Thursday, 31 October 2013

Iron Man

"RTC, Car vs Ped, 8 year old male, injuries unknown"

Do you remember the energy you had a child?! You could effortless run and run and run! Especially in the sun! It was amazing! I remember playing on the pavement in my road all summer long! Kicking a ball against a wall, playing hide and seek, having water balloon fights with other kids across the road, it was amazing! It is probably the most memorable part of my childhood, and the kids I played with then are still my best friends today, 20 years on. I remember kicking a ball across the road causing a driver to slam his brakes on.  I ran into my house, through to my garden and hid! A minute later my dad appeared, red faced and telling me how stupid and dangerous I had been. It was a quiet road but cars still came down, in hindsight and with what I now know it was incredibly stupid but hey, I was 9! 

Today was a particularly hot summers day. A glorious Saturday, not a cloud in sight. Everyone was in their summer clothing, parks were bustling, kids were everywhere having fun, there was a smell of BBQ in the air and I was.....well I was wearing thick green trousers, heavy boots, a heavy green shirt and was sat in a car with no air conditioning! Living the dream! It had been a quiet day, I was looking forward to my own BBQ in the evening with friends so was heavily clock watching!

My peace and quiet was interrupted by noise of my MDT giving me a job! And it was outside in the scorching heat! Typical! The age of the patient worried me and continued to worry me as I raced round to the address. As I pulled into the road I saw the huge crowd of people and the blue lights of a police car. That would certainly make things easier! I grabbed my stuff and rushed over.

Lying in the middle of the road was a little boy. He looked absolutely terrified. There were tears rolling down his face and all the adults seemed more concerned with vilifying the driver of the car than tending to their son. Holding the boy's head still and talking to him was one of the coppers and he was doing a great job. I set about fitting a collar and assessing his injuries. It quickly became apparent the despite his crying and talking he was in a very bad way indeed. A life threatening kind of bad way. I had no ambulance and no idea how long one would be, so called for HEMS straight away. Luckily I was near a wide stretch of road so there would be plenty of room for the Helicopter to land. 

The little boy kept asking me questions and crying out in pain. I gave him Entonox to try and distract him from the impending needle that was about to enter his arm. He promised to be brave like Iron Man would be. We talked about Iron Man the whole time I was with him, only occasionally did we digress to other, lesser superheroes. I tried to keep him alert and talking but it was becoming harder and harder. I could see the bruising on his flanks getting worse and knew it was likely a ruptured spleen. His leg was also broken. I told him I had to move his leg and it would hurt. He nodded and starred intently into my eyes. While taking about who would win in a fight between Iron Man and Batman I straightened his leg.  He yelped.

By now the chopper was overhead. The police blocked the roads and it landed about 30ft from us. The Dr's and Paramedics came over to me. I handed over and they did their thing. They gave the boy a soft toy helicopter which lit his face up. The decision was quickly made to sedate him and get going. Only now did his parents start to realise the gravity of the situation. Because he was going in the chopper they couldn't go with him. As a parent I can imagine the pain that not being with him would cause. It was a highly emotional situation. To see your little baby, be loaded into a helicopter, unconscious, with tubes sticking out of him must be absolute torture. 

I watched as they took off and disappeared into the blue sky. The parents left in a police car and as usual I was left to clear up. For a child to survive an impact like that and to survive the injuries he had received would take a miracle as far as I was concerned. What a tragic way for such a beautiful day to end up. I could imagine the joy he was feeling, the fun he was having as he ran out between the cars on his quiet road. I spared a thought for the driver of the car. I couldn't live with killing a child, albeit accidentally. Just a tragic, tragic day. 

*Two weeks later*

I was in the thick of more trauma and again I had HEMS come to me! Same crew as before and I asked them about the boy. He was alive and well and is expected to make a full recovery. There are miracles.

Iron Man lives on.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

51 minutes earlier

"You ready? 1...2...3...lift."

"Get me out of here!"

"Stay there, we'll be with you in a minute, OK?"

"Right, I'm on airway, I need some suction. Get the clothes cut off, start a top to toe."

"Have EOC come back to us yet?"

"Not yet.......excuse me, can you help us?"


"Can you go to other the guy in the back, talk to him, reassure him, find out where he is hurt, tell him we'll be with him in a minute."

*radio rings*

"HEMS on way, eta 12 minutes."

"Rog, we need another crew and the fire brigade. We have 3 casualties, 1 deceased, 1 peri-arrest and 1 trapped."

"Received, police and fire on way. Your second crew is 3 minutes away"


"I've got no respiratory effort now, pulse check?"

"Nope, no carotid."

"Time of arrest, 21:42, start CPR."

*police and fire brigade arrive*

"Hi guys, only 1 car involved, 3 occupants, driver is deceased, rear passenger is trapped but no obvious serious injuries and this guy, front passenger has just arrested on us."

"What do you need from us?"

"Can you take over CPR from my colleague......and can you guys deal with the guy in the back please. The other ambulance should be here in a minute."

"Right, let's get this airway sorted, chuck me a size 4."

"There you go, we are in asystole, I'll get a line in."

"Any long bone fractures?"

"Maybe foot, looks like it's just the head injury and anything we can't see."

"Stop CPR for a moment........I haven't got much air entry at all, let's decompress the chest. Carry on CPR, thanks."

"Here you go, I'll get the right side."

*second ambulance arrives* 

"Hi guys, what needs doing?" 

"If one of you could help here, and one of you help the fire brigade with the guy in the back, I have no idea what's going on there."

"What about the guy in the front?"

"Massive cranial destruction, in cardiac arrest on arrival and trapped. This guy was unconscious but breathing and the guy in the back was talking."

"F#%ing hell!"

"Yep........right where are we at?"

"Airway is being managed, chest is decompressed, CPR is constant, just getting fluids up now, he's getting dressings on the head.....want me to take over for a few minutes?"

"Yeah cheers fella, I'll stop after the next cycle."

"Does anyone know what happened?"

"That guy standing over there saw it, apparently they lost control, swerved around the road, flipped over and finished in this tree."

"Still in asystole."

"Carry on. Let's get stuff ready to move if we have to, can you get bed, scoop, blocks and straps. To be honest, I doubt we'll be going anywhere but you never know."

"Chuck me another cannula, I'll get a second one in."

"I'm all out of orange. Grey?"

"Yeah that'll's the guy in the back?"

"Nothing major at the moment, seems stable, distressed obviously, having to cut him out"

"HEMS are here."

"Hi guys, where are we?"

"This guy was front seat passenger, on arrival he was unconscious, irregular respirations and some airway compromise. We pulled him out the car and he arrested a couple of minutes later. He's bleeding into his airway but it's being maintained with an iGel and suction. We've got bi-lateral IV access and bi-lateral chest decompression. He's been in asystole throughout. There was nothing we could do for the driver and the rear passenger is walking wounded by all accounts."

"OK guys, great stuff, let's move him a few feet so we get good 360 access."

HEMS took over and went about their business. We held units of blood and did what we were told! The scalpels appeared and they cut holes in his chest to assess his lungs properly.  It was at this point the police officer who had been helping us decided to go and stand somewhere else! 

After about 5 minutes the resus was terminated.

"Are we all in agreement?......*head nods all round*......time of death 22:03."

A blanket was places over the guy and everyone turned their attention to the one in the back of the car. The fire brigade were cutting the car away and one of them was holding his head still through the boot. There was a mass of bodies all working towards one common goal. I remember looking through the mass of people and seeing the lifeless dead body of the driver just sitting there. It was first time I'd been involved in a job where I've had to ignore the dead. It was an uneasy feeling, I have to admit. 

After about 20 minutes the patient in the back was freed from the wreckage. He was place onto a spinal board and loaded onto the ambulance. HEMS travelled with the patient and the other ambulance crew to the hospital. We picked up all our kit and followed, leaving the carnage behind for the police to deal with.

51 minutes earlier......

Three 18 year olds were driving along. Where they were going I don't know. Where they had come from I don't know. What they were talking about I don't know. I'm sure there was laughter and banter. There always is when friends are together. I'm sure they were enjoying the freedom that a car gives you. They had their lives laid out in front of them with endless possibilities. I don't know exactly what happened next, I only know what we were told.

"RTC Car vs Tree, 3 patients, 2 unconscious and trapped."

We weren't far away, I knew the road and knew it had potential to be serious. Nothing, however, could prepare me for what lied waiting for us. Within a few minutes of the call coming in we were on scene. A number of cars had stopped and blocked the road in doing do. The car itself was utterly destroyed. I was surprised to find anyone conscious to be honest. It was truly horrendous.

It was a 3 door car and due to the way it had impacted the tree I go only get to the passenger door. The driver was dead. I don't need to expand further than I have but there was nothing that could be done for him. The passenger in the back was dazed but talking. He was complaining of pain in various places but being behind the driver there was no way we could get him out without the fire brigade. The only person we could meaningfully help right now was the front seat passenger. 

He was unconscious, covered in blood and breathing very slowly. He had a pretty awful head injury and needed to be out of the car very quickly. The door wouldn't open fully but after some gentle persuasion it was bent out the way. I lent in and grabbed him under his arms. My crew mate grabbed the legs.

"You ready? 1...2...3...lift."

*          *          *          *          *

No matter how hardened we all are to this job, these events do effect us. Whether or not we lie awake thinking about it, day dream about it or just think long and hard about what has been lost, it effects us all. Three young men had their lives destroyed. One may have survived but you can rest assured that his life won't be the same again. Neither will that of their families. All I can think about and keep revisiting is how much fun me and my friends used to have whilst driving along in a car. Perhaps the only difference between a great time and a life changing tragedy is a mis-timed glance over the shoulder  and some bad luck. Who knows. Life is so fragile.
“To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable” Erich Fromm