Friday, 12 June 2009

Don't worry, doc. I've brought a load of people to have a look at your sick kid. I can get more if you need them!

Posted by: Dr. Thunder.

I find it ironic that, nowadays, when I see someone keeling over, it often makes me want to go in the opposite direction. Very fast. Especially when I'm already busy as hell. But, it's fair to say that's not the case for 99% of the general public.

People love a good old collapse. Nothing draws the crowds like a wham-bam-outa-nowhere-keeling over. It's one of my pet hates. If someone is unfortunate to become unwell in a public place, they can be guaranteed one thing.....that a lot of people will have a good look.

 The people I always feel sorriest for are those who have seizures in public. Imagine it. You drop suddenly. Next thing you're waking up on the main street in on a saturday afternoon in your urine soaked trousers, with blood gushing from your bitten tongue, confused and just wanting to sleep. But that can't happen, as someone ALWAYS takes it upon themselves to make sure you don't fall asleep. Like in the movies, where if you let an injured person fall asleep they die. In about 50% of cases, the misery of the unfortunate "seizee" is compounded by someone ramming a spoon in their gob. Gotta make sure they don't swallow that tongue! Swallowing a spoon, or tooth fragments is fine. But keep that tongue firmly in their mouth, at all costs.

Just picture yourself waking up in that situation. Number one rule when dealing with a sick person in public...make sure they have some privacy.

I'm writing about this as I was in a similar situation about 2 weeks ago. I was doing an outpatients clinic, so I definitely wasn't in "emergency mode". I was strolling towards my little room, eating a hearty breakfast of one slighly over-ripe banana enroute. The only thing on my mind was whether it's dangerous to eat a banana that's more black than yellow.

And then then it happened. The 11 year old girl walking ahead of me just dropped. Her mum started shouting for help, and I looked around hoping some nice person was going to sort this kid out. Then I had that "oh yeah...I'M the doctor" moment that every medic will have had at some stage in their career.

Anyway, I made my way over to the girl an her mum, and worked out reasonably quickly that she'd just had a faint. I was on my knees beside her, just talking quietly to her, reassuring her that she was going to be fine. I didn't really notice what was going on around me. Until I turned around to see if I couild find someone who could call the emergency team. 

I was looking for one person. There were at least 15. Whoa!!! All these people just having a look at the poor kid. 

They were staring at her. She was staring at them. She looked horrified. They looked fascinated.

 So, I said "OK, guys, we're fine here, thanks". No-one budged. "Eh, could we please have some privacy here, please?". 
Two, maybe three or four, people walked away. The rest just kept staring. This girl looked so embarrassed, and I couldn't blame her.  So, I became more forceful, and stood up. I literally forced these grown adults away from her, and into the foyer. The emergency team came with a trolley, picked her up, and took her away. All was well with the world again.

So, why do people do this? I can understand the odd punter offering you their phone if you need to get help, or their first aid skills. But why just stand there and gawk? It's embarrassing for the patient, and it SHOULD be embarrassing for the person watcing. 

I remember once looking after a guy in a burger king, who'd keeled over.  The problem was so bad, that the excellent and ballsy security guard just decided to empty the store. He just threw every single solitary person out of the restaurant, and shut the big glass doors. When the incident was over, there was still a massive crowd, faces pushed up against the glass, desperate for a glance at this poor guy on the ground.

Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon? It's more of a concrete legs than a rubber neck situation, I think. 

As someone who has been part of the mob of medical students turning up unannounced to the bedside of sick patients hundreds of times, I shall continue to take the high moral ground on this issue :D

Apologies for the lack of blogging lately. I'm exceptionally busy in work and real life at the moment, and am likely to be for the next few months. So, please bear with me.

And thanks for the emails reminding me how slack I've been. You're an unforgiving people :D

Dr. Thunder.


  1. It reminds me of when some chap keeled over at a function. A man went up and took a cursory look at the victim and shouted, "Is anybody a doctor?" Reluctantly a young lady shuffled up, "Are you a doctor?" cried the man who was looking anxious. "Yes," she replied. "Thank God." he said. "I thought I was the only one.*

  2. Once I was leaving a theatre to find a collapsed person in the foyer. I asked if I could help, as I was a doctor. Someone gave me a cursory look (overweight, brigth burgandy hair), said "we already have a doctor" and turned their back on me.

    It was gut-wrenching because they weren't ventilating the person properly and couldn't work out how to use the defibrillator, but the collapsed person had so many people kneeling beside them I would have had to forcefully drag someone away from them to gain access to the patient.

    I had to walk away.

  3. I'm not a doctor but I'm guilty of being one of the gawkers. I never push through people just to get a better look, but from a distance I would sometimes stare for a little while.

    I think it's the whole train wreck and not being able to look away. When I drive by an accident, I always slow down to look. I don't why that is so fascinating. It's kind of sick in a way.

  4. Oh hooray! You're alive! :)

  5. I'll bet it was a collapsed person who thought up the phrase...

    "I wish the ground would open up and swallow me"

    Collapsing in public has to be one of the most mortifying experiences going. Why do the passing public feel obliged to stare? It's a weird phenomenon. The other annoying habit is when some twat in the crowd insists on phoning an ambulance and ignores your pleas to be allowed to recover in peace. Grrrr!

    Great to see you back on the beat.