*Feeling a little yellow today?

You have to wonder, sometimes, just what it is that motivates some people to dial 999. At 2 o’clock the other morning it was definitely guilt – no doubt about it.

I trundled on round to meet Ethel, a lovely lady in her late 70s who seemed completely mystified as to why everyone was making a fuss. She felt fine she said and didn’t think anything was wrong. Trouble was Ethel was yellow. From head to foot, including the sclera of her eyes, she was yellow. The most obvious diagnosis was jaundice.

It’s rare that an ambulance would be called for a case of jaundice unless a doctor had arranged for hospital admission and transport was required. In this instance Ethel’s daughter had called in to see her the previous day and was concerned about her colour. She’d told her father to take mum to see the doctor but he’d not bothered as Ethel said she felt ok. The daughter had then gone home and decided to look up jaundice on the internet. It wasn’t pleasant reading. That evening she discussed the condition with her husband and they both agreed that Ethel needed to see a doctor. So why a 999 call at 2 in the morning? Well guilt really, because they were off on holiday the next morning and the daughter felt she couldn’t go away without making sure Ethel was being looked after. So she and her husband had driven round in the middle of the night, got Ethel out of bed, and having discovered that Dad hadn’t taken Ethel to see the doctor, they’d call for an ambulance.

When I arrived they’d worked themselves up into a right old state. I had to fight my way through a fog of smoke to find Ethel as they were all puffing away on fags and the air was thick and very unpleasant; I’ve probably got lung cancer now from passive smoking. Cough, cough, cough, cough.

Apparently Ethel had been a yellowish colour for over a week but no one seemed to think this odd. She also had a long history of odematous legs which had become exacerbated over the last fortnight. This they did do something about and the GP had prescribed ‘another’ diuretic. Ethel was now on three of them; furosemide, torasemide and (can’t remember what the other one was, possibly bumetanide) – she should have been weeing for Britain. As a result of the recent addition of torasemide the family said her legs had started weeping from the copious bruises she’d sustained. Again none of the family seemed to think this peculiar enough to warrant a further visit to the doctor.

I spoke to the on-call medic at the hospital and she was happy to have Ethel admitted for further investigation. I explained to the family that Ethel could be seen at the local hospital but that an ambulance might take a couple of hours. “No problem”, they said, “we’ll take her up there ourselves seeing as she can walk ok”.

Ah. A result in the end, but wouldn’t it have just been easier to have seen the GP a week earlier instead of having to cart mum off to hospital at 2 o’clock in the morning?

As soon as I got home the washing machine went into overdrive trying to de-smoke my uniform – yuk! Trying to detox my lungs may take a little longer. Maybe the ambulance service should issue us with gasmasks!

*Picture from


One Response to Yellow

  1. excalibur says:

    very insightful read, thankyou.

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