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Things come in threes

There’s a folk saying (or was when I was growing up) that things happen in threes – three good things together, or three bad things, or three strange things.

Here’s a ‘three’ thing.

Weekend before last I drive to the end of the street, stop to look for traffic. A guy is walking along on the other side of the road. There’s no traffic so I begin to pull out and the guy collapses before my eyes. I stop, check him over, he’s unconscious but breathing, and bleeding from a head wound caused by the fall. Call emergency services (112 in the UK of you call from a mobile, incidentally – 999 will transfer you to a national control centre but 112 connects to the nearest centre to you as determined by the mobile network). I stay with him, do what I can about the head wound and reassure him as he comes round, by which time paramedics are on scene.

Last weekend V was stung by a bee. This isn’t normally a medical crisis but V’s condition makes it problematic. We’ve had the appropriate training, fortunately, and deal with it. If you’re wondering, vinegar soaked into a tissue and applied to the sting appears to be a good home remedy for cutting down pain and swelling, though in V’s case we also had to sort out some additional medication…

Last night, coming back from a meeting, I’m at the airport and a guy collapses about ten yards away from me. Actually two other people get there first, and luckily one of them is a doctor – I just get to be the one who calls the paramedics.

I’ve held a first aid qualification since the days I worked in an organisation, but the worst I dealt with there was someone who sprained a wrist, someone who smacked themselves in the eye accidentally while opening a car door, and someone who cut their hand while trying to move a filing cabinet. I seem to have met far more first aid situations since I’ve been freelance…

What struck me about the three recent incidents was this. Two of them happened in a public place (street, airport terminal building) and in both cases, some of those who became passers-by assumed the problem was alcohol. In the first instance, I had people standing around saying ‘He’s pissed, isn’t he – bloody alcoholic’; last night people were more restrained in their views but I’d lay money that some were thinking it. Nope – the guy in the street turned out to be diabetic and suffering a drop in blood sugar; the guy at the airport was having an epileptic seizure.

It is fair comment that many of those who do collapse on the street these days are suffering from alcohol intake (or drugs) – we know the UK has a binge drinking problem. But does this assumption have a corrosive effect? Because, for example, a diabetic suffering blood sugar loss will, for a time, look and act like they’re drunk before they collapse, and after they do collapse they look like a drunk who’s sleeping it off. Except unlike a drunk, they’ll go into a coma without treatment.

Short conclusion: despite any ‘common sense’ notions that might key you in to the context of ‘collapsing in public = falling down drunk’, you can’t assume that’s what’s going on.

My 2p worth. And maybe the ‘rule of three’ means that’s three similar things all in a short space of time and I won’t have to deal with first aid stuff again for a while…

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