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Dublin: 19 °C Sunday 21 July, 2019
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Violent patients, overdoses, attacks and babies arriving - Saturday night for Dublin's paramedics

Ambulance crews must go to where they are called to and they never know what the next call entails.

‘I JUST WANT to die’ – these are not unusual words for the paramedics who work on ambulances in Dublin to hear every night.

On Saturday, while TheJournal.ie was out with just one team of advanced paramedics from Dublin Fire Brigade, we witnessed them dealing with two overdoses.

One case was that of a 52-year-old woman who described how recent family disagreements had left her feeling she had no other choice.

A number of her teenage children waited outside her bedroom door as the woman explained to the team how she had been working herself up to taking the tablets.

Another case was a man in his 50s who was living in a hostel. There were a number of empty bottles of methadone on the locker by his bed, suggesting he may have overdosed on the heroin substitute.

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He became very aggressive when taken to hospital and at one stage it took five people to hold him down in a bed while medical staff tried to figure out exactly what he had consumed.

With nine people around his bed at one stage, he simply told the paramedics, nurses and doctors:

It’s up to you to find out what I took … I want to die.

Alcohol  

Advanced paramedics Denis Finnerty and Colin McGovern explained how drink is also a major factor in a huge percentage of calls they receive – especially at the weekend.

IMG_3640 Colin McGovern (left) and Denis Finnerty (right).

While TheJournal.ie was out with the crew, the majority of people treated by the paramedics in the incidents we attended had been drinking alcohol.

One call, at around 8.30pm, came from a young woman who was drinking with her father in St Patrick’s Park in the south inner city.

She called reporting that her father had had an epileptic seizure. The 56-year-old man was found passed out in the park beside a bottle of white wine that was half empty.

He was slightly aggressive with the paramedics, stating, “I don’t want to be diagnosed by you people.”

His daughter explained that they were drinking together and that he had also finished a naggin of vodka and half a bottle of wine.

Finnerty and McGovern remained polite and concerned – regardless of the behaviour of anybody in their ambulance – and kept patients calm by talking to them on the journey to the hospital.

The man did calm down before being brought into the emergency department and asked, “Am I going to die?”. However, he quickly became aggressive towards the medical staff in St James’s hospital when he was admitted.

At around 2.30am on Sunday morning, a call was received from an elderly man.

When paramedics reached his house, they discovered the man had fallen into his bath while using the toilet and was unable to get out. Firefighters were called to enter through the front door and the man was then taken to hospital.

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His speech was slurred as he described how he had drank six pints while watching the Ireland match earlier in the day.

He continually questioned the paramedics about the safety of his house and they in turn explained how the door had been closed and fixed before they left his house.

He thanked Finnerty and McGovern while being taken out of the ambulance on a stretcher, saying, “You’ve been very good to me, thank you.”

On entering hospital, the 75-year-old was seemingly well known to the nurses.

Wrong place, wrong time

Earlier in the evening, an ambulance crew was called to a man who was assaulted in Crumlin.

The 45-year-old described how he was attacked at random and his watch was stolen.

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He was taken to the emergency department at around 7.30pm, after gardaí at the scene of the attack spoke to him about the assault and theft.

TheJournal.ie saw that the man was still sitting at the emergency department at 3.30am, although the wounds to his head were bandaged.

Euro 2016

Ireland had played Belgium in the Euro 2016 Championship on Saturday afternoon, and while the paramedic team TheJournal.ie went out with didn’t witness any incidents of fans who were intoxicated, other teams did.

At the hospital emergency departments, the ambulance teams often cross over as they drop patients off.

Other crews described how they were called to a young man who collapsed in a McDonald’s on O’Connell Street at 10pm after he had been drinking all day while watching the match.

Another team described how a young man collapsed outside a pub after drinking from 12 in the afternoon and not eating any food. That call also came in at around 10pm.

We also witnessed a man wearing an Ireland jersey with a large bandage on his head and cuts to his face, describing how he had jumped out of the ambulance on his way to the hospital.

At 10.30pm, we heard about a call where three men were attacked and seriously assaulted by a group at Bachelor’s Walk.

One of the men was sitting waiting in the emergency department with blood clotted in his hair and his top covered in blood. The gardaí were called to the scene, but the culprits were long gone.

Never know what’s next 

Ambulance crews must go to where they are called to and they never know what the next call entails.

The hours are long, with night shifts lasting from 6pm to 9am, and the paramedics need to be prepared for anything.

During the nine hours that TheJournal.ie shadowed the paramedics, we were called to an assault, two overdoses, an epileptic seizure, a cardiac arrest and a man who had a sick stomach – among others.

Just after 9.20pm, a call came in reporting that a young woman had gone into labour.

When paramedics arrived at the scene, they discovered the woman’s water had broken and she was 10 days overdue.

On the way to the Rotunda, the woman described how she finished her last Leaving Cert exam the day before. The father of the child came in the ambulance with the young woman.

The team also dealt with a 68-year-old woman who was experiencing chest pain and had a cardiac history.

The woman was checked thoroughly at the house before being brought to hospital.

During all incidents witnessed by TheJournal.ie, the paramedics constantly tried to calm the people in their care and relaxed them by talking through the process.

Even in extreme states of distress – most of the people recognised this and thanked the paramedics for their care. And in the cases where the paramedics were verbally abused, and at times physically, they remained calm and respectful.

When asked how they deal with the stress of very difficult patients, the paramedics said they approach each person with the mindset that it could be a member of their family.

Read: Paramedic goes the extra mile to help older woman whose husband died on Irish ferry>

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