It's not because she's young.

It's not that she's seriously ill

It's not that I don't know what it is that's made her helpless.

It's not that the only reason that she is standing is because her husband is struggling to hold her up.

It's not when she goes into a seizure and becomes incontinent.

It's not me being covered in her urine as I help her husband lower her to the floor on the crowded landing.

It's not the possibility that she could die from this illness or be permanently disabled.

It's not the way she looks at me with utter terror in her eyes.

None of those things kept me awake tonight.

It's the sound of her four young children behind me, wailing in fear as they realise that their mother isn't playing a game.

22 thoughts on “Awake”

  1. I have no comprehension of the physical and mental trauma you witness on a daily basis. All I can think to say is – For all that you do: Thank you.

  2. You help. Never forget that. While I too feel sorry for her poor kids, imagine how they'd have felt without you there to witness them.I hope sleep comes your way. If in doubt that you deserve it, pick something from the archive and read it, and read our comments.

  3. I'm speechless. My day is filled with concerns over things that mean nothing.I don't have the words to express my admiration of what you and your compatriots do, and continue to do, every day.

  4. Get some consolation in knowing that your words remind a lot of people of how much your work is appreciated. Its not the major incidents its the little 'nothing' jobs that leave the greatest scar. But chin up, old chap, it will be worth it in the end.

  5. Well done! Straight to the point and well-written. These are our stories. If you're in the job long enough then we all have them. They tend to get stored somewhere in our subconscious because, let's face it, who wants to hear other's misery. My most memorable heartbreaking occurence was when we rescued an 8 year old girl from a collision. Both her parents had been killed in the same incident, which she'd been well aware of. On the way to the hospital she asked: “What am I going to do about the funeral, I don't have enough money in my savings box”.

    I cried for more than a week about that. It still makes me emotional, more than 10 years later.


  6. Chilling stuff, I want to leave work, go home and hug my children.I've been lurking for some time – but your latest entry has made me register to comment!

    Keep up the good work and hpoefully get some sleep.


  7. I just wanted to say that I've been where they were. I wasn't a child, I was 30, so I understood more what was happening. But I was the one who called the ambulance when my father collapsed – he'd collapsed over 24 hours earlier but I'd just found him. His blood sugar level when he got to the hospital was over 30, his kidneys had pretty much failed, he was confused and incoherent. I can never properly express my gratitude to the paramedics. Between the two of them they spent as much time calming me down and making me feel better as they did actually treating myy father. Partly this was because they needed me calm so I could give them the information the needed; mostly it was because once they were there and I knew I could, I fell to pieces.Even as young as they were the children would have known you were helping their mother, and that means more than you can know. I don't even know their names and in the weeks afterwards I didn't have the time or energy to thank them. But I will never forget them.

  8. The kids are the ones that get you.On arrival to a scene to a call for a hanging I find a very distraught young girl who was having trouble breathing. I thought thank god, it's not a DOA. Turned out she wasn't our patient, and it was a DOA. She had just discovered her father hanging from the back shed rafters and was distressed to the point that I thought she had just survived a hanging attempt and had possibly compromised her airway. You don't forget that in a hurry.

  9. the one that gave me nightmares on ITU wasn't a kid. it was a young woman who had tried to burn herself to death.would you believe that anyone could live with 100% full-thickness burns? The answer is, yes, for about 72 hours, after the EMTs got a vein and got an ET tube in.

    the nightmare was that we thought she was not only alive, she was conscious.

  10. I'm sure you will fill in one of those many forms which are sent to social services. I can assure you an ambulance report that states things like that would get taken seriously and assistance offered to family. They do in my area. I dealt with one last week! Family offered support within hours of us getting it. Ambulance reports do NOT get left in a pile they are a priority! Hope this gives you some reassurance and if it helps you to know if names, dates of birth and addresses of children mean its easier to locate them and get that help offered fast. AND before anyone shouts me down its not pulling children out but practical support to help them spend quality time with family and possibly referral for support to young carers so they can get FUN times to alongside time to talk or whatever with those who really understand.

  11. A friend of mine just sent me your book from the UK. I read the whole thing in one sitting with my mouth open. Im an ambo from Australia and I am just amazed that your job is exactly (and I mean exactly….all the way down to the faulty green uniforms!!) the same as mine. Probably because an ex UK Ambulance guy is now running our ambulance service. I mean we do the same job essentially but I was just blown away by the similarity of the even the smallest details. Its nice to know that way across the other side of the world you are doing the same terrific job under the same unusual circumstances. The extreme ups and downs of the job as well as the whole “sleep” issue is the same the world over. Very refreshing indeed. Keep up the good work. Now go put your cape on and save some lives.xxxx

    N 🙂

  12. Tom, I wish I could express the emotion surrounding this job like you can. It struck a huge chord with me and I'm sure with many other ambos who've been in similar situations. Its ben a few days since you posted but I hope the sleep came.

  13. Tom, I wish I could express the emotion surrounding this job like you can. It struck a huge chord with me and I'm sure with many other ambos who've been in similar situations. Its ben a few days since you posted but I hope the sleep came.

  14. Tom, yet more stunning, thought provoking and incredibly moving piece of writing from you. My heart goes out to the children involved and I hope that their mum made a good recovery. And to you – I hope that sleep did come to you in the end – you guys are super-heroes.

  15. Children and animalsLeave me with no protection either.

    Talk it out and keep the faith.

    (I know you're sick of hearing it [or at least you should be] but don't forget to take care of yourself too. Rule #1: “Do not harm” applies to everyone.)

    William sends

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