Episode Two of ’24 Hours in A&E’ – Coping Under Pressure
In this week’s episode staff discuss how A&E is somewhere they, as well as patients, face deeply challenging situations on a daily basis and people’s different coping mechanisms.
“The things I’ve seen during my career are things people never experience,” says emergency care nurse Simon. “You have to let your hair down and let loose once in a while.”
45-year-old Carole is brought to A&E by ambulance after suffering from chest pains and collapsing at home. Carole’s partner Ken found her and called 999. Tests reveal that Carole has had a heart attack and she’s given a blood-thinning drug and prepared for an emergency procedure to unblock an artery in her heart.
Carole talks about being put into care at the age of eleven, being abandoned by her mother and how she ended up using heroin. She and Ken knew each other in their twenties, but lost touch, only meeting again by chance recently.
Carole credits Ken with helping her turn her life around. “I wouldn’t have thought I’d be here even this long. Now I have a life and I love it, I don’t want to lose it,” she says. “I just wanted to belong somewhere which I’ve found now twenty years down the line with Ken.”
53-year-old psychiatrist Philip is rushed to St George’s following a seizure. Doctors suspect that the root cause might be a stroke and Neurology registrar Chris is there to assess Philip and quickly discovers that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer several months previously.
“Philip was the sort of person you could see yourself being in his shoes,” says doctor Chris. “He did ask ‘Could it be related to the cancer?’ and there’s clearly one answer to that ‘Yes, it could be related’.”
Philip’s close friend Claudia arrives to support him and his mother Marian talks about how Philip was a quiet child, always kind and gentle. She’s proud of his work. “He may not be talkative, but he was a very good listener and I suppose that’s what you need in psychiatry,” she says. “He worked with drug dependency, with heroin and other hard drugs. He told me he treated them all as gentlemen.”
Meanwhile 25-year-old Lucy has come to A&E with her mum Tracey because of a severe headache. “It felt like somebody had put a nail in my head and was hammering it in,” she says.
Lucy suffers from a condition called Intercranial Hypertension, a pressurised build up of excess spinal fluid in her head. While doctors work to ease the pressure and formulate a long-term plan of treatment Lucy talks about her admiration for her mum, who’s always been there to support her and her siblings.