We were called to an office for a man of about thirty years old. We arrived to find him lying on the floor amongst a maze of desks and chairs. Concerned colleagues were on hand to inform us that he was normally a fit and well man, but that day he had been feeling very stressed about a deadline looming for a project he had been working on. He complained of feeling unwell before suddenly collapsing to the floor where he had remained ‘unconscious’ ever since.
Had we needed to start any emergency treatment on him, it would have been really tricky because it was so cramped. We would have had to move furniture out of the way or lift him to somewhere where there was more space to work. Luckily, we were able to quickly assess the situation and felt that there was not really any urgency – because he appeared to be just pretending to be unconscious.
Why would we think such a thing? Well it was a combination of factors that informed our diagnosis, including the reports from his work mates about the project deadline being that morning, the surprisingly comfortable position he had assumed on the floor, the fact that all his observations were normal, but mostly it didn’t pass us by, that despite falling amid so many corners and hazards, he was rather fortunate to appear completely uninjured. This all suggested more of a controlled swoon than a drop of a stone. Generally, when people fall to the ground unconscious they rarely get away without a bruise or visible wound to show for it.
We lifted the ‘unconscious’ man on to our trolley bed and took him to the ambulance. His tests were still normal and all the time we encouraged him to talk to us and tell us what was going on so we could help him. Once he was in the privacy of the ambulance he ‘regained’ consciousness without any treatment or interventions from us. He blinked in the daylight and asked in a meek voice ‘What happened, where am I?’
‘You’ve been watching far too many episodes of Baywatch if you think that is what regaining consciousness is really like!’ I wanted to say, but bit my tongue instead. There may be no Oscar winging its way to this chap but he was clearly under stress at work and perhaps, looking for a way out, came up with the brain-wave idea of fainting. Perhaps he hoped he would be allowed to go home early to buy some time and finish the project. Instead his quick acting colleagues dialled 999 and within a couple of minutes the cavalry had arrived in a blaze of lights and sirens! What’s a man to do – Plan a) continue the pretence or Plan b) admit that he had be pulling a fast one and wasting everyone’s time?
Clearly he opted for ‘Plan a’ rather than risk total loss of dignity and respect of all his work colleagues who would be none the wiser; even if we were!