Docu-soaps are all the rage these days and after seeing people enter the world in One Born Every Minute and depart in Death Unexplained, we see people caught somewhere between life and death as 24 Hours in A&E returns to our screens. As per usual, there are some touching, heart-breaking and joyous moments as we hear from those who work and have the misfortune to end up in the Accident and Emergency department at King’s College Hospital in London.
To be honest, the first twenty minutes almost feel like a cycling safety video and the A&E team explain that most days start quietly, before going mental during rush hour. The hospital sees 5,000 stricken bikers a year (which given the amount of red-lights they ride through, isn’t surprising) and the first patient of the morning is Christopher, who came off his bike in South London. Crucially, he was wearing a helmet and despite a brief scare, leaves hospital after chewing the ear off a nurse who stitches him up.
Things are much more serious for Sarah, who wasn’t wearing a lid when she came off her bike in Brighton. As such when she arrives in an air ambulance she has a list of injuries longer than a Leonard Cohen song and her life is hanging in the balance. “In the movies there’s always someone to cradle you when you’re dying,” explains her friend after calling her best mate’s parents. Luckily Sarah makes a recovery and after seeing herself on TV looking like a tube map, it’s a happy resolution that at one stage seemed unlikely. Presumably she’s either given up cycling or invested in a helmet since her accident.
Emotions run high in most programmes of this sort, but you can’t help but feel that they are slightly rawer here. Most people in One Born.. know they’re going to have a baby, but when we hear a woman recall the moment she realised that her husband may never talk or walk again after falling from a scaffold, you realise that there are some things which nothing on earth can make you ready for. You just have to hope that such a call never comes.
It’s not all doom and gloom at A&E though and despite some colourful language, an elderly man melts hearts when he’s admitted after falling down at his local Working Man’s Club. “I usually have a favourite patient of the day, one that sticks out, some days a bit run of the mill, but I’d say he’s a patient of the week. He’s gorgeous,” says King’s College nurse Laura Higgs. “At least it’s a day out!” says his mate John as they wait for the taxi to pick them up..