As a gastro medical/surgical ward, my ward sees a lot of alcoholics. Many of these are frequent flyers. Many bloggers from the ambulance service tell you about the trouble drunks give them on a regular basis. So I thought I would give you a little insight into what happens when those drunks actually get admitted to hospital.
Michelle(obviously a pseudoname) has wrecked her body with drink. Her brain barely functions and she often just sits and stares at the wall, saliva streaming out of her mouth and pooling in her lap. She is perfectly mobile and can answer direct questions. Her liver barely filters out the everyday toxins that wouldnt cause a healthly liver any problems. These toxins occasionally accumulate and attack her brain further. She has been a regular on and off the ward for almost a decade. Every time she comes in, we stablise her with a regimin of vitamin supplements and iv fluids and discharge her. The doctors insist their tests show she is mentally fit enough to look after herself, so they release her back to her home which has no electricity, no heating, and no water because the complexities of paying bills is a little beyond her level of comprehension. That night shes found roaming the streets of her town, naked in the pouring rain. Shes brought back into A&E, they send her back to us and the cycle starts again.
Now section three of the mental health act states that any patient who is deemed a danger to themselves or others should be placed into an appropriate mental facility where they can at best be rehabilitated, at worst protected from themselves. However the medical team in their infinite wisdom suggest that this women isnt a danger to herself. Their tests prove it.
On this ward I am learning how truely frustrating this job can be. We are working ourselves to the bone in order to save people who dont want to save themselves. But we still do it, with the same vigor we show patients who havent brought their conditions on themselves.