A tricky job to write up as it touches on a ‘thing’ that has squatted in the back of my head for some time. Something I thought I dealt with years ago, but obviously haven’t. My mum will read this and I don’t think it’s something I’ve ever really talked to her about, but I asked her if I could write this, and she agreed.
We were stuck in traffic on our way to someone with a headache. It was a ‘Green’ call so we didn’t need lights and sirens, we just had to trundle there, pick up the twenty year old and trundle into hospital. It’s a nice easy job and gets us a bit closer to the end of the shift.
Then we heard Control asking if there were any free ambulances to attend to a female who was giving birth, the nasty bit was that the woman was only 26 weeks pregnant. Control told everyone that the babies head was visible. We called up and mentioned that we were on a low priority job and if they wanted to send us we would quite happily go.
A crew was already on their way and as the information came in that the woman has just given birth we were dispatched as a second crew to help out. If she has given birth to such a premature baby, then every hand can help.
We were on the other end of our patch and the daytime traffic was hectic, but I drove like a demon and we were soon there. The job was at the top of a block of flats so we grabbed our kit, jumped in the lift and made our way to the right floor.
The doors of the lift opened and standing there was one of my mates with a tiny baby in his hands. It wasn’t breathing.
“Do you want the baby or the mother?”, he asked.
“Give us the baby, we’ll run with it”, I answered. With that he handed us the baby and the lift doors closed.
We were met downstairs by the father who had ran down the stairs, so we rushed out to the ambulance to ‘scoop and run’, to get this baby to the hospital as quickly as possible. All I could look at was how tiny the baby was, it looked like the baby birds that you sometimes find fallen from the nest. It’s arms were like matchsticks, it was covered with blood and there were no signs of life. My mate was in the back doing trying to resuscitate the baby while I drove us the, thankfully short, distance to the hospital.
We got to the hospital and the doctors there tried their best, but inevitably the baby was declared dead soon after we got there.
It turned out that the woman, while believing that she was 26 weeks pregnant, was only 20 weeks pregnant, so the baby didn’t stand any chance at all.
This job shook me up because I believed that it had a chance.
I was less than a year old when my mother gave birth to my brother Mark, he was premature at 23 weeks gestation. Survival rates for child at that age today are around 17%, back then in the 1970’s it was much lower. After a few days of life my brother died.
I thought that it was something that I had put behind me many years ago, that I had a brother I’d never met, who’s grave I’ve never seen. It’s not something that we talked about much as it still pains my mum to think about it. Some years ago, for no reason, I started wondering what he would have been like if he had survived. I long thought I’d put those thoughts behind me, but looking at a child that I thought was 26 weeks gestation brought those memories flooding back. I wondered if that had been what Mark had looked like.
At the hospital there was an officer – he told us to return to station to have a cup of tea and a ‘de-stress’ and to return to work when we felt able, also that if we wanted to talk, he’d be around to listen.
A cup of tea helped, and I felt able to keep working after a little sit-down. But now, as I write this, I can feel the sadness in my chest – not for the child that never had a chance at life, but for the brother that I never met.
Once more this blog turns into therapy.