I've been doing a couple of interviews recently (oh the fame…), and one question people always seem to ask is “Why do you blog”, which is a tougher question than you might imagine. I often answer that I use this blog as therapy – which isn't perhaps entirely true, but it sounds much better than “I use it to whine”, but after our job today I think that there may be more truth to that answer.
We got sent to a job of a six month baby not breathing – while this often means that baby has a cold, it could also be one of the worse jobs you can get. We sped to the address and entered a house where the whole family was distraught. It was an Indian household, so there were a lot of people there, and most of them were crying. Once more, I heard the type of crying that can only mean that something awful has happened – entering the living room I instantly saw a baby laying dead on the settee, father crouched over it crying and the mother standing and wailing, shouting out that her baby was dead.
There is only one thing that you can do in a situation like this, which is to scoop up the baby and run to hospital as quickly as possible. So I reached down and picked up the baby, I was shocked to find that it was as stiff as a board and very purple – indicating that it had been dead for some time. It looked more like a doll that anything that had once been alive. We could have recognised the child as dead on the scene, but taking the child to hospital would mean that the parents would see that everything that could be done was being done, and more importantly they would be in a hospital with all the support that the hospital could provide.
I ran out to the ambulance with mother in tow, and told my crewmate to get us to hospital as quickly as possible – the father and grandmother followed behind us in another ambulance who had heard this call go out and had turned up to see if there was anything that they could do to help. On the way to hospital I did the CPR that I knew was ultimately pointless and spoke to the mother. She had last seen the child alive at 3am, and he had been fine then. It looked like it may have been a case of SIDS, and I did all that I could to prepare the mother for the worst.
We pulled up at hospital and handed the baby into the care of the hospital, I spoke a little more with the mother and grandmother, but there is nothing that you can say to people who have had such a tragedy. Our station officer met us at the hospital and asked us if we were alright, then he booked us off the road so that we could go back to station and have a cup of tea and 'decompress'. If we needed more support I think it would have been there, but I just wanted to get away from the hospital.
I'm not often affected by jobs, and this isn't the first dead baby that I've had to deal with – but it is the first dead baby I've had since joining the ambulance service and it is very different than dealing with them in hospital. going into someone's house to take away a dead child is very different to having the child and parents turn up at hospital, which is your safe territory.
At the hospital all the other crews were asking if I was alright, and to be honest I wasn't really alright – I was upset that while I was doing CPR on the baby it's legs were seesawing into the air, and it looked too much like a doll. There was a point after the job where I thought I was going to start crying, but a moment outside the resus room and I was back to functioning as I normally do. I'm not weak, and when in the midst of something I can deal with anything – it was only after the doctors and nurses at the hospital had taken over that I started to feel anything.
We returned to station, where the therapy of talking about anal surgery with another crew, and a cup of tea soon had me feeling better. It used to be that you would return to work straight after a job like this, but then I think they realised that if we got our normal inappropriate call (belly-ache for two weeks sort of thing) we might say something to the patient that we might later regret.
Well an hour on station later, and I feel fully prepared to deal with that sort of thing again. But I think that I'll be haunted by the image of that child lying dead on my trolley.