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Just a glimpse into my life in the emergency services and what we have to deal with because of drunk drivers and irresponsible parents.
The ambulance radio goes off and I am dispatched with my junior partner to a vehicle accident. There is only a first aider on scene – someone from the community volunteer group. We arrive minutes later to find a head-on collision. Our windows are open, it’s a hot summers afternoon, the siren is being dulled by screams of desperation from a mother as we approach.
People always look at the ambulance as if their saviour has arrived, I love and hate that feeling. Their eyes turn from chaos to hope. I love that sometimes we can be that saviour you need. I hate that we can’t fix everything. We can’t save everyone. Watching a person's heart break when they realize their loved one is gone is devastating for us every time.
“MY DAUGHER!! HELP HER!!”
I tell my partner to request the fire department and to get two more ambulances after seeing 7 personnel who were injured – 5 trapped. The windscreen of the vehicle the woman is pointing to has a child stuck in it. Her head is smashed, and her injuries are not compatible with life. That phrase - not compatible with life. It's terrifying to think that I have to use that phrase because a full description of what I saw and how I felt when I saw it, would be so vulgar and full of rage that I would probably hate myself even more for typing it out than using that description.
My words are final, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”
The child is deceased, and the parents are hurling abuse at me as they blame me for her death. I stand there for a second, looking at the blood and shattered bone fragments from an 11-year-old girl who didn’t have her seatbelt on.
I have a job to do, more people need help – people who have a chance at life. I hear the father scream at me as I turn to help the patients who are trapped in the other vehicle, “YOU KILLED HER!”
No Sir, YOU did. You drove drunk, you lost control of the car, you didn’t protect your little girl. Things we think but cannot say.
The mother’s alcohol breath disgusted me from the time I smelt her screaming for help, the father reeks of it even more and is stumbling rather than walking. The fact that I can smell booze-breath above the smell of oil, petrol and blood on the tarmac enrages me, but I say nothing as I listen to the angry slurs of devastated drunks.
I can’t sew your child’s head back together, nobody could have. Things we think as we rage inside from the loss of life we see, but cannot say.
I kneel to get a better view of the condition of the family of 4 that is trapped. They were wearing their seatbelts, they were sober. The drunk driver who is blaming me for his child’s death has also caused the death of the innocent family’s dog. I rip the smashed rear window out because I can't get the doors open The mother and father are critical, they need to be cut out of the car, shock is setting in and they are losing consciousness. I help the little boy out the car after assessing him, I try to shield him from his best friend who is smudged across the hot tar. He sees the dog despite my efforts. The poor thing was so mangled that I couldn’t even begin to guess what type of dog it is. It was.
I manage to help his older sister out of the vehicle, we get her into an ambulance that has arrived and the two leave together with the promise that Mom and Dad will see you at the hospital.
We work as a team to get the Mom and Dad out, it feels like forever, but in reality it's only 20 minutes. The Dad is critical and takes longer to stabilize once out, I leave with the Mom. I hold her hand and tell her it's going to be okay as my partner navigates the afternoon traffic.
It's going to be okay. I tell that to myself too sometimes.
She's crying and asking about her children, I tell her they are already at the hospital and explain the extent of their injuries. I tell her she's a good Mom, I thank her for making her children wear a seatbelt. She's in horrific pain with multiple fractures but doesn't care - her family is in pieces. Physical pain doesn't mean a thing when those you love are critically injured.
When I handed the Mom over to the hospital, she was still stable. By the time I walked outside, the other ambulance was pulling into the hospital driving abnormally erratically.
Oh God no, please no.
The doors opened to reveal the paramedic who was caring for the Dad doing CPR. I gulped for air and went to get him out as quick as possible while they carried on doing CPR. We pushed him through the doors and into the emergency department. The doctors got him back in the hospital, I don’t know if it was for good. I will never know.
Think before you drink and drive. Death is final. There is no coming back.