Sunday, 8 March 2009

Lost For Words

I was sitting in my wife's car, on the way back from the petrol station, where we had bought some pizzas for supper, when I got a call on my 'phone; was I available for a call? "Give me 3 minutes to swap cars and I will be", was my answer.

I was on my way to a "jumper" - someone who has jumped off somewhere or under something. In this case, off a third storey balcony. Still conscious and breathing normally, but the crew wanted me there for some support and reassurance. This is not an unusual request, and I am more than happy to go along and lend a hand.

I get introduced to "James", a chap in his thirties, who is on antidepressants, and who has decided to end it all by jumping off the balcony of his flat. However, due to the torrential rain we had today, the ground was very soft, and, landing on his feet, he only sustained a fracture of his thigh-bone. Not a pleasant injury, but certainly not life-threatening.

And here I was, lost for words. "Don't worry, it's not serious", didn't seem appropriate to someone trying to end their life. And nor did, "You'll be OK, we'll soon have you sorted." The reassuring words we use, almost as a reflex, to our patients in pain, scared, worried about how seriously injured they might be, just weren't going to do for James. So, instead, the three ambulance guys and I worked on in silence, lost for words of comfort for a man, so unhappy with his lot that he has nothing left to live for.

I finish the job, and drive back to wife, kids and pizza - my life.


  1. Just out of interest, how does a person manage to land on their feet and fracture only their femur? Given that it's such a strong bone, I would have thought there would be damage to the lower leg as well. What's the mechanism behind that?

  2. Hi Shallot. An interesting question. When someone lands on their feet, the force is transmitted throughout their body, and they can fracture their heels, their shin-bone, thigh-bone, pelvis, lumbar spine and / or their neck. What I suspect happened here is that, as the mud was fairly soft, his foot stuck for an instant, and the rotational force was transmitted to his femur. This is not an unusual occurence. What actually breaks in situations like this is not always the weakest bone, but the one across which the most force is applied.

    I hope you enjoy the blog, and keep reading!

  3. Thanks, that was very helpful. Makes sense when you think about it. Poor bloke, I hope he gets the help he needs eventually...