I have been a volunteer in our EMS Service for the past 18 or so years, the first five as an ambulance driver (I was unable to take the EMT night classes, because of my employment scheduling), and the past 13 as an Emergency Medical Technician-Basic (EMT-B). Several EMTs in our unit, have been volunteer EMTs for more than 30 years, a very dedicated group.
During the past two years while I have been engaged on my personal mission of hurricane Katrina relief, down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I have been on a Leave of Absence from my volunteer EMS Unit.
The crew of 3 other EMTs that I have had the privilege of responding to emergency calls with for many years, are outstanding emergency medical professionals, and I miss “running” with them during my absence.
Being an Emergency Responder, whether as a Policeman, Fire Fighter or an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), is very stressful. There are lots of “tough” calls. And, like most emergency responders, I have had my fair share of those tough calls over the years.
Following is a true story of one incredibly stressful and sad incident that I experienced as an EMT, with my ambulance crew, many years ago, one that I have never forgotten, and most likely, never will. This post is dedicated to the memory of that sweet, little girl, and to all of those thousands of fellow Emergency Medical Technicians, Firemen and Police out there on the front lines in our country, making a daily difference to so many in need.
It was election night, a number of years ago, and lines of people were standing, waiting to vote that evening, at the local polls.
I had gone and voted right away in the morning, when the polls first opened, before any lines.
That early evening, I was at home, in our little town, fixing something to eat for supper.
It was also the night that my regular volunteer ambulance crew of EMTs was scheduled to be “on call” from 6:00pm until 6:00am the next morning, to respond to medical emergencies in our EMS District. We four EMTs on this crew had been together for a number of years on the same crew, and had experienced a lot of calls together.
As I was standing at our counter island finishing my supper dish, a few minutes after six, it happened.
My EMT pager went off: “Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep!”
Instantly, on alert, I listