For some reason I find myself back on that street, standing on the spot where the young girl died.

I haven't thought of her for years, a teenage girl being driven by her parents told them that she was feeling sick so they pulled over and parked up. She opened the car door, vomited, and just dropped dead.

I drive past that spot a lot and I remember the call but I don't really think about it, about her, about her family. It's just one of those places that you tend to remember, a little tickle of recognition as you go past it on the way to another drunk asleep in the street.

I haven't had a repeat job down that street, the ones either side are common places for us to go, but that street I've never revisited.

So why do I wake up from a dream where I'm just standing there. There are no people, no wailing parents, no ambulance parked behind my FRU, there is no patient.

So why am I there?

As I lay in bed the job goes through my mind. This job was before the latest changes to the resuscitation guidelines, if we had been using the ones we do now would she have survived? What caused her to just die like that, normally healthy children shouldn't die. How are her parents, do they mourn her every day?

In my dream it was the same time of day, sun going down behind the trees just dark enough that I wasn't sure that she wasn't breathing. The bottle of water was there, the one that her parents were going to give her after she finished being sick. I remember that bottle – if was the only thing left behind after I returned to the scene with the ambulance crew to pick up my car. Why is that in my dream?

And as close my eyes and think of the job I realise that I don't know her name. I was there at the end of her life, pounding on her chest in the back of a speeding ambulance in an effort to keep her alive, I was closer to her than her parents – but I don't know her name.

I must have known it once, if only to put on my paperwork, but now that name is gone. I can't remember ever knowing it.

She'd have been eighteen now.


While I don't know why she died, there are organisations that raise awareness for such things – CRY and SADS

15 thoughts on “Remembering”

  1. I remember reading about that job in the book, it was the main bit that stayed with me. There will always be jobs that haunt you, I have to drive past the scene of a fatal RTC on my way to work every day and I think about it a lot.You know that you did everything you possibly could have to save the girl's life, but she was beyond saving – you may never understand why.

    Hope you're OK.

  2. It is weird, how random things, even seemingly nothing, bring the details and the feelings back to you.Here in my living room after reading that, having a few moments of stillness and revisiting “those” jobs.

    Damn, you're good!

  3. We all have those ghosts that haunt us, Tom. We mourn them.When I have a difficult run, I always question them, and continue to on some to this day… even events from 27 years ago. I remember those protocols clearly. Now, they seem primitive in comparison. Have the survival rates changed? Ironically, according to recent literature, not much. You did what you could at the time. And yes, I am a firm believer in the belief that when it is our time to die, it is our time, and nothing anyone does will change that. As much as we never want to see a child die, it was simply her time, for whatever reason.

  4. VTEMT read the blog again; how it seems to me is that they were out in the car when the daughter suddenly felt sick – there's no mention that she'd been ill before or even that they were on their way to hospital, just another ordinary day and I guess it was just her time to go…I lost my darling Dan in much the same way just over two years ago. A fit, healthy 46 year old he'd taken the day off as he felt a bit tired and he died in his bed of, well, nothing at all as far as the Coroner could tell.

    Stuff like this can (and should) pull you up and make you think. None of us know what's around the corner so let's keep it fluffy and do what good we can whilst we're here. Keep up the good work Tom. Big love!

  5. “how it seems to me is that they were out in the car when the daughter suddenly felt sick – there's no mention that she'd been ill before or even that they were on their way to hospital,”That's how it sounded to me too. When I was at school there was a girl in my class who died in similar circumstances and there was never any cause found for her death. Sometimes there just isn't an explanation and no one is to blame – least of all the parents who are no doubt now living a nightmare.

  6. Are you kidding ? I don't know what kind of world you live in, but there are MANY MANY parents out there who couldn't give a crap about their child. Many children who DIE needlessly because of neglect and poor healthcare. I'm not ashamed of speculating about what may have been the cause of an extremely rare event. Children (even teenagers) do NOT just throw up and drop dead randomly. They don't go into sudden cardiac arrest, they don't generally just stop breathing unless they have something else going on.

  7. Sorry for your loss. A sudden death of a family member is very hard. My wife's mother died very suddenly, so I know what you've been through. In this case, though, a teenage child is a very different thing, IMHO. I was speculating (as I said above in my reply to a reply) about what may (or may not) have been going on.

  8. Having lost my 23yr old sister to SADS i know how quickly it all happens and nearly 4 yrs on i still think of her every day.To me from the blog it was just something thats happened scarily quickly, all i can hope is that if it was SADS that if she wasn't an only child her parents had the other kids screened to prevent a possible re occurrence.

    Yet again another touching but informative post – thank you for sharing .

  9. Sometimes they do. A congenital defect, especially a defect of the heart's electrical system, is difficult to pick up when alive and just about impossible once they are dead. And this kind of attitude is what makes the loss so much harder for families to bear-that no young person can just 'drop down dead' and so the parents or the young person must have done something to cause it. I understand that there is neglect and abuse in the world, but that kind of immediate assumption of the worst makes it harder to bring this condition into the public eye and for the grieving families to talk about it.

  10. Indeed – VTEMT, take a look at the links on the bottom of the post, you will be surprised that sometimes people *do* just drop dead.

  11. I did take a look at those, and did some further research myself (enlightening, thankyou). I hope readers understand that most of our training on pediatrics stresses just this point, that children don't generally die of cardiac issues – it's usually secondary to respiratory issues and as such is usually preceded by some degree of signs/symptoms. That was where I'm coming from.My original post wasn't intended to either belittle the grief of the family, or to minimize a problem that does exist.

    It's very unfair in EMS that often times we're the last people to have contact with someone during their dying moments and spend time second guessing and questioning ourselves, when so many times things are just so much out of our control from the very beginning – or way before that point. My post was supposed to be a 'don't feel so bad, because…' for YOU as a provider. Apologies to all who were offended.

  12. everyday i read your blog and everyday i find myself wanting to be doing what you do. i know times like those must be so hard not knowing how or why these things happen, especially to innocent children but just to know i had tried would be enough. i have 2 kids and am often asked how i would cope if i were called to a situation involving children and the answer is easy…if it were my children i would want someone to help and in the same way i would want to help any one else's least you can rest at night knowing that you are not one of the people that turn a blind eye and walk by when there is trouble. day in and day out you are there to do your best and no doubt you do,no matter what crap gets thrown your way! i respect you!

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