Oct 01

Turn, turn, turn.


I'm a fairly easy going guy.






Outwardly serene


It takes a fair bit to rile me, to scratch this smiley patina and expose the hungover howler monkey within. But one word will do it, one word is my hair trigger, the blue touch paper on my supa-fly TNT, mutha-fucker.

The public insist on using it to describe patients who aren't responding normally.

“He's taking a turn, son…”. In my experience patients who are taking turns have been convulsing.

Or smacked off their chops.

Or having a haemhorragic CVA.

They might be acting funny because they're drunk.

Or they might be dead.


The word means precisely nothing, and yet it still gets passed to us -“Pt having funny turn – making strange noises.”

What kind of strange noises? People who are choking on their vomit make strange noises, but then, so did Sade and nobody ever crashed HER in for an emergency CT.


(I haven't checked this out. If Sade has ever needed an emergency CT, I'm going to look like a proper heartless cunt. I'm not going to check though, because my interest in incorporating an 80s pop culture reference into a point of humour about brain injuries is too great. This is my cross, and for you I bear it.)

I accept that callers can't be expected to give medical chapter and verse, but surely the call handlers are allowed to intercept this loathsomely vague phrase?

They do it for other jobs, we don't get sent to “Some boy's chibbed this cunt a fuckin' sair yin, like, an' there's blood pishing aw ower ma new suite.”


Although, to be fair, there have been occasions when I've felt that the call handlers probably could do with editing the complaint somewhat.

I have in the past been despatched to “male, really, really, really drunk.” and on one memorably hilarious occasion “male assaulted by whores and junkies”. The latter was changed rapidly, I'm assuming by a more experienced member of control staff who saw it come up and said “You cant send a crew to THAT!”


A turn can be the last minutes of your life, or left at home with a call to the GP in the morning.

Will I be hoovering vomit from your lungs, or putting you back to bed with a Rich Tea?

If I'm honest the reason I hate the word so vehemently is because it disarms me; it gives no indication of what gear I need to take or be in while approaching the job.

And that makes me uncomfy.



14 Responses to “Turn, turn, turn.”

  1. Police Control Room Operator says:

    Ah. We have these, as well.

    “He’s kicking off.” What, so they’re having a nice game of football? They don’t need a policeman then.

    If you ask what “kicking off” means, you’re invariably told that it means “going mental.”

    Well, then he needs a nice psychiatric ward then – again, not a policeman. Anyway, what does “going mental” mean? Mild depression? Self-harm? Sticking two pencils up your nose and saying wibble?


  2. Old Geezer says:

    “Man down, undetermined problem.” Always loved that one.


  3. Cmedik says:

    My personal pet peeve is when I’m dispatched to a person “in shock”… Of course it’s very rare that I actually find a patient in a state of end organ perfusion failure, typically they’re emotionally upset at the worst.

    Like you, I can forgive a member of the lay public abusing this term, however I expect more from a medically trained dispatcher/call taker!

    Cheers from Canada!


  4. Rob says:

    Despite living in Scotland for three years now, this reminds me that I still don’t understand good chunks of what folk say…


    Ann Reply:

    I think I translated
    “Some boy’s chibbed this cunt a fuckin’ sair yin, like, an’ there’s blood pishing aw ower ma new suite”
    As “a man has hit my friend rather hard, leading to a wound that is causing blood to leak onto my new sofa”. Is that about right? [:->


    Kal Reply:

    Ann ยป Pretty much bang on, although “chibbed” is stabbed :)


    Ann Reply:

    It’s a long time since I had to translate Mum’s Uncle Billy’s broad Aberdonian accent – which was always a challenge in the first ten minutes, until we tuned in! :-)

  5. Maeve says:

    despite the title, I thought your annoyance was with being called ‘son’.


  6. Piper says:

    Agree, it’s like us medical types saying someone “went off” – what? Macaroni cheese?!? And it’s fine verbally but in clinical notes? Arrggghhhhhhh……….


  7. Fee says:

    I once witnessed a ned phoning an ambulance for his mate with the words “He’s took the medicine and noo he’s spark oot.” Clearly the call taker asked for a bit of clarification because his next statement was, “Aye, he’s took the hale weekend’s methadone, right enough. Three days’ worth.” I remember thinking, “No bloody wonder he’s spark oot, then.”


  8. Win-Stone says:

    It’s not just idiots calling ambulance/police that are the problem though – surely it’s all about communication in general and that works both ways……..

    Doctor, “Right Mr Win-Stone, this won’t hurt”.


    You’re going to stick a fecking great needle in me and you reckon it won’t hurt? Or do you mean it’s not going to hurt *you*?

    or, my favourite,

    Doctor, “Right, Mr Win-Stone, this won’t hurt much.”

    Ok. So, define much………….

    Do you mean it’s not going to have you screaming in gibbering agony?
    Do you mean that it might possibly feel like a bee sting (which is fine – unless, of course, you’re allergic to the damn things)
    Do you mean that I’m going to be screaming in agony?
    Or do you mean that I’m going to sit there being blase and wondering what the hell you were gibbering on about?


  9. Kernewic says:

    In Yorkshire you get “he’s gone over down the 10 foot”, which I would forgive anyone of assuming that the patient has had a fairly long fall. However it actually means “He’s Overdosed (gone over) in an alleyway (10 foot)”
    My personal pet peeve is “collapsed”, well when I got home I collapsed into a chair. Conversely someone may be said to have collapsed when they pass out, or when they trip up a kerb.
    It would be less frustrating if the stock answer to “what do you mean by collapsed?” wasn’t”well he’s collapsed hasn’t he? are you F**king daft or sumpfink?”


  10. Lucy says:

    “Happy” drives me bonkers. eg. Anaesthetist “happy” with patient’s airway. Surgeon “happy” with pt’s urine output. What does this actually mean as I’ve never yet seen any signs of outward exhaultation with either of the above.


  11. Aussie Comms says:

    Dispatchers sometimes put a case description in for comic effect, or dispatch via radio for the same. “Female person acting strangely ?mental issues. Patient has a pram – there is no baby in the pram. However, patient is described as armed with teddybears.” (Police description, not mine!)

    Calltakers here are not allowed to refuse to send paramedics. “So, tell me what the problem is. A hangnail?”

    But we ARE allowed to clarify the problem, and we try to get the point across. “Okay, what’s the reason that you require the *emergency paramedics* at this time?”


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