It was given as “police on scene, male stabbing; no further details”.
The call came in on a beautiful, warm summer evening but no sooner had I started to drive there when the heavens opened. The wipers were in overdrive trying to keep my screen clear for the high speed, blue-light journey. I put my foot down and was there within only a couple of minutes.
I arrived to find a solitary police man kneeling over a male on the ground. At first glance I couldn’t tell if my patient was dead or alive. I parked half on and half off of the pavement, left the lights flashing and grabbed as much kit as I could carry. As I walked towards them it was now clear that the man was conscious and the police officer was talking to him and attempting to reassure him.
He was laying face down on the pavement; he said he had been attacked in the park by a group of young males. Initially he thought that he had only been punched but as he ran away he suddenly felt very weak and breathless; finally able to go no further he collapsed just outside of the park gates where a passerby called for help.
As I pulled on my gloves I knelt down onto the wet pavement on the opposite side of the young man from the police officer. The victim, who I shall call Gary, was a young man in his early twenties. I asked him a few quick questions about his breathing and his pain. He was very pale, in a lot of pain and having difficulty with his breathing; he also felt really sick.
I knew the ambulance would be arriving soon, but every second counts, so I tried to do as much as I could in the meantime to stabilise Gary’s condition. I made good use of the officer and got him to use my tough scissors to begin removing all his clothes so that I could visualise his injuries better.
Gary’s airway and breathing were a priority so I listened to his chest to assess his breathing and put an oxygen mask on his face. I checked his torso – front and back – for stab wounds; worryingly I found five of them. There was a real risk of serious injury to Gary’s heart, lungs and other vital organs. So I put in two needles, one to each arm, in case I needed to be able to give any drugs or fluids if his condition suddenly deteriorated. I also gave him some morphine for the pain; but I was really worried that at any time he would go into cardiac arrest from his severe injuries – time was of the essence.
Gary was scared – who wouldn’t be? At that moment I am sure that he thought he was dying; he kept looking at us in turn, straight in the eyes and saying ‘thank you for helping me’, while we just muttered pathetic words of reassurance to him in return. Obviously with five stab wounds to the chest and abdomen there was a real risk that Gary could deteriorate at anytime and this fact was something that all three of us were acutely aware of.
Gary ‘thanking me’ made me feel under quite a bit of additional pressure. For me it is different caring for someone who is alive and talking when you arrive and then have them die in front of you in comparison to arriving when they are already in cardiac arrest and you never got the opportunity to make that human connection.
Thankfully the ambulance crew and further police officers arrived within minutes. We worked together then to remove the last of Gary’s clothes so we could check for any further injuries to his limbs that we may have missed, and we covered him with a blanket. Once inside the ambulance and out of the rain, we did checks on his blood pressure and pulse and reassessed his breathing to detect any changes. Simultaneously the police were cordoning of the area as a crime scene and contacting his next of kin.
Gary needed to be in a trauma hospital – fast – so we placed a call to let them know that we were coming in and informed them of the nature of Gary’s injuries so they could be prepared for him when we arrived. We travelled through the streets with the lights flashing and sirens on to push through the traffic.
The police officer travelled with us to hospital in the back of the ambulance and we reassured Gary as best we could during the journey. I couldn’t imagine how terrifying it must have been for Gary; what started out as an ordinary day ended with him being viciously attacked and then hurtling through the streets with lights flashing and sirens blaring not knowing if he was going to live or die.
Once we reached the trauma centre we handed Gary over to the awaiting team and stayed to help out a little. More police officers arrived and I saw one with Gary’s partner who was clearly very distressed.
Gary required extensive emergency surgery. I followed up Gary’s case and found that despite serious injuries to his lungs and liver, thankfully he survived this random attack by strangers, although he will need continuing medical care. I would imagine that the psychological scars will take a lot longer to heal, if they ever do.