Saturday, 25 April 2009

Don't Jump!

19:40. A job in ResidentialStreet, SmallTown; an unusual call, this one. A chap is threatening to jump out of a window. So, I turn up, to see a lot of police, and a man, quite naked, standing at the first floor window of a house. He had kicked out the glass, and was screaming obscenities at all of us below him. He is covered in blood.

So, what am I to do? The ambulance crew are sitting in their vehicle, waiting for instructions. The police are milling around. I am informed that there are a number of units within the house, but they cannot get close to the man. He is holding a razor blade, and has already cut himself multiple times.

I look below the window: a low garden wall and a small, gravelled garden. Great! If he jumps he is going to cause himself quite considerable injury. I am very worried. I have seen the effects on jumpers. but have never had to witness the fall itself.

I hear that the fire service are on the way, but I don't think we can wait too long. I suggest to the police that it might be sensible to place a mattress under the window, so that if he did decide to jump it may cushion his fall, at least a bit. They are not sure whether they can get hold of a mattress

Suddenly, there is a large amount of noise coming from the room in which the chap is in, and he comes charging towards the window, carrying the double bed! Wow! He is really strong!! He heaves the bed through the window, taking a large portion of the window frame with it. The bed lands across the wall – one mattress, just as the doctor ordered!

So, the mattress is in place, but now there is no window frame. Are we better off or not? The patient is now sitting in the window opening, holding the razor to his neck. He moves the blade to his left arm and slashes repeatedly: blood sprays across his face and chest. We have to do something soon. He sways visibly, as he stands and moves away from the window once more.

I turn to the senior officer, and ask him what plans he has to bring this to a conclusion. He shrugs. I half-jokingly suggest they could shoot him, and a look of realisation dawns on his face. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that earlier?” as he runs off, babbling into his radio about various squads that he wanted on scene NOW!

Oh bum! What have I started this time? Suddenly, a nondescript van pulls up, and two very scary-looking police officers climb out, dressed in military uniform, carrying some sort of weapon. “They’ve gone crazy!!” I say, but quietly – I don’t want anyone to notice me, not after my suggestion.

They enter the house.

About 2 minutes later there is a bang, and I see the man fall to the floor, half in and half out the window.

I run upstairs, with the ambulance crew.

We are shown into an upstairs bedroom, blood all over the floor and walls. I look down to see a young man, probably in his early thirties. There are multiple slashes across his arms, chest and legs. But, wait a minute, why are there wires coming out of his body? What the heck is going on here? And then it dawned on me. They had shot him with a taser gun. This sends out two darts, attached to wires, which in turn are attached to a small, hand-held generator. The patient is then “electrocuted” with a current that induces neuromuscular incapacitation. In layman’s terms, when you have been shot by one of these, you cannot control any of your skeletal muscles, and you are unable to move or strike out.

So, here I am, confronted with a patient, completely paralysed, staring up at me. “Ok, Doc, he’s all yours.” Thanks! I have never dealt with this sort of patient before. I didn’t have time to Google "tasers" on line, to find out the effects. And yet all eyes were on me to know exactly what to do. “Can I touch him?” came my rather wimpy reply. “Course you can – he’s not live now,” chortles one of the officers. So, I’ve now shown myself up in front of most of London’s finest.

The man looks up at me, the power slowly coming back into his body. “What happened?” he asked. I explained that he had gotten a little out of hand, and had tried to hurt himself; hence the reason he was now handcuffed. He tells me he was a refugee from Afghanistan, and had repeated episodes of flashbacks to when he had been tortured. I tell the police to remove the handcuffs. The crew and I clean his wounds, all fortunately superficial, we find him a dressing gown, and he walks slowly down to the waiting ambulance, past the watching uniformed crowds.


  1. Wow. They had to shoot the guy to save his life? That's incredible. Do you buy his story about being an Afghan refugee?

  2. Actually, we found out later that he WAS from Afganistan, and that he had be held captive for a few months before escaping. He was a very troubled young man. Very sad indeed

  3. Taser guns, the police officers and paramedics best friend!!
    Seen them used a number of times, all with a fantastic effect. The funny thing I found was that when they were introduced in the North East each ambulance station got a huge poster "teaching us" how to remove the barbs. In laymens terms this consists of supporting the surrounding skin then pull fast and hard. The best gem of advice was :
    " do not remove the barb if it is located in the genitals or eye ball"!!!!

  4. "One mattress, just as the DR ordered" I love it!

  5. Very sad case indeed. I do hope he is recovering well in hospital, and for your peace of mind, "can I touch him" would probably been the first thing I would have thought of!