This is a tricky post to write. Normally I would write something to emphasis how I feel, or to try and get my readers to understand what happened, or to highlight some point.
But I can't do that in this post.
All I can do right now is tell you what happened.
I got sent to a call near the edge of my 'patch', given to me as a “12 year old female, collapse”. The navigation point wasn't accurate though, so while I could get into the right general area, it wasn't directing me right to the door. I got there fairly fast, because I always drive fast to my jobs, even if I suspect that the illness is a panic attack, a faint, or a broken fingernail.
I met up with the ambulance crew coming from the other direction while I was checking my map, and talking to Control so as to get a better location on the patient. Control called back and gave me better directions – I told the ambulance crew to follow me.
The location was down a private road, which had huge, unmarked black speedbumps. I hit the first one at about 30mph, and had to check my mirror to make sure that I hadn't left important parts of my vehicle left behind in the road.
The patient was lying in the road ahead of me, with her family standing around her – I parked my car next to her, and got out to see what was happening.
The family were quite calm, and they told me that their daughter was travelling in the family car, told her parents that she felt unwell – so they stopped, she got out, shook a bit and then fell onto the floor.
The parents had laid her into the recovery position, and while worried, weren't screaming and crying.
Examining the patient, I saw there was a small bit of vomit in her mouth.
She then grunted.
I then saw that she had stopped breathing.
I am lucky that the ambulance was right behind me.
By now the medic on the ambulance was with me, and I told him that she had stopped breathing. I threw him my bag with the ambu-bag in it (the bit of kit which we use to breathe for the patient), and while he started breathing for her, I cut off her clothes and connected our defibrillator.
She was in fine VF, which is a rhythm that is 'incompatible for life', meaning that her heart isn't pumping blood around her body. It is also a rhythm that we can 'shock' to try and bring her back.
I shocked her.
The monitor on the defibrillator showed Asystole, which is where the heart isn't moving at all – but this can be 'normal' after giving a shock.
It was about now that the parents realised that their daughter was iller than they thought. They asked us what was happening – all we could tell them was that their daughter was 'very ill'. You can't tell people that their daughter is dead while you are in the middle of the road, in case they mob you and the patient, and prevent you from doing your job.
By now I was doing CPR (pumping on her chest to keep the blood circulating), and she had vomited a large amount everywhere. Normally we care about getting vomit on our clothes – but in this case we weren't thinking of that.
By now the driver of the ambulance had gotten the trolley off the back of the ambulance, so we decided to 'load and go', this girl needed to be in hospital as quickly as possible.
Her heart changed into fine VF again – so I shocked her another two times – once more she was in Asystole.
We loaded the trolley onto the tail-lift of the ambulance – and it wouldn't lift.
We gave everything a kick (because there is sometimes a loose connection) and it still wouldn't lift, so I ran around and got the handle that we use to manually raise the lift – but then the tail-lift started up.
We got the patient, and the father on board the ambulance, I jumped on to continue chest compressions, while the medic was trying to clear the airway and continue breathing for her.
The driver then put in a priority call to the nearest hospital, and started driving.
We sometimes drive fast in this job, but if there is one thing that will have us driving like a maniac it's for a nearly dead child.
While weaving our way through traffic and high speed I was keeping up the chest compressions while telling her father what we were doing.
It is hard to stand up in the back of a Mercedes Sprinter when weaving through traffic at high speed, and it is really hard to do so when some idiot in front of you decides to brake suddenly.
The vehicle lurched, there was swearing from our driver, and I grabbed a handrail. It was then I felt something 'go' in my wrist and hip.
We reached the hospital in one piece, and a nurse took care of the father, while we wheeled the patient into the resus room, where a team of specialists were waiting for us.
The good thing about the local hospital is that they let the parents watch the resus attempt if they want. There is loads of research that shows that this is good for the family to let them know that everything was tried for their child.
I was in the reception area when the rest of the family arrived – I showed them to the relatives room, and took the mother into the resus area where they were still trying to save the patient.
I was outside in the ambulance bay when I heard the family start crying, and I knew that they were crying because they had just been told that their daughter/sister/granddaughter had died.
The ambulance crew and myself had a little de-stress in the nurses messroom, and then the crew took me back to my car.
There was a small amount of vomit and a bottle of water still on the scene.
I went back to station, filled in an injury report form, completed the rest of my paperwork, and spoke to Control and told them that I would be sick for the rest of the night, because by now my wrist and hip were really starting to hurt.
All throughout I wasn't 'feeling' anything, instead I was 'blank', and not because of 'shock'.
I think that it's because, by my fourth nightshift, the ability to care about anything leaves me.
I was contacted by a duty officer, to check on me – and he was one of the nicest officers I've spoken to. He wanted to make sure that I was psychologically alright (I was), and he told me that he would sort out the injury part with my station officers so that they would know what was happening.
I then went to bed.
This morning, while telling my mum what had happened, I started to feel sorry for the girl – so I know I'm not a monster.
Sometimes this job is really shitty – everything went right with the resus attempt, and yet the patient still died. I'm left thinking that while I will continue, and will forget about this job (until the Coroners office asks for a statement), for that family they may never recover.