Free falling

Falling any distance is never good. During my career I saw falls from many different heights.

Often we were called to elderly or disabled people who fell out of bed. Sometimes we simply helped them back to bed and made them a cup of tea, other times they’d break bones or their social circumstances were unsatisfactory and we would take them to hospital.

I also spent a number of hours at a popular local site for jumpers – people who had decided they’d had enough of life and chose to jump from a height, in these cases, from a high bridge in the city centre. We would sit out of sight with other emergency services, “silent standby”, waiting in case they chose to jump. Thankfully, my experiences were good outcomes and the patient changed their mind or was talked out of it, usually by a trained negotiator. For some of my colleagues, their experiences were not so good. There were other occasions, at other locations where the person jumping got their wish. It’s really not a good way to die.

Then there were the accidental falls from heights, the unfortunate ones who lost their grip or hadn’t realised it was so far down. One of these was a young climber who slipped while climbing a natural rock face. They hadn’t fallen far, or at least if didn’t look that far, but it was enough to do some damage. By the time we arrived they had scraped their way back up on a pathway next to the rock face using their hands. We began to examine the patient and discovered they’d landed on their feet. The narrow bone in one of their lower legs had fractured in the impact and was protruding from the side of the of their foot in a very strange and grotesque looking way. The patient had panicked and was so pumped up with adrenaline that they hadn’t noticed!

Another memorable “fall” was self inflicted. The patient lived on the second/top floor of an apartment complex. It was a reasonably nice apartment complex so their apartment had a roof garden. Having had a rather large argument with their partner in that roof garden, the patient fount themselves locked out of the apartment and worked out that they were stranded on the roof. At this point I should probably mention the high quantity of recreational drugs both parties had taken. In their, somewhat scrambled state, the patient decided that, since they couldn’t get into the apartment via the roof garden entrance, they would go in via the front door on the ground floor, and the quickest way down was…. You can guess the rest!

Luckily there was slightly springy grass at the bottom. That didn’t prevent multiple fractures. We arrived to a still very high, fairly cheery and bemused, somewhat broken patient, lying next to a sizable dent in the grass where they had landed. After fully immobilising the patient and splinting both fractured legs, we put them in the Ambulance and began the journey to hospital. That was when the recreational drugs began to wear off and the pain kicked in. Unfortunately, due to the nature of said recreational drugs, there were strong contraindications regarding all the analgesia at our disposal. The latter part of the journey was noisy as the pain got worse. I never found out how long it was before the A&E staff was able to give the patient some pain relief, but they were still making a lot of noise when we dropped our next patient off (bad pun intended).

Gravity – use it as it’s intended to be used. Misuse is usually painful, sometimes fatal.

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