Nov 26

An ungentlemanly act.

Tag: Ambulance,Thrilling InstallmentKal @ 2:55 pm

The job itself sounds straight forward, 69 year old man fallen, with a head injury. It’s in a house, rather than the street so is potentially less likely to have alcohol at its root, despite it being past midnight on a Friday.

The front door is closed, but opens when I try the handle. Nobody meets us in the corridor but a woman’s voice answers me when I shout my arrival.

“Up here…please.”

In the bedroom a well dressed woman in her sixties stands in front of her husband, his face is caked in dark red blood, it congeals and hardens in his wrinkles, drips from his chin. His entire shirt front is rigid where it’s clotted and it seeps, bright red, from the split across his forehead.

A simple enough job, confirm no C-spine injury, clean and dress the wound, assess for skull fracture and/or neurological deficit and transport.

But the patient is on his feet, his face twisted with rage and as I step across the threshold he lifts his left hand to point a finger in my face.

“You can get out! Get out of my house!”

I rock back on my heels. The patient’s right hand is wrapped tightly around his wife’s wrist, her skin puckered and convoluted as it bulges between his fingers.

“Please, Ronnie…” she begins and he stops pointing at me to lift his hand up and back. I catch his wrist as I step inside the room.

“Just calm down, sir.”

“Let go of me.”

“No sir. Calm down and take a seat. Let go of the lady.”

“You can’t do this! Get out of my house! Shirley! Get them out! I’m your husband!”

Shirley pulls back from him, trying to tug her arm from his grip.

“Ronnie, you’re hurting me…”

“Ronnie, let go of her now or we’ll call the police…”

“Call them then, call the bloody police!”

He twists her wrist a little harder, she glances between her husband and I

I don’t have a problem with aggression, it’s a relatively common feature of the job, to some degree or another. Fear, pain, embarassment, drink, drugs and metabolic discrepancies can all cause a normally placid person to respond to our presence with anger and threats of violence.

I have no desire to get involved in a ruck and will, given the opportunity, get back in my motor and drive away. Verbal threats roll off my back, angry people shout and bluster, but when it comes to attempted or actual violence towards me or a third party on scene, I have no qualms about engaging someone physically.

On the other side, this is no swaggering drunk with a bottle in his hand and a belly full of bravado, no shrieking, cat-fighting woman pulling hair and scratching at her friends. He’s a pensioner, one half of a pleasant couple in a nice house in a nice part of town. He’s shorter and slighter than me with a potentially serious head injury.

I’d happily leave this guy to it, call for police back up and let him blunder around the room, bleeding from his punctured head until they arrive and we can take him up to A&E in cuffs.

But he’s threatening his wife and her eyes plead with me to deal with the situation she finds herself in. She’s begging and placating her husband, promising him that the police won’t come, that everything will be fine as long as he lets her go.

I hear her words and it strikes me that she’s not just calming her husband down, there’s a part of her that’s genuinely frightened this hulking, uninformed brute in the door will go fighting with the man she loves.

Stuck between protecting herself and her husband she again begs with him to let her go and this time he does, releasing her from his right hand and turning towards me, pulling his fist back. I put my hands on his shoulders and push him backwards, he sits heavily on the bed behind him and I, momentarily, lose my rag, raising my voice and hollering.

“You try that again, pal? I’ll put you on the floor, you understand me?”

He sulks back.

“I’ll put you on the floor.”

Aye, and so’s yer maw.

But now things have changed. He’s sat down, we all back off and he resorts to sniping and blustering at us all. We are all bastards, all three of us, his wife is a bitch and should obey him, he’s her husband. He wants us to leave, to get out of his house. It’s his house and he wants us out.

“I can’t leave, sir.”

“Yes you can.”

“No, sir…you’ve had a drink and you’ve…”

“Shut up! Shut up and get out.”

“There’s no need for that, Ronnie. You’re a gentleman, let’s have a conversation like gentlemen, shall we?”

He glares at me.

“You’ve had a drink and you’ve hit your head. I can’t leave you behind, I’d be in dereliction of duty if I did.”

His shoulders slump.

“Right. Fine. Do what you have to do.”

My partner fetches a basin of warm water and a flannel and I put one knee on the ground beside him, keeping my other foot flat. Body sideways, my leg protecting my groin, tucking my chin in over my throat, watching his hands. He relents to my care, lets me clean the blood from his face, mopping and wiping, bathing and scrubbing while he stare straight ahead like a kid who’s been caught playing in the coal bunker.

An awkward silence.

“So….Ronnie…you were at the bowling club tonight?”


“Do you play?”

“I do.”

I recognise a chance for him to regain his dignity and play it.

