Therapy?

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.

17 thoughts on “Therapy?”

  1. My thoughts are really with you mate. You've dealt with something that no human should ever have to deal with, much less be ready to cope with. Not only that, but it sounds like the fact that you transported the baby, and made the effort to prepare the parents for the inevitable was well beyond what was required of you.Well done for going the extra mile – don't under-estimate the amount of difference it will make to the family in the future, when they know that every possible step was taken to save the baby.

    Don't expect to get over it with a few anal surgery jokes – I'm sure it's something that'll stay with you for a good while. But at least you can go to sleep knowing that you did a damn good job for that baby's family. Hats off to you.

  2. g'day, i am writing this evening from australia. i stumbled across your blog a few minutes ago and felt i had to write.18 years and 10 days ago i was a mother who had to dial for an ambulance and tell them i thought my baby had died and could they come and help me.

    18 years and 10 days later i still remember the care and compassion displayed by the 2 ambo's who attended my home that day and told me that my son had died (from SIDS). i remember the way they carried him to the ambulance and the way in which they handed him to the medical personnel at the hospital, where this care was continued.

    i wouldn't know these men if i passed 'em in the street but i will never forget them and i know that those parents who lost their child will hold your kindness in a special place in their hearts.

    may you and yours be blessed with a peaceful christmas

    jennifer 🙂

  3. Hi, I'm a serial lurker here as my bloke's PTS support (and new to it all.) Such a sad story and I just wanted to say thanks for sharing it and thanks for being on the front line. Day to day plebs make the job bad enough but stuff like that, well, there's nowt that can prepare you really.*hugs*

    Amy

  4. I feel for you terribly. Seeing a dead child would hit anyone with an ounce of humanity about them. Thats one reason I'm glad I cant do the job you do.Take it eay hun,

    Liz + bump now 18 weeks :o)

  5. Really feel for you with this one (and many). I don't think that feeling sad as a result is weakness – a sign of your humanity.

  6. Such a sad, sad story. Baby deaths are the worst, I think. I'm sure you're right that it will comfort the parents to know you did everything you could. You're also right that there's nothing you can say to people who have had a tragedy like this – yet the essential thing is to say something, however difficult that is, and you did. There's no way you could fail to be affected by an experience like this. And I can't imagine that anyone could have done such a horrible, impossible job any better than you did today.

  7. I no longer worry much about feeling the emotions about calls like this. They tell me I am alive. I worry tremendously when I don't feel anything.For what it's worth, you showed great compassion by treating and transporting even when you knew it was much too late. While it may not help the parent now, in the future thay may be able to draw a little comfort knowing that what could be done was done.

    I with you, my friend, you did good.

  8. I agree with all the above – It's also good to note all the support you got from the firm, your colleagues and once back at your base.Your caring comes through cleanly.

    By the way, how often do front-line ambulance crews receive public recognition for good work like this, such as being included in the Honours Lists ? – david; in Chicago

  9. “By the way, how often do front-line ambulance crews receive public recognition for good work like this, such as being included in the Honours Lists ?”They don't. All we do is have people complain that we don't turn up fast enough while all the vehicles are dealing with stubbed toes and 3 month old gut ache.

    Thoughts are with you, I had a 6 week old resp arrest on my vehicle on my first shift back on the road, mum was hysterical, we did our best, baby ended up in HDU and is now doing fine.

    Console yoursef with the thought that there was nothing you could do but looking like you were doing something made the family feel better.

  10. Yes, I'm with you too. What you did will help the family “move on”, when the time is right for them.By the way, your post reminds me: two weeks ago, I was at a National Women's Commission event, and a representative from the Sussex Police stood up and told the Minister (and the audience) that, if you can't speak English but know enough to dial 999, there will be no one on the other end who can speak anything but English. Everyone who heard this seemed rather stunned, and the Minister said that she would take it further. What do you think?

    Rachel in SE7

  11. > if you can't speak English but know enough to dial 999, there will> be no one on the other end who can speak anything but English.

    We had an inverse event in Ontario last summer. A grandmother who could not speak English did not call 911 (equiv. to 999) when a small child fell into a swimming pool. The child drowned. The grandmother did not call because she thought the 911 operators would not understand her. But apparently interpreters are available for the 911 service. Don't know how timely the response is though.

  12. The LAS use 'Language line', which is a service that provides translators – it takes a little while to set up, but whenever I've used it (we have access to it on the road as well) it's been generally excellent.Sure, it'd be nice to have translators up at Control – but manning is pretty poor at the moment anyway without worrying about hiring people who are multilingual.

    But apparently manning will be going up soon…

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