Tchaikovsky’s 6th

A hoarders paradise.  This was the best way to describe the home we were currently in.  Stacks and stacks of old magazines, newspapers, books, leaflets, letters, bills – as well as boxes, plates, tins, brushes and all other odds and ends that you could possibly collect and stack precariously on top of one and other over an inveterate period of time.

The moment you attempted to scoop aside any volume of material to make way for room then a landslide of other debris took its place.  A small Victorian walnut coffee table was lifted in a vein effort of creating a few inches of space only to cause an avalanche of paperwork and books, some of which, including D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ collapsed onto our patients face . . . who lay crumpled in a heap, currently in cardiac arrest . . .

There were by far enough of us to work on this poor woman, just not enough room.  Still, we did the best we could under the circumstances – as you always do.  Like clockwork we all cracked on with our tasks . . . CPR, airway, BVM, pads, monitoring, IV access.  Ah, IV access . . . it only takes one look at a patient to realise that IV access might be a problem.  This patient was such a case.  This meant having to result to I/O (Intraosseous – ‘drilling’ into a bone).  But even then it was difficult due to the patient’s size and it took several attempts before we were able to administer any drugs.

Part way through our proceedings the husband, a slender and polite looking man with his head crooked permanently to one side, leant over the sofa patiently waiting his turn to speak.

“I say there dear chaps,”  his voice was gentle, calm and typically British, “thank you so much for coming.  My next door neighbour would be delighted to know if you would all like a cup of tea whilst you work?”

A sudden image of us working-class types stopping mid cardiac arrest for a “brew up” crossed my mind.  Adding in the equation of Rich Tea biscuits suddenly made me blink and snap out of it.

“No thank you sir.  Thanks all the same, but, we are rather busy”.

The husband smiled broader than he had before, turned and shuffled off to the next room where he proceeded to fiddle about with an old hi-fi system.  Within seconds, the 4th movement of Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony started playing, adding a strange dark ambiance over the whole situation.  Every now and then the husband would return to the stereo and increase the volume until we were all acutely aware of the lamenting adagio chords filtering around the room and hanging over us like a dark cloud of sinister doom.

Under Hollywood standards this might of been a poignant time to ‘call it’ – especially with the music’s crescendo meeting it’s crux.  But, under the circumstances, we’d managed to get ROSC (Return of Spontaneous Circulation) . . . ie, we’d got a pulse.  And thus ensued the next awkward stage of egress – how to get our patient out of the flat, down the stairs, onto the Ambulance and ultimately – to hospital.

Usually in films, when something like ROSC is obtained there’s a theatrical camera edit from when the patient is miraculously brought back to life to when they arrive at hospital.  What you don’t see is the mass of tangled wires, kit bags, clinical waste, pouring sweat and the patient dragged undignified across the floor on a carry sheet and carried unceremoniously down the stairs to lots of grunts and swearing.

On top of this our patient sadly arrested again whilst en route to hospital and after a short battle to keep her alive in resuss, the doctors finally called it.

The husband, brought in by another FRU, was informed by the staff at the hospital.  However, we never saw him again.

But one thing’s for sure . . . that blasted tune stayed stuck in my head.  Beautiful yet bloody damning at the same time.