if you have pins and needles followed by a 10 second head rush!? This is what we are up against people! This is one of the many 999 calls we attend to; people really do call for this! How do we stop them?! Answers on a postcard! Needless to say, we left him at home with all the information he needed on strokes so not to call again unnecessarily! I really do despair sometimes, a lot of people don't believe some of the things people call us for but that is because they judge things by their normal standards! You need a whole new set of standards to understand the mind-sets of some people! That is how I stay calm when faced with utter stupidity!


  1. Well I am finding this blog interesting- Let me tell you my story to support your advice
    Saturday-very bad headache-went to bed
    Sunday-felt a bit rough
    Monday-went to work,people worried I said nah I will be ok
    Monday night -woke up very bad crippling headache
    Tuesday-doctors-he sent me straight down to hospital
    Wednesday-Brain surgery!!!

    Apparantly bleeds in the brain off and on!!

    Sometimes you can call an ambulance too quickly but you can be too slow- I was lucky BUT dont take advantage
    Learn about these conditions and it will help!

    Karen x

    1. That is in my mind every time I leave a headache at home. You just never know! Glad youre ok now!

  2. Other side of story. My brother suffers from hiatus hernia and didn't know.T Thought he was having heart attack call 999 amb to hospital where he was diagnosed. Couple years later wakes up with bad pain about two hours. Thought hernia. Next night same thing happens so the next day he sees doctor who checks him and finds he has had two heart attacks. Now on heavy medication waiting for op

  3. I have a cold. My throat is sore and my head hurts

    I don't really have a point here I just wanted to share ;-)

    1. Coffee cake?! I suppose you are paying the price for being outdoorsy! x

  4. Just a friendly heads up... I'm assuming you get the same training on confidentiality as nurses do? Be careful - for one, you could lose your job. And if one of your 'patients' were to stumble across this, I doubt it would go down well. Well written and interesting, but don't risk your profession x

    1. Thanks. I'm aware of that blog post which quotes my blog. I was very new to blogging then and have made edits to that post. No post you read is as it happens. I change ages, sexes, times of day, locations, and most posts are inspired by a job but use poetic license to make a point. No patient would be able to say a particular post is about them. I will always respect confidentiality. Thanks though. I do appreciate the heads up!

  5. I've had the pleasure of being attended to by ambulance personnel twice. Once when I was 15 and had been run over by a Transit van (ouch, but my own stupid fault) and last month on my honeymoon, when I had terrifying heart pains, palpitations, dizziness, nausea and trouble breathing. Being the internet-crazed buffoons hubby and I are, we Googled my symptoms on several sites and everywhere screamed 'HEART ATTACK!' Needless to say we cacked ourselves, hummed and hawwed for about 30 minutes to see if I felt any better, then dialled 999.

    I felt like a total arse when it soon became apparent I wasn't having a heart attack, as my sats were great. It was a monumental panic attack coupled with having had a can of energy drink a couple of hours before. As much as I felt awful for wasting the crew's time, 3 weeks on from then my 39 year old best mate died of a heart attack. I bet she had no idea she was dying when the ambulance was called - in fact she said she had to get to work!

    I think sometimes it's really hard to know what to do for the best....but perhaps there should be some kind of 'Calling an ambulance for Dummies' type pamphlet to root out eejits like the fella above!

  6. What do we do to stop them??

    Embolis! ;)


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