The Nation's Health + Paramedic

Coffee, Lizards and a Mongoose

"49 year old female, head shaking"

Sometimes you have simply awful days, other times you utterly fabulous days. Admittedly the latter is a rarity but I'm glad to report that today was one of them. A shift can be made or broken by the person you are working with. 12 hours in what is effectively a yellow tin can, can be an utterly trying experience with a total arse. On the flip side, 12 hours working with a certain few people can not only fly by, but also be great fun. After a hearty breakfast we dragged our weary and tired carcasses into the ambulance to trundle out into the 6am darkness. Joy. Deep deep joy.....

The day followed a pattern. Job, eat, coffee. Job, eat, coffee. Etc etc. After a plethora of patients who had either not needed an ambulance or not needed carrying to the ambulance the shift was almost at an end. We pulled up outside a rather bedraggled looking building of flats. Sure enough, we were needed on the top floor and with a rather vague history or 'head shaking' we rang the buzzer.

'Who is it?'

I wanted to say 'It's the King of Siam' or 'It's the second gunman from the grassy knoll'. You phoned an ambulance 4 minutes ago, we had sirens blaring as we pulled up outside the house and now there is a ring on the doorbell. It really isn't too hard to fathom. Anyway, despite what the inner sanctum of my psyche was telling me to say, 'ambulance' was all I mustered!

We plodded up the 6 flights of stairs and knocked on the door of the flat.

'Who is it?'

Really?! *insert sarcastic responses*

'Ambulance'

The door slowly opened and a lady stood in the doorway with a rather blank expression on her face. She invited us in, and disappeared off into her lounge. We duly followed. She started to tell me what was wrong but I couldn't concentrate. I was transfixed on the bizarre surroundings I had found myself in! Most people, myself included have some kind of theme to the decor of a room. Perhaps it's a colour theme, a feature wall, ornaments to match the furnishings. Maybe it's minimalistic, futuristic, antique. We trawl through catalogues stealing every good idea we can, in the vain attempt to pass off as our own inspirational masterpiece. However, a shrine to lizards isn't something I've come across at the Ideal Home Show.

Yes, a shrine. To lizards. Models, photos, paintings, books and masks. I can assure you she was no herpetologist but she clearly had a penchant for reptiles. The drawings were bizarre and definitely not anatomically correct! The centrepiece to the room was a huge cage of sorts, inside was a lizard of some description. I was transfixed! It was one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen!

It transpired that the patient had a mental health history and this 'head shaking' was something she had presented with before. The GP was aware and she didn't need to go to the hospital. Whilst checking her over I asked about the lizards.....

'They are my sons. He thinks that he is an alien. Maybe he is. I'm not sure.'

How does one respond to that? Either the fact that he thinks he is an alien or the fact his mother a) doesn't seem concerned about this fact and b) is under the impression it was a possibility! By this point my crewmate had disappeared from sight. I knew she was bound to have a beaming smile on her face and be seriously struggling to maintain any kind of composure. It was taking every bit of concentration on my behalf not to laugh. I know there are clearly underlying mental health problems but it's impossible not to find some of the things we see amusing, even if there is a sad tale running parallel with it.

Back in the ambulance, doing the paperwork, we had our laugh. And we laughed hard. As is often the case, conversations tend to evolve based on our patients. In this case lizards in particular. From lizards we ended up discussing how the mongoose lives on lizards. Then it was what the plural of mongoose was. Was is mongooses? Mongeese? So many questions to answer! Apparently if I was a lizard, I'd be a Gekko. Why, I'm not entirely sure but despite my best attempts at pushing for something with 'dragon' in the title I was put in my place. We really are a weird lot!

A short while later, the time came for me to return to the lizard den with the paperwork.

'If you're not back in 5 minutes, I'll send in the mongoose.'

She didn't even look up.

I bloody love days like today! We really are a random bunch!

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