First Pulse

The second job of my shift had me racing through the night towards a '19 month old – child not breathing'.

Now, normally, this doesn't bother me, I get there, I do what needs doing, and then everything goes back to normal.

But tonight, for some reason I was shaking like a leaf, my pulse was pounding in my ears, and there was a sick feeling in my stomach.

“The first pulse you take is your own”*, a mantra that I've often found useful should I ever find myself distressed or anxious at a job.  But for some reason it wasn't helping.

I reached the house and could hear the family crying and shouting inside.

“Fuck”, I thought.  Actually I may have said it.  My hands continued to shake, and I started feeling sick and light-headed.

The door was flung open, and I found myself staring into the face of a crying woman.  Pushing past her, I could see the child laying motionless on the floor.  The child was of African descent, and this causes me a bit of a problem, in that Caucasian children when dead, look dead while it's a lot harder to tell if African children are recently dead because they just go a bit grey.

“Fuck”, I thought again.

I got closer, hoping to see him breath.

The the child moved.  And more importantly he breathed.

“Thank fuck”, I thought.

So all was good.  The child had suffered from a febrile fit, he'd had one previously, and would soon come round.  Even so I was still really happy to see the ambulance crew turn up seconds after I reached the patient.

Sitting in the car doing my paperwork I was still shaking and my pulse was still racing.  Why had this job shook me up so much?

Was it because it was my second job after having a week off, and so wasn't up to speed yet?

Actually, I think that it's because I've got a bit of an infection at the moment, and the changing seasons have probably depleted the happy juice from my brain.  I'll probably get worse over the course of these next four nights…  So I'll apologise in advance.

Oh and the local mosquitos have been using my face as a buffet bar.

* – It's a quote from the excellent “House of God” by Samuel Shem.  If you read this blog, you should read this book.  Sorry for the whining.

8 thoughts on “First Pulse”

  1. some jobs you take home. was at an old coal bing where two teenagers had a head on on their motor cross bikes. combined speed 100-120mph. middle of no where. very difficuilt, was in tears later that night. some jobs just get to you, i dont know why this one did, other than it was a bad job, but we get a couple of them now and again. always find a dozen pints and a good cry help!

  2. hey you are entitled to a damm good whinge (now and again ;o) )does sound like you have a bug thats sending you signals that you might not cope so well, natures way of telling you you need more time off. Glad everything went ok though, and hope you manage to shrug it off soon.

  3. It always puts me on edge when I get sent on a job like that. I guess I'm lucky that I've only been to one dead baby. It was a 9 month old, but was premature so it only looked 4 or 5 months old. Fortunately all the others have been false alarms.

  4. You just keep an eye on yourself. If you burn out, run yourself into the ground, you'll be no good to anyone and could do yourself some long term damage.You're a sensible bloke, you don't need anyone telling you what to do, but I'd *advise* you to make an effort to take care and not push things TOO hard – voice of experience and all that.

    Lecture over. Glad the kid was okay.

  5. You ever thought of trying lightbox therapy? You can get alarm clocks which have a light dome that simulates dawn, it might help for your nightshifts. šŸ™‚

  6. Tom, you raised a point about it being difficult to tell if an African child is breathing or not, are there any tips of the trade that can make this easy?Being of an Afro Caribbean descent it could be useful one day.

    The Driving Instructor

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