“I can’t understand that game. I watch it on TV, the way they curl the bowls? I couldn’t do that, never had a head for that sort of thing.”

He is, immediately, engaged and starts telling me at length about the weights of different bowls, how you’ve got to pitch them just so to reach the jack. How golf players make good bowlers because they understand the contours of a green.

Five minutes later we’re laughing together, he tells me he watches “all they programmes” on daytime TV and how “it’s disgusting the way folk get drunk and waste your time.”

“Oh, it’s terrible, Ronnie. It really is. Just tonight I was dealing with this drunken old goat who was wanting to go fighting with me…”

His eyes widen and he begins to commiserate before recognition kicks in.

“Old goat! You cheeky wee bugger!”

We shake hands, make friends, he apologises for his behaviour and I for mine. By the time we get to hospital he’s making sweeping statements that, once he’s out, he’ll take me and “your wife, girlfriend, whatever” out for dinner. He sits forward every few minutes to clasp my hands in his.

I leave him in Immediate Care, Shirley in the waiting room with a cup of tea, her wrist bruised, her hands gently trembling the tan liquid in the plastic cup.

22 Responses to “An ungentlemanly act.”

  1. Aled says:

    Kudos to you Kal, not sure I could joke and make merry with him after seeing his wife so frightened .


  2. Vinaigrette Girl says:

    so often, you make me cry. She’s probably been dealing with DV for years, and who would believe her if she told them? Any chance of putting the DV support unit on to her or would that be overstepping?



  3. Piper says:

    You star, you. Well done!


  4. Morpheus says:

    This, Kal, is why I love ya.


  5. Win-Stone says:

    Well done, but it seems like you were perhaps unlucky to have a “hulking, uniformed brute” along with you.

    Does having big partners inflame and exacerbate as often as it placates and defuses?

    And I know what you mean about bowls!


  6. Mommy-Medic says:

    I’ve just discovered your blog, and although it seems so far away, I have enjoyed reading of someone else who does both emergency medicine and photoshop. They go well together :D
    Take care.


  7. Ross says:

    From watching my dad play bowls, it seems more of a “Play up, then back down, then go in for a pint affair”.
    I still don’t understand it either.


  8. Digitalkatie says:

    Either you have to stop writing blog entries that make me all teary or I’ve got to stop reading your blog when I’m on the bus!


  9. ben says:

    Well done Sir! Great call, great result, great writing!


  10. TomG says:

    Brilliant as ever.

    I have to say that when I drove the ‘bus’ a meeting like that was rare. But when dealing with the little old lady, collapsed or very ill in her bed, the banter and ‘courtesy’ blanket always won the day.



  11. Mike says:

    Aye Kal, some skills can’t be taught.

    Nice one.


  12. Metamor4sis says:

    Well done, keeping a cool head despite. =)


  13. Jot says:

    Excellently done, kal.


  14. Poppygoodwill says:

    Great telling of the tale, as always. But I can’t help wincing
    at the final image: two men laughing while a woman cowers and shakes. Twas ever thus.


  15. Wayne says:

    That last phrase is brilliant. Well done, Kal.


  16. Henners says:

    Top job Kal.


  17. Sewmouse says:

    Great job, Sweetie. I think you have just the right kind of tact for your job – you love people but you won’t take any crap.

    I do hope someone nice found Shirley and was able to calm her down.


  18. Been there, done that says:

    Good on ya, Kal. I’ve had the outcomes go both ways, and I’m more proud of the patients I parted with as friends than the ones I parted with as the victor.


  19. Pa State Cop says:

    Had an old gent tie one on one night, Came home and proceeded to take a poke at the wife. Mind you he was 79 and she was 82. Took her statement and then went to talk to the old man. H pointed at me from the couch and told me he was gonna kick my ass. Sat down next to him and put my arm around him. Told him he was under arrest. Scooped him up and cuffed him. Out the door we went. The car was parked about a quarter mile up the road due to ice. Old guy sat in jail for a month. Considering he was a chronic drunk didn’t do so well with him. Come the hearing the old guy was pretty rung out. Judge gave him time served and told him the next time he came before him, Jail was going to be a lot longer. Never saw the old guy after that.


  20. Patch says:

    Fantastic people skills… as has been said already. It can’t be taught. You have it.


  21. Shawna says:

    Good on you Kal! What I’ve learned from my own work is that most people are just frightened. And that allowing them some dignity and respect can turn a potentially ugly situation around rather quickly. Some people have it. Many don’t. As above, I don’t think it can be taught. And you definately have it.


  22. Uphilldowndale says:

    Shudder…….. I don’t think that was the first or the last time Shirley has been on the receiving end


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