Friday 2 March 2012

It's all in a look

"42 year old male, won't wake up, caller is a child"

When jobs like this present themselves you get a real sense of apprehension. They carry more weight than your typical 'unresponsive' or 'collapsed' call mainly because of being called by a child. Children don't exaggerate, they don't know what to say to get a quicker response and they simply say what they see. If this kid can't wake their dad up, then there is a pretty good chance it's going to be serious. We headed off through the busy streets, sirens blaring, the excitement of a 'good job' well balanced with the intrepidation of what we might be going to. As I wrote 'child' down in the caller box on my paperwork a shiver ran the length of my spine. We pulled into the road to see the FRU pulling in at the other end. We met in the middle nose to nose and all jumped out grabbing various bits of kit. I was the first to the door, it was ajar so I went straight in. I shouted as I entered and a face I will never forget appeared at the top of the stairs. A boy, about 13 years of age, dressed in his school uniform had a terrified look with streams of tears pouring down his face.

"Please help my daddy"

I rushed up the stairs and into the dark bedroom. The man was lying prone on the bed, no movement at all. I touched his neck to feel for a pulse. Nothing. His skin was cool. I took his temperature and it was 33.1. He'd been dead for a few hours. For those few hours, his son had been in the house with him but every day when he comes home from school his dad is asleep because he worked nights. The only reason his son tried to wake him was because he was going to be late for work. Tragically there is nothing anyone could have done. It was just one of those things. A sudden, unexpected death. That will be of no consolation to his family but life is cruel. My crew mate and the FRU were printing of a rhythm strip of his heart for the paperwork and requesting the police. I agreed to go and see the kid. 

He was sitting in his room leaving a message for his mum. It was heartbreaking to listen to but I waited until he'd finished before I entered. He looked up at me, eyes glazed with tears and I looked at him. There was a hopeful, wishful expectation in his eyes but he knew what I was about to say, I had that look of resignation on my face. I told him as best as I could that there was nothing he could have done and there was nothing we could do. He sobbed in to my arms for a few minutes and then just lay there. I can't imagine what he was thinking but I took solace in the fact I was comforting him, albeit by just sitting there. I heard his mother arrive down stairs. My crew mate spoke to her and explained what had happened and what was going to happen. She came upstairs and went into her bedroom. I could hear the crying through the wall. There are not enough superlatives to describe the grief she was feeling but she put them to one side for now.  She entered the room we were in and without saying a word we swapped places. Again, the look we shared said everything that needed to be said. I mouthed 'sorry' and she mouthed 'thank you'. I left them together to come to terms with their loss. 

It is these jobs that make you numb, these jobs that stick with you. As cavalier as many of us are by saying things don't effect us they do. We all use bravado and tell a good story but these are the jobs where all you can say is 'that was shit'. And it was. We can be sad, shed a tear and even relive the job for a few weeks or months but at the end of the day, our patient's son and wife have to continue their lives without a husband and father. It puts all of our first-world problem into perspective really.

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