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Good Samaritan

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Many people complain that Good Samaritans are few and far between. But actually I don’t believe that that is a true or fair reflection of affairs. I am always comforted by just how many kind souls do often stop to help our patients prior to our arrival; especially older patients who have suddenly taken unwell or had an accident in a public place. If someone has had a fall or an accident outdoors in the cold – a bit of reassurance and a coat or warm blanket goes a long way to making them feel more comfortable until we get there.

The use of mobile phones has caused a bit of a trend though which can be rather unhelpful despite well meaning intentions.

Picture this situation; an elderly lady has had a fall. She has tripped and banged her head and is bleeding quite a lot but is otherwise alert and well. The Good Samaritan stops and calls for an ambulance. He then kindly offers to phone family members on the casualty’s mobile phone.

And that is exactly what happened to an older lady, Jeanie, who I was called to the other day. She had a daughter in the USA and the passer by had rung her to inform her that her beloved mother had had ‘a dreadful fall’. She was ‘bleeding profusely’ he said, he also added that he ‘had called an ambulance and that she’d be rushed to hospital’ – and just for a bit of extra detail he mentioned that to her that ‘it looked really bad – they will probably give her a scan’. Thank you Dr Samaritan!

Imagine the panic if you were to receive that gem of a phone call out of the blue! This poor daughter was on the other side of the ocean and now she had an image of her dear elderly mother bleeding to death in the mean streets of London.

When I arrived I found a cheerful Jeanie sitting on a bench. She had a small cut on her head that was responsible for all the blood – and possibly also responsible for the heart attack that her daughter was now probably having in the USA!

I took Jeanie to her own home in my car. Once there I assessed her, cleaned and glued her head back together and left her in the capable hands of her husband. Before I left though we also quickly called her daughter back. Hearing Jeanie speak was reassuring for her daughter and put her out of her misery; thankfully it was enough to stop her from booking herself on the next London bound flight.

The moral of the story is I guess, that right in the middle of a crisis possibly isn’t the best time for a stranger with no qualifications in breaking bad news to be phoning relatives.

Remember if you do come across an incident that requires an ambulance;

  • Give a really clear indication of where the ambulance is required, how many casualties there are and the nature of the injuries
  • If you have used your mobile phone to call – keep it free in case we need to ring you back for further information
  • Don’t give the casualty anything to eat or drink
  • Don’t perch the casualty (who has fallen once already) precariously on a stool or wall. One fall is enough, just keep them on a sturdy chair or on the floor where they can fall no further!
  • Reassure them and keep them warm – or cool depending on the season!
  • If you feel you must phone relatives, let the casualty speak for themselves, as it will be really reassuring to hear their voice and does at least let their loved ones know that they are actually conscious
  • Don’t say which hospital the casualty is going to as that will be subject to the nature and extent of any injuries and some casualties don’t even need to go to hospital – we don’t want anxious relatives driving dangerously to hospital – but especially not to the wrong hospital!

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