Friday, May 19, 2006

Dreaded Call

There is one call that sends a chill through every person who works for the ambulance service, from the newest trainees right through to the paramedics with 20+ years under their belt. It brings every ambulance person across the world out in a cold sweat. It's probably also the one call that will make any ambulance person drive to the call just that little bit quicker.  I got it last night.

I was sitting on station, just about to tuck in to my bag of chips when my phone rang.

"There's a job in the car for you - it's a 3 month old not breathing."
"Where is it?" I asked.
"It's in SE20" (not the real location)
Double shit.  
It was a good 3 miles away, if not more.
"Is there a crew running?"
"Yes, they're a lot closer than you, so they should get there first."
"OK, I'll go and lend a hand."

I set off, driving as fast as I dare while making sure I drove safely.  I arrived in 6 minutes, just ahead of the ambulance crew who pulled up behind me as I was getting my oxygen bag.
“I’ve got the bag and mask” called the paramedic on the crew.
“Right, I’ve got the oxygen.”
There wasn’t much point in taking anything else in – if the baby really was “suspended”, we weren’t going to be hanging around to do very much more than the basics.  The baby would be whisked straight out onto the ambulance and the advanced interventions done en route to hospital.
We charged into the house to find mum holding the baby protectively against her.  .  There was an audible sigh of relief from all three ambulance staff – the baby was breathing, but clearly was not well at all.
“It’s Emily,” mum told us, indicating the baby with her head.  “I was reading a book when I glanced up and saw that she was foaming at the mouth, and she’d stopped breathing.”
“How long did she stop breathing for?” I asked
“About 30 seconds.”
“Did she start to breathe again on her own?” asked the paramedic.

While the questioning was going on, we were assessing the baby.  She was unconscious, and when we pricked the heal of her foot to check her blood sugar level, she grimaced but didn’t cry.

Mum carried Emily out to the ambulance.  The paramedic asked me if I could lead them into hospital as his crewmate had been sent over from another ambulance station to work with him and didn’t know the area.  We were going to take Emily in on blue lights, asking control to let the hospital know what had happened and how long we would be so they could be ready.  This is known in London as a “Blue Call”.

I changed the channel on the radio in the car to listen for the crew putting in the blue call – that would be my signal that they were ready to go, then we set off.

Emily was still unresponsive when we arrived at the hospital, but she was now a healthy pink.  A nurse gently took her from mum and whisked her into the paediatrics area.  By the time we’d done the handover and they’d done their checks, Emily had started to come round and began to cry.

It was the best sound I’d heard in a long time!  A suspended baby is the job that we all dread, so I was delighted that this was going to be a happy ending.


Anonymous Michael T said...

Did you find out what was wrong with "Emily"? It ties the story up nicely if you can tell us.

12:02 pm  
Anonymous pete said...

Sounds like a seizure to me (in my unprofessional opinion - I'm just a dispatcher). Infants/small children often have seizures if they're running a high temperature. That would also explain the no breathing (you don't breathe while you're having a seizure) and a lot of people after having a seizure remain unconcious for a short while. When they do come to they're usually droggy or confused, not fully aware of what's going on around them.

I've took a call of a premature infant, just brought home from the hospital, who stopped breathing and was turning blue. We started cpr and that baby starting to cry, right as everyone was getting there, was the happiest noise I think I've ever heard.

9:51 pm  
Blogger Steve said...

Hi Pete

Yes, it sounded like a seizure to us too, but the baby didn't have a high temperature so the cause is unknown.

Michael, I'm afraid I don't know the final outcome of the job - I last saw the baby being assessed by the paediatrics team. It's one of the more frustrating things about the job - you rarely get to know the full outcome of a call.

10:02 pm  
Blogger PJ said...

Good job, Steve. It's a compelling story with a good ending. Beats what we've had all weekend...moron calls.

7:24 pm  
Anonymous other pete said...

i work in the SAS, and am a dispatcher, the other day was the start of our last dayshifts. which was good nice couple of days off.

first job was a 6mom in cardiac arrest, the dispatcher for that area (not me) sent the nearest motor which was a single crewed vechile. unluckily it was a techie motor not a paramedic unit, we got another crew running and it was a double techie crew. the next thing we did was a RRu with a paramedic on board. the distances involved were mad, and the rru was the furthest away. even though we didnt take the call and the only thing we had to do was get crews going we were all involved and when the crew called in and said the baby was ok, i think all of us breathed a sigh of relief.

11:44 pm  
Blogger Dullahan_999 said...

I can understand the frustration of handing over at casualty and not knowing the outcome.

I had a call come in for a 3wk baby in arrest the other day and was walking the parents through CPR untill the crew arrived, crew take over and I move on to the next call.
Then you have the weird limbo feeling as you carry on with your day but at the back of your mind there is always a "did they/didn't they" longing to know.

Turns out this one didn't.

8:16 am  

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