This type of call always comes up as a high priority, and a paramedic will always be sent in case the patient needs a medication called Diazepam to help stop the fits. But things aren’t always what they seem at first glance…
I arrived ahead of the ambulance and found a young lady of 16 years called Neela lying on the bed of a small guest house crying. Her anxious boyfriend, who was a couple of years older than her, was tearful as he explained to me what had been going on.
He told me that they must see each other secretly because she is Bengali and he isn’t; her parents are completely unaware that she even has a boyfriend. It would, he told me, put Neela at great risk of harm from her family should they discover what was going on between them. The family were also quite unaware that she was 20 weeks pregnant.
It transpired that social services had assisted Neela and her boyfriend to travel to London and helped them make the necessary arrangements for a late medical termination of her pregnancy. This procedure is only carried out in two centres in the UK and the young couple had undertaken the arduous train journey to London, arriving early that morning. The first part of the procedure had already taken place with the final element due to take place the next morning, only a few hours before the long return journey home. I was curious how they had engineered the situation so that her family wouldn’t suspect anything; Neela told me that they thought she was at a ‘sleep-over’ at a friend’s house in her home town when in fact the were holed up in a guest house over 120 miles away.
However, it would seem that the enormity of having the termination was now weighing heavy on their young consciences and during a heated discussion that evening, the girl had began to have a ‘panic attack’ (and not some kind of fit as was first thought). Rather than being treated for a medical emergency, what these two needed was a lot of support and TLC. After a quick assessment I cancelled the ambulance and started to get some details from Neela to see how I could help.
As we were chatting, her mobile phone rang.
‘It’s my mum.’
‘You should probably answer that’ I suggested gently, ‘Otherwise she’ll begin to suspect something is wrong.’
‘I just can’t speak to her at the moment’ she replied sobbing, ‘I’m too upset and she’ll hear it in my voice’. It rang another five or six times but still she couldn’t answer it. Then she saw that the next call was her friend Mili’s number – the friend she was meant to be at the ‘sleepover’ with – quickly she answered the phone. It was worrying news.
‘Your mum’s phoned here looking for you because you didn’t answer your mobile, she knows that you aren’t here, I had to tell her because obviously I couldn’t get you to speak to her, she is getting really angry and so I said you’d gone to the shops, but it’s late so I don’t think she believed me you’ve got to ring her now Neela’ Mili said.
When she hung up Neela appeared really worried, she looked at me and asked what she should do next.
I knew that if she was found out she would be in grave danger of reprisals from her family and I really wanted to help but I was at a loss for a better idea and I could only suggest that she rang her social worker for advice. Before she had a chance to do this though, the phone rang again and this time it was her mother. As Neela let it ring she turned to face me and pleaded,
‘I know, you can speak to her, pretend you are Mili’s mum, just tell her I was out at the shops please’
‘Isn’t Mili’s mum Bengali though?’ I asked
‘Yes, but her accent isn’t strong it’s more like a UK accent, it’s a bit Welsh too actually.’
‘I really can’t, I’m sorry, I’m absolutely rubbish at accents – I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.’ I wondered what sage advice and guidance my Professional Code of Conduct would offer me for this particular situation (mental note to self – carry the Code of Conduct on person at all times from now on).
‘Please, she’ll kill me, please help me? ‘And then she answered the phone before I could protest again. As the conversation went on between them she said suddenly, ‘You can talk to Mili’s mum if you don’t believe me, she’s just here.’
Oh no! I thought, please no! I shook my head furiously. Thankfully Neela’s mum chose not to take up the offer to speak to ‘Mili’s mum’, having at last got hold of her daughter she seemed temporarily satisfied with the situation and agreed to pick up the discussion when she got home the next day.
With the situation now calmed down and Neela’s social worker updated there was nothing more that I could do really apart from offer some advice about calling us back if we were needed. No medical assistance was required so I left the young couple to support each other. The next day the social worker kindly got back in touch with me to let me know that they had both got home safely.