I nearly lost my daughter when she was 16 months old, when I pulled her out of a cold outdoor pond in winter in a hypothermic, unresponsive state and held her over my shoulder and ran screaming that she was dead.
Even as I write this my throat closes and I have tears brimming.
I thought she was dead. I couldn’t help her. I didn’t know what to do. But the ambulance coming would help.
If I had known how to do CPR would it have made a difference?
Maybe, but I’m not sure which direction my panic would have taken me down. Maybe to do CPR maybe just remain a screaming mess.
To this day I don’t know. My daughter started crying not many moments after I pulled her out of the pond. I was in such a panic, People around me had to take her from me and show me she was alive.
Not quite nightly, but often I have nightmares about that moment. Not the moment I pulled her submerged out of freezing water, but the moment I hesitated to check on her.
I was at a toddlers toy party, my daughter was out of my sight maybe 3-4 minutes. I went to check on her, (given that she was Houdini re-incarnated) and people said “you worry too much, she’s fine”
“It’s a kids party, she’s with the other kids”, and you don’t have to worry, the house is child-proofed”.
I hesitated I felt the pull of “your being over-protective etc.”, and I remember pulling out a cigarette and being about to light it… Yes it was in the day when it was still acceptable to smoke, as long as you put your child/baby down when you did.
And I thought, “No, I’ll check she’s not setting off a mousetrap, or handing out razor blades from a child-proofed cupboard to other kids, or scooping fish out of a tank to kiss them”.
Searched the house, plenty of kids, but none mine.
Starting to worry, but knowing the house was child-proofed. Keeping control.
Found the front door open, I yelled to the older kids, have you seen little girl out here dressed in red shit? No.
Turned to walk back in house, caught a flash of red out of the corner of my eye.
Went to look, and after moving away reeds and dirty water, there she was face down. Not responding, and the next scene played out as I painted above. Me the screaming mess, my daughter gulping air through blue lips.
I was a factory worker at this point in time, with no medical background.
I went and did a St John’s course. If this happened again I would be prepared.
The first aid course, didn’t make me feel confident that I wouldn’t react in that same panicked way, so that led to a nursing degree, then Ambulance diploma.
After more than 18 years, I feel I could respond as a Paramedic. But back then? No, I would still have been a screaming mess.
Truth be told, if it was any family member drowned now, I would quite possibly be a mess, but I like to believe not, but the screaming panicked mess would not be far below the surface.
Since being a paramedic I have been to 2 drowning’s of children. It has torn my “wall of emotion” down both times I wondered on the way to those cases if I could perform as I should, and thankfully I did, though my heart raced and my tears couldn’t be held back, both times it was successful. Because we got there in time.
And this is where my issue on the recent drowning of a 3 year old child comes into play.
I’ve read the media and social media posts, I’ve seen both criticism of the service not providing an ambulance in a timely manner, and a desperate fault in the dispatch system, along with a crew 9.5 hours into shift without meal break being the closest car to respond, and also heartbreaking criticism directed at the parents of this poor little girl, who the emergency system failed.
I’m aware that in times of stress and tragedy it seems to be human nature to reach out and place blame immediately. This is so wrong. How can we assign blame without knowing the full story?
In this case, maybe the parents made a momentary lapse in judgement, maybe they hesitated in their decisions, maybe they were unfit parents (I’m not suggesting this is true, I’m playing devil’s advocate, as I have nothing but soul wrenching sympathy for this child’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles…and so on)
WHAT =…..an ambulance was not able to reach this child for 23 minutes, it doesn’t matter why this child drowned, it matters why she didn’t get one in a timely way.
The circumstances of how, are not for us to judge, the coroner and police will figure that out. Now is the time to question why the Ambulance Service failed this little girl and her family. And the Ambulance Service failed her dismally.
Does no-one else see this issue?
We have in place a dispatch system that is hungry, it’s hunger for priority zero’s and priority 1s can never be satiated, it sends crews to cases that can wait an hour or so or even longer, and the tragedy of this little girl not getting emergency care in an appropriate time frame to increase her chances of survival is the result of that hungry beast that is a computer aided dispatch system.
This is quite simply the problem, a dispatch system that cannot differentiate between a 3 year old drowned, and a person with gastro “feeling faint and breathing abnormally”.
I will try and let this matter go, and go back to my too often nightmares of that moment of hesitation.