Posted by: medicblog999 | July 23, 2009

Shhhh, she is still alive!!

shhhhMy partner for the day, Julie, and I were dispatched to a female who was collapsed ? cause. The address was literally around the corner from the station I was working at that day, so we were on scene within 3 minutes.
The location was a fairly run down block of flats and the address we needed was on the 16th floor. Luckily, on this day, the lift was actually working so we headed up and knocked on the door.

A well groomed, well dressed gentleman, wearing an immaculate suit answered the door and showed us into the room where the patient was. As we walked through the flat, we both immediately noticed how odd it was that the flat was so dirty whilst the gentleman who showed us in was so clean. I asked the gentleman if he was a relation, friend or worker.

“I’m Joannes partner” was the reply.

We enter the front room to be bombarded with flies (never a good sign) and a very offensive smell. In the centre of the room was a bundle of bedding under which lay the patient.
Julie and I looked at each other, both with the expression of ‘what the hell!!!’ clearly etched on our faces.

If you have ever seen the film ‘seven’ ,where the victim who has been starved and tortured for a year is found by Brad Pitt, you will have some idea of what she looked like.
Joanne was severely emaciated, her skin was paper thin, with sores covering her from head to toe. Her eyes were open but there wasn’t any life in them, just glazed over and staring into nothingness.At first glance there didn’t appear to be any signs of life and there was no immediately noticeable chest movement.

Julie looks over and whispers to ‘get the form’ (our Recognition of Life Extinct form). As I am just about to turn away, I see Julie get down to Joannes level to do the routine checks, including pupil response (shining a light into the eye). As she flicks the light on Joanne suddenly takes a deep breath and coughs……

“JESUS CHRIST!!!!’ Julie springs back to her feet and staggers backwards towards the sofa.

I wasn’t far behind as an expletive leaves my lips and I suddenly feel my heart pounding in my chest, faster than it has done in a long time.

Julie: “Shes Alive!!”

M999: “Bloody Hell!!”

We both look to her partner.

Julie: “How long has she been like this?, when did you last see her?

Partner: “I have been away for the weekend on business. She said she just wanted to be left on the floor when I left on Friday”

Eh???? Did he really just say that his partner was on the floor 4 days before, and he left her there, unable to get up whilst he went on  weekend business trip??

It turns out that she is a bit of a drinker and was having difficulty walking. She had a fall on Friday and couldn’t get up. When he tried to help her up, she said she just wanted to stay put on the floor, so he gave her a blanket and left for work.

When we asked how long she had been poorly for ( as her condition obviously hasn’t deteriorated from normal to how we find her over the last 4 days), he replies

Partner: “Shes been really thin for a long time, I noticed that she was starting to bruise alot a couple of months back”

M999: “Did you get her to a GP or the hospital?”

Partner: “No, she always refused to go”

It boggles my mind that a ‘loved one’ can leave their partner in such a condition over a number of months. I don’t care if she did refuse, surely there comes a time where you just do what is best for the patient!

Julie and I change gear.

I run back down to the ambulance to get the chair, blankets and inco pads (she has been lying in her own excrement for quite some time), whilst Julie takes some baseline obs and tries to reassure her. We get no meaningful conversation out of her other than the odd grunt and groan. Amazingly, her observations are all within acceptable norms.

We decide the safest way for us to manage her and get her on our chair is to wrap her in a couple of our blankets and inco pads and lift her onto our chair. As we roll her onto her side to get the blanket under her, we are hit by the full extent of the smell of days or even weeks of faeces and urine. The ammonia stings our eyes and the smell makes me wretch. I manage to hold onto my dinner though and we load her onto the chair and get her into the ambulance.

As we are only going to be 2 minutes before getting to the hospital, we dispense with the pre-alert and rapidly move the short distance to the A&E department.

We move the stretcher off the ambulance and wheel Joanne into the warm brightly lit area of the resus room. The charge nurse for the shift walks up to us, takes a look at Joannes face and one of her arms that is outside of the blanket wrap……..

“what the bloody hell have you brought her in here for, she should go straight to the morgue”

Julie frantically shakes her head and tries to get the nurse to stop talking as quickly as possible.

Julie: ” Shhhhhhh!!, she is still alive!!”


Joanne died two days later on a ward with her ‘partner’ beside her.

We never found out what actually happened. I still wonder to this day if it was a case of self neglect gone horribly wrong, or if there was some pathology involved as well.

Whatever the reasons though, I think it is an absolute disgrace that someone can lay dying in a flat, for a prolonged period of time, less that 500 yards away from a hospital, who has regular contact with another human being. Truly a horrible way to go.


  1. Sounds as though liver failure may have been involved. Months of bruising is surely a sign.

    The shit people leave for us to clean up is persistently frustrating.

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