A Near Miss…!

April 7, 2007


As we approached the address we turned off the blue lights and pulled the vehicle up behind the police car already on scene. A quick scan of the immediate area showed that we were in one of the better parts of Big City…no burnt out cars, no gangs of kids, no loud hip hop/gansta noise and all the street lights seemed to be working.

Taking the resus bag and the response bag off the vehicle I made my way to the front door of the address. My crew mate followed closely behind with the defib/monitor. The call had come in as a “Cat A code Red unconscious query breathing”. We had no further details to go on so it was going to be a question of…“lets see!”

Too many times I have been caught out going to a high priority call only for it to be absolutely nothing at all! Usually after lugging all the kit up numerous flights of stairs and navigating various controlled access doors! But now it is a matter of always being on the safe side…as this job turned out to be.

Once inside the house, which seemed like any normal place with nice wallpaper and furniture, the WPC directed us upstairs whilst she continued consoling the young girl in her arms. She looked about nine or ten years old and even at a glance you could tell she was well cared for.

At the top of the stairs the second police officer led us into the main bedroom of the house and pointed to the body on the floor laid at the side of the bed. She was still…very still…and her colour was not the normal colour of a fully functioning person. Although she was on her side and her blonde hair partially covered her face, we could see that she was an attractive woman probably in her late twenties and smartly dressed.

As I stooped down to check for a carotid pulse before turning her onto her back and attaching the monitor, she gave a sigh. Just one small breath, almost imperceptible in the semi-dark confines of the room. To my right on the dressing table I spied the reason for her condition and the reason for our being there…a spoon, black on the bottom with some brown residue in the bowl. She had overdosed on heroin, and was about to stop breathing for ever unless we did something.

The police officer was shocked to realise that the body was still alive and I think embarrassed at missing the clue on the dressing table. We had arrived on scene a good ten minutes after the police. We quickly dragged the lifeless form of the female from the side of the bed into some working space, and whilst I started “bagging”with the resus kit my crew-mate place the monitoring leads on.

She had a weak pulse of 80 beats per minute only palpable at the carotid artery in the neck meaning that her blood pressure was very low. Whilst getting as much oxygen into her lungs as possible we estimated that she was only breathing for herself 3-4 times a minute. Not good! My crew-mate took over the bagging whilst I searched for a vein to gain IV access before she arrested on us. I was initially thinking that it would be difficult to find a vein yet surprisingly all her veins in her arms were intact. There was no evidence of injection marks between her fingers either so that meant only one thing…femoral vein injection…in the groin!

Sure enough a small patch of blood could be seen seeping through her knickers where she had injected. Obviously she had been using this site to avoid any tell tale marks which could be easily seen by family, friends or work colleagues. The police officer told us that she had been found by her young daughter who had then rang her gran who rang 999.

After 2 or 3 minutes of bagging, the patient started to breath more normally and we stopped, placing an O2 mask on her. The Narcan was drawn up and ready to use to reverse the respiratory depression caused by the opiates. It was not needed as the patients eyes flickered open and she attempted to sit up. A minute later and she was attempting to talk…where was her daughter? whats happened?

She made a full recovery. Things would have been different if she had not been found by her daughter. She told me why she had taken the heroin…her partner had o/d and died exactly a year previously and she had met some of his old friends who provided the drugs. On the surface she had everything…a beautiful daughter, very nice home, a good job and no shortage of admirers. Yet she still put that all to one side while she nearly killed herself…Why?