Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Double - Not Quite

"He's up here," calls one young police officer to me, as I enter the house. The night sky is bright with blue flashing lights, my own amongst them. "Mind the glass as you go."

I gingerly ascend the stairs of the tiny house, wondering just what I will find. The window on the landing is broken; glass is strewn across the stairs. Just because it's in a house doesn't mean I shouldn't wear my steel-soled shoes. Oh well, I'll just have to be extra careful this time.

Three ploice officers point me wordlessly towards a closed door. I push against it, only to hear a grunt from the man behind the door. It's a paramedic, who swiftly moves out of my way to let me enter. I wish he hadn't.

It's a bedroom. There are pictures on the wall; family in various poses, holidays around the world; memories of better times. It's not a big room, and the double bed, dresser and large oak chest of drawers seem out of place.

He is lying on the floor. Blood is everywhere. The bed is soaked in it, and large clots lie on the bedspread and the pillows. The carpet is saturated with it. He, on the other hand, is pale, almost translucent. There are multiple lacerations and stab wounds, on his face, his head, his neck and torso. It is difficult to get into the bedroom because he is lying across the entrance.

I slide around the partially opened door, trying hard not to tread on the body. Yes, body. This man is clearly no longer alive. And yet, until we, the medically trained personnel in the room say so, he is legally. Until I check the monitor, see the straight line, confirm that there is no life present (passing a tube into his windpipe while all this is going on), until I utter the words, "Let's call it. Time of death...", he is still alive.

All of this has happened in the few minutes I have been on scene, and yet I am exhausted, mentally shattered. What started off as a pleasant evening at the in-laws, turns into a frantic, futile effort, while kneeling in the life-blood that should still be running through his veins.

I make my slow, careful way down the stairs, carrying my bag and monitor, and I wonder what had happened.

Outside the house, I am chatting to a police seargeant. He wants my shoes, as evidence. Fine; I'll wear the boots I should have donned before going in to the house. He wants my bag and monitor as evidence, too. I argue with him. Without them I am off-line, and I know it will be weeks, if not months, before they are returned.

As we talk, I am aware of another man being questioned by another officer. The cuffs go on, and I look a little more closely at him, wondering what might have led him to commit the act, the results of which I had witnessed upstairs.

Suddenly, there is a flurry of activity: two police officers run to their car and drive off in a flash of blue lights. Moments later, their sirens pierce the night. The seargeant's radio crackles into life, and he excuses himself for a moment - life goes on.

He rushes back to me. "We've got another one, and she's alive!" I find out where it is, and rush to my car. I turn, and ask, "Is the ambulance crew coming with?" He shakes his head, and explains that, if the same crew attended both scenes, it would definitely muck up the evidence. Oh, great!! Now I have no idea when I will get backup.

As I am driving the very short distance to where my next patient lay, I contacted the Ambulance Service, just to be sure that they knew where I was going - they didn't. A good phone call to make.

The second scene is as awash with police as the first. I am directed to behind a restaurant, where there is a small, walled off area for preparing meat. She had been stabbed multiple times, and struck on the head with what looks like a baseball bat, left lying in the corner of the room, matted with blood and hair.

She is lying in another corner, on her side, facing away from me. Only the faintest rise and fall of her chest suggests that she was still alive. There was blood everywhere: I was standing in pools of it, there were splashes up the walls, and on every surface of the "kitchen".

I move carefully towards her, trying not to slip, nor to gag on the stench of blood. This is unlike anything I had seen before. How could she still be alive, having lost so much blood?

I reach her, and put my gloved hand on her skin - it is icy cold, deathly. I realise that the cold is what has probably saved her life, and I am determined that my actions will continue that trend. With the help of some very green-faced police, we move her in to the centre of the room, and I begin to assess her. She is, surprisingly, conscious, but only just, and has good air entry on both sides of her chest. I cannot feel a pulse.

She has multiple stab wounds, but none of them are bleeding. I am unsurprised at this: she has no blood pressure to pump any more out. Perversely, I don't want to raise her blood pressure at all out here - if I do, she will start bleeding again, and probably die at my feet. She needs a hospital, and now!! I get the police to radio through to Control, and tell them we need transport immediately. I keep looking for a vein while I wait - there is nothing, not even in her groin, where the usually drainpipe-sized femoral vein has collapsed to nothing.

The ambulance arrives, we load and go. This is a journey I won't forget!!! The speed of the driver made me look up in surprise, expecting, perhaps, Jenson Button to have taken up a new career after getting his MBE. But no, it's just Tim, as anxious to get this lady to hospital as me.

As we drive, and the temperature in the back rises, she begins to bleed, and I get Tim to turn off the heating and open all the windows. We might just make it!!

A very short time later, we arrive, and hand over to the waiting team.

My drive back to my family is a sober one, with visions of blood-splattered walls, and of the evil that men do.


  1. That sounds beyond horrific. I suppose being more used to hearing of death caused by the cold, makes it odd to think it saved that woman's life.

  2. Horrendous. The barbarity more than the results thereof. That there is still such evil in this world is a sad indictment of, and reflection on our "First World" country.
    ps - welcome back. You've been missed!

  3. You write so eloquently, it feels we are right there on scene. I have tears in my eyes.
    Thank you for what you do.

  4. Hi folks, sorry I have not posted for a long while. I have had a lot of issues to deal with at work, and, surprisingly, precious few call-outs...

  5. I missed you too - but I suppose we should be grateful you haven't been needed. Did she survive?

  6. What terrible stories. It's a minor point, but they remind me of one difference between life and movies. In the movies, you always know why.

  7. Another shocking blog post RRD! Welcome back to the blogging, you have been missed!

    Reposted on Twitter :

    "One of my favourite Bloggers. He doesnt write often but when he does, OMG!! Go and see RRD : Shocking, Just Shocking!"

  8. It never fails to shock me just how barbaric and inhuman some people can be. I myself have seen several horrific scenes including suicides and murders (I'm ex forces) You write about it very well indeed.

  9. Welcome back! Excellent post, as usual. I can only imagine the horrific scene. And that in a place where most of us have pretty much all we need...sad, really. Thanks for the post :)