When Channel 4 stopped airing Big Brother in 2011 they decided to put their fly-on-the-wall format to better use. Instead of watching nobodies sitting around in a house for three months, we instead got to see professionals going about their daily duties. These shows include Educating Essex, One Born Every Minute and the brilliant 24 Hours in A&E which returns for a second series this week. The programme has been a success for Channel 4 regularly attracting audience of over 2 million. This year’s series is also its biggest yet as we will be spending the next 20 weeks with the staff and patients of King’s College Hospital.
This week’s main case sees a woman being attacked on the street by a suspected mugger who was riding a bike. We hear the 999 call from a random passer-by, later identified as Andrew, whose rapid response to the accident may well have saved the woman’s life. As the woman, who is eventually identified as Czech Republic native Suzanne, is rushed into resus the so-called Golden Hour has already begun. This is the time in which the doctors must do all they can to identify the damage caused by Suzanne’s accident and try to revive her. Eventually the team discover that the knocked to Suzanne’s head has caused swelling on her brain which may well lead to her death. As Suzanne is rushed into surgery, her sister Lucie arrives and is almost unable to recognise her. Meanwhile the staff of King’s are shocked by the events as it’s something that could happen to anyone. As we hear from Des, who first treated Suzanne when she arrived, the young woman was just minding her own business when the attack happened. Thankfully it is revealed at the end of the programme that Suzanne survived her five hours of emergency surgery and had since had two more operations. In her interview she praises Andrew for being a Good Samaritan and not leaving her lying on the pavement. I was almost half-expecting her to reveal that she and Andrew were now a couple but this didn’t turn out to be the case.
The other trauma of the week came courtesy of 12 year old Tom who was hit by a speeding car. Tom is swiftly flown into King’s by Air Ambulance as Emer’s team quickly try to assess his current state. It is quickly revealed that Tom’s body was hit by the car’s broken fog light and he was found in the mud. We then hear from Tom’s mother Anna who informs us that Tom stepping out into traffic was very out of character. She also tells of her reaction as she lived out every parent’s worst fear. She is later relieved when she discovers that all of Tom’s vital signs were good and he would probably survive the accident. As a pessimist I took this news to mean that Tom probably didn’t make it but thankfully he was alive and well at the end of the programme. He talked about how he would be a careful and vigilant driver though, like all twelve year old boys, he’d still drive his car incredibly fast.
This episode’s most gentle story, which was my personal favourite, involved 90 year old Frank who’d fallen over in the night after making his way to the toilet. As he met various members of staff Frank recalled his life story as a former circus owner and performer. We learnt that he used to be the circus’ strongman and was once able to lift a horse above his head. Though Frank was clearly unwell, he was more concerned about leaving his disabled wife Miriam in the house on her own. Frank told us that he met Miriam when she was a circus acrobat and would regularly be the girl who had knives thrown at her. He continued by saying that, despite being wooed by various chorus girls, he only had eyes for his wife of 65 years. We later learnt that Frank was suffering from pneumonia but was eventually released from King’s after five days. However Frank’s story had a tragic ending as Miriam passed away a few months after he was released.
The beauty of 24 Hours in A&E is that it is a programme that we can all relate to. Unless we are very lucky all of us have been in hospital as either a patient or the relative of a patient. What I love about the show is that it combines matters of life and death with very mundane conversations. For example when Des first arrives on the resus ward he is criticised for bringing ‘old man mints’ with him. There are also small asides that break up the action of the main three stories and provide a little bit of humour. I personally loved the man who was passive-aggressively turning the pages of his newspaper while waiting for his wife to be seen. As somebody who has watched the documentary since its inception, I really have a great admiration for all of the staff of King’s. Primarily in this episode we saw how both Des and Emer were able to use their abilities to help save the lives of Suzanne and Tom respectively. I also had a lot of respect for the brilliant Frank who had seemingly spent his twilight years caring for his disabled wife. It was during Frank’s interviews to camera that I got a little teary-eyed especially when learning about Miriam’s death.
Overall this opening instalment of 24 Hours in A&E demonstrated everything that was great about this programme. We had life and death operations mixed with colourful characters and hospital staff who all deserve our admiration. The only potential problem I can see with this new series is its length as it will seemingly run till the end of August. However, based on this first episode, I am greatly looking forward to seeing what the next nineteen weeks will bring.
Did you enjoy this episode of 24 Hours in A&E? Are you looking forward to this extended series? Leave Your Comments Below.