Halloween (true) anecdote

This is a true anecdote and seems appropriate for Halloween time.  Here goes…

One morning Tony and I had signed on for our 0700-1900 shift and we were given a job straight away.  It was a reported elderly male who had collapsed and was unresponsive to his family.  A suspected cardiac arrest.  The family had declined to attempt CPR.  On the way to the job, we didn’t speak much – neither of us are morning people.  I was mentally preparing what equipment to take in – all the gear we would need to attempt resuscitation.  I would grab the first response bag and drugs bag and go straight in, Tony following shortly behind me after gathering the monitor/defibrillator, suction gear and advanced airway bag.

We arrived outside the address, a terraced house.  The front door was open so I went straight in.  I walked through the front room into the kitchen dining room where several family members were gathered: an elderly gent was sitting next to a low table looking at his cup of tea and toasted tea cake, an elderly female was standing, in tears with a middle aged man holding her.  As I walked in, the lady pointed to the stairs in the corner and sobbed “He’s up there…”  As I walked across the room to the stairs I asked what had happened.  The Lady said her husband had collapsed on the way to the bathroom and she had been unable to wake him.  She called her son who came straight round and then rang the ambulance.  By now the gentleman had been down about 30 minutes.  I always feel that on jobs like this I must seem very abrupt and almost rude, but at this point of the job we quickly need some basic information as we are assessing the patient to make the big decision whether to attempt resuscitation or not.  I walked quickly up the stairs, Tony behind me with the rest of the resuscitation gear and found the gentleman collapsed on the hallway.  After assessing him we decided that it would be pointless to attempt to resuscitate – we would have had no chance of success and would have only prolonged the pain of false hope for the family.  As Tony started to pack the equipment away, I went back down the stairs to break the news to the 3 family members in the kitchen.  I was quite struck by the resemblance the patient had to the elderly gent sat down by the table, I presumed they must be brothers, maybe even twins.

I walked into the dining room and now there were only 2 people there, the patient’s wife and middle aged man who was his son.  The elderly ‘twin’ was not there.  I broke the news as gently as I could that the patient had died and we would not be able to resuscitate.  I gave his wife and son chance to comfort each other as the terrible news sank in.  As I got the paperwork ready to get some details, I wondered where the patient’s twin had gone, I assumed he must live very near; I made a mental note that we would have to make sure he was also offered support along with the family before we left.  I started to get the gentleman’s details from his wife and son and generally chatted about his life as I was explaining to them what would be happening over the next few hours and advising of the various means of support available to them.  As part of our conversation I asked about the gentleman’s brother and if he had any other brothers or sisters.  His wife looked puzzled and said that he had no brothers, sisters or any other family than her and their son.  She saw me looking at the small table with a cup of tea and toasted tea cake on a small plate and started sobbing again – that was the table he always sat at for his breakfast, she had prepared it and put it there just before he collapsed – he never got chance to have it.

Later in the ambulance talking to Tony, I decided to risk his derision and told him what I had seen; normally very skeptical of anything supernatural he said that he had goose bumps because he had seen him too.

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