Ben Yatzbaz asks us to think about kids for this months edition of ‘The ‘Handover’, which will be published at his blog ‘The Insomniacs Guide to Ambulances’ on Friday, 30th October
Whenever a new theme comes up, I always find myself stumbling around for a few weeks trying to remember jobs that would fit with what the host for this months edition wants. Sometimes, I write something Im proud of and sometimes I struggle to find inspiration for that particular topic.
If you have been reading this blog for more than the last couple of months, you will know that I have already covered a fair amount of ground on some of the emergencies that I have been to that have involved children. These always tend to be the dramatic ones, the ones that stick in your memory for a loooooooong time to come, and the ones which are usually the most traumatic.
But, there is another side to some of the children that we see day in and day out, whilst going about our daily work, and that is what I want to concentrate on for this post.
Children are truly amazing. They have a tenacity, strength, outlook, and coping mechanism that is just awe inspiring. Sometimes I can be trying to deal with a distraught patient or family member and the child who is in the room is the most sensible and calm one there. Now, this may be down to age and not understanding the full implications of what is going on, but occasionally I think it is as a result of a childs in-built ability to adapt and adjust when things go wrong without having 20/30/40 etc years of conditioning and reliance on others to taint their point of few.
Lets have a look at a couple of examples.
Sam, who is a 16-year-old boy who has to look after his Father at least once or twice a week as he goes into a hypoglycaemic coma. I have known Sam since I started 9 years ago. I have seen him grow from a 7yr old who used to come down early in the morning and let us in the house so that we could look after his Dad, to a 16yr old, who still lets us in early in the morning so that we can reverse his Dads hypo. I feel as though I know him really quite well and I get a running update on what he is up to each time I get to see him. I have heard about his first girlfriend, his first competitive football game, his SAT results and various other benchmarks through his young life. He now has to come to terms with the decision he has to make on whether to go to university somewhere away in the country or if he should just stay in Newcastle so that he can remain at home and look after his Dad.
Julie and Jack 8 yr old siblings, who could only say one thing after my partner for the day, took them into another room to tell them that their Mum had just died (after finding out from neighbours that there was no other family involvement) – “So who is going to look after us now?” (Christ, that was a tough one to deal with)
Conner, the 6 yr old who has been hit by a car and has a horrendous open deformed fracture of his left lower leg. His bottom lip is quivering, but he doesnt cry out as I place a cannula in his arm, and only whimpers when I pull on his leg to bring it back into some sort of normal position. He manages to keep calm right up until the point that Mam arrives on scene.
Joe, the 10-year-old who is suffering with a terminal brain tumour. He is having problems with his last lot of chemotherapy and now has effectively no immune system and currently has a raging temperature and rigors, but still tells mum and dad that “Its OK, dont worry”, and flashes me the most amazing smile that I can still see vividly to this day.
Then there are the countless nameless children that I see on far to a frequent basis who have been unfortunate enough to have been brought into this world by parents who are addicted to various substances which become the priority in their lives, even over their own children. I look on virtually helpless, seeing them living in conditions which I wouldnt dream of letting children be in. But this is the norm for them, they dont have the things that many children of their age will have, but they still run around playing with their friends and wanting to ask questions about whats in my bag, ‘The funny machine’ (my defib) and my ‘ambulance car’ outside. You can see the eagerness to learn and develop in their eyes but you can’t help but walk out of the house wondering what the future holds for them. All I can do is alert the social services department by filling in a ‘vulnerable child’ form and hope that something is done to ensure the child gets the best possible chances out of life……..I can live in hope, cant I?
And then there is the best sound that any paramedic can hear. That of a baby crying loudly!
There have been so many times in my career when I have been sent to a job which sounds like it’s going to be one of those ones that you wish you didnt have to deal with:
“2 year old, going blue. ? Breathing”
“10 month old girl, choking, ? Breathing”
‘3 month old boy, un responsive, pale and floppy”
But when you get on scene and go running into the house you hear a wonderful noise of a screaming or crying baby, which tells you straight away that Airway, Breathing and Circulation are all ok at this precise moment in time.
Unless of course that is the screaming coming from the patients sibling (but thats a whole different story).
Children will always be the ones that can potentially break a paramedic, I have seen children die, I have dealt with two cot deaths, 3 still births, 1 child cardiac arrest and a couple of ‘expected’ children’s deaths. I have, so far, managed to escape from the ‘traumatic child death’. That is the only thing left on my imaginary tick list that has been in my head since I started the job. I have worked through all of the others over the years and know that I can deal with them, but I really dont know how a nasty child death will affect me.
Hopefully, I will go until retirement without ever finding out the answer to that one but until then, I will still get my joy from seeing some truly inspiring children who could teach many an adult a thing or too about coping and dealing with what life throws at you.