Dealing with trauma is challenging at the best of times, but with the added stress of a mysterious respiratory illness threatening everyone’s health and wellbeing, emergency room doctors and nurses seemingly have their work cut out for them. Covid is just the beginning.
In the latest season of 24 Hours in Emergency, we take a look back at some of the most memorable moments from the A&E at Kings College Hospital and St George’s in South London, where it’s impossible to check your emotions at the door – and ultimately tensions run high.
Acts of kindness
While people occasionally do cruel and awful things to one another, Kings College Hospital consultant Des says it’s the simple acts of kindness that are the most surprising and unexpected things he encounters among his trauma patients in the emergency room.
Case in point: when an unknown 20-year-old woman is brought into resus following a brutal random attack, her saviour is a passerby named Andrew, who called for help. While Des and the team frantically race to save the woman’s life, Andrew struggles to come to terms with the loneliness of her situation. Who is she? Will she survive? Time is running out.
On the edge
Having the occasional tipple or two is a crutch many people choose to enjoy to ease the pressures of everyday life, but as Des explains, alcohol and smoking-related injuries are the most common reasons why people end up in the ER.
So, when 71-year-old Pat is found unconscious after collapsing at home for the second time in a week, husband Bill assumes that her drinking has gone too far. But doctors reveal that there’s something else going on.
What’s really going on
Looks can be deceiving – especially in the emergency room, where doctors and nurses sometimes have barely enough time to determine the cause of injury, let alone contemplate someone’s traumatic life story and the pain that may have led them to where they are today.
In a confronting episode, we meet 48-year-old Bobby, whose epilepsy is seemingly out of control, which has left his partner Jackie at a loss. But unbeknownst to the staff at Kings College, Bobby’s harrowing backstory may explain the reason for his condition.
Touching times for the staff
Dealing with repeated traumas can often lead to a seemingly stoic and tough outward exterior, but for Kings College senior nurse Jen, a random encounter with a 91-year-old woman named Rose, who arrives battered and bruised, will stir up painful emotions from the past.
In heartbreaking scenes from the throwback episode, which shows the frail 91-year-old fighting back tears as she reveals the grim reality of getting old alone, Jen reflects on her own personal heartache after watching her grandmother’s health slowly decline over the years.
A trip to the emergency room can be especially scary for children. So, when four-year-old Maddie is rushed to St George’s after falling and injuring her neck on a train, dad Adam struggles to put on a brave front, while doctors perform urgent tests on the youngster.
The situation is emotionally stressful not only for the anxious father and his daughter, who recently underwent complex surgery to repair a neck bone abnormality, but also for junior doctor Jerry, whose close interaction with the pair triggers painful memories from her past.
The Best of 24 Hours in Emergency premieres on SBS on Monday 1 November at 9.30pm. See more episodes of 24 Hours in Emergency at SBS On Demand.