Sunday, 7 March 2010


I could have got there in less than 25 minutes. Maybe 20. Less than that, if there wasn't too much traffic.

Mrs RRD and the Micro RRDs could have got themselves home from the restaurant. I know it was cold, but they could have got a taxi - we were only a few minutes from home. It wouldn't have cost much.

I had eaten well at lunch, and had had the starters tonight, before the call came in. I wouldn't have suffered unduly, had I skipped out of the main course that was on its way from the kitchen.

True, it might have been difficult getting Mini RRD and Princess RRD back from their party, but I'm sure I would have been back well before then.

The caller said the patient was unconscious - he could have benefitted from my presence.

But I still said no.

I have a right to a life, to some 'time out' with my family. What I do is voluntary, and I need to be able to choose. My family also have a right to be with me. The Micro RRDs need me, need to spend time with me. Mrs RRD is always so long-suffering, always understands when I rush off. Yet, she'd much rather me stay, and she, too, deserves some time off from coping with the difficulties that my BASICS volunteering causes. And, there are plenty of times when I rush off, only to find that the call was not as given, and I wasn't needed after all.

But I still feel guilty.


  1. It's understandable that you feel guilty, you shouldn't however. It seems that as humans if we have the ability to help we feel we should drop everything in order to provide it. You made the right decision.

    Don't feel guilty, you made the right choice.

  2. Don't feel guilty. You're right... you are entitled to a life. You help so many people as it is that you should be able to spend an evening with your family without any interuptions.

  3. But, and this is the point that Mrs RRD and I talked about for about an hour last night, how would any of you have felt if it had been one of your relatives, who had subsequently died; and then you find out that someone who could have saved his life didn't go, because he was waiting for his sweet and sour fish?

    To finish this story, I rang Control at about 01:30 this morning, and found out that GasPasser (not 2, but the original...), who lives very close, had attended, intubated and transported to hospital.

  4. Don't feel guilty, you don't need to sacrifice your own life in order to save others.

    *Jumps onto soap box*

    The question on my lips is why pre-hospital docs are still by and large charitably funded in this country when it is clear their use today extends far beyond their original intended role, and when we see them working so well as part of ambulance services in other countries. Why are our ambulance services getting a free lunch?

    *stands down from soap box*

    On a final note, what use are you going to be to anyone if you don't take time out to recharge?

    All the best, Budding-RRD

  5. Yes, you'll feel guilty - that's because you are used to helping, and putting yourself out to do so.

    However, similar to BK's comment, you do this out of the goodness of your heart. It's not your job, even if it is your profession. You help whan you can and turn it down when you can't.

    Surely Mrs & Micros RRD deserve a slice of you from time to time?

    With all the goodwill in the world, you can't save everyone, Doc. Just sometimes, a bit of R&R is essential.

  6. RRD, what you've said about how we would all feel if it was our relative is true. In that situation, you would naturally be angry and upset as a relative to find out that someone was eating rather than saving that person's life. It's exactly the sort of thing that the media cling on to if they find it out.


    Take that relative out of the life/death situation in which they become naturally angry and scared, purely through grief. Turn your patient's relative into your relative and turn that fateful day into a normal day. Out of the context of a life/death situation, EVERYBODY you know would see it as totally reasonable.

    Even if the anaesthetist hadn't gone, the crews on scene would have still been able to intubate and treat really well, if a little less easily. Feeling guilty shouldn't be something you need to fear. Volunteering your time for even one day a year would be more than enough to offset any guilt you should experience, let alone what you do.

    By saving a person's life, you're allowing them to spend more time with their family. So, do the same for yourself once in a while!

  7. RRD,

    Whilst you may feel guilty, you shouldn't. You already have a career that drains you physically and emotionally, on top of which you volunteer your free time, and can rarely truly relax.

    Frankly, you should take more time out to relax with your family, as it seems like you're always on the go, and you can't really relax if you're anticipating the phone call from control!


  8. Thank you for all of your comments. Whilst I agree in principle with all you are saying - hence the reason I didn't take the call - it is still very difficult to just sit there, wondering what is happening, going through the what-ifs, and thinking that you might have been able to do something to save a life. How many of you out there could continue your meal, if someone outside the restaurant was screaming for help? In a way, it's the same thing.

    I guess what I was trying to get across in this post is that, despite the fact that I and my family deserve some down time, and, despite the fact that I did what I felt was right at the time, Mrs RRD and I both felt very bad about the decision made.

  9. This isn't meant as a criticism, it's just something that an older GP said to me once upon a time. He had once not gone to a night callout for a child, in the days when GPs did their own OOH. He had already been out several times, after a full day in the practice, and was sure it was just a bad cold. It wasn't, the child was seriously ill. He said he never diagnosed over the phone again. His call was not covered by someone else, yours was.
    EMTTom's point is also very valid: British paramedics are trained to intubate and do other pre-hospital procedures(sorry Tom, don't know about what EMTs can do). The foreign pre-hospital systems are often dependent on the on-call emergency doctors turning up to do those sort of things as the ambulance staff are not as highly trained as our paramedics. It's much the same with nurses - nurses in Britain are trained to do and subsequently allowed to do far more than their peers in, for example, Germany. Our system seems preferable to me in that there are more highly trained staff available in any given situation - but I wholeheartedly agree that the RRDs should be included in the system without being volunteers. But like everything else in the NHS - it's all about money.

  10. If it happens right in front of me, I'll drop and deal. Otherwise, it's my choice whether I would voluntarily go and help somebody.

    RRD, you do plenty of work, giving up your own time for the wellbeing of others. However, the wellbeing of the person providing the care needs to be 100% first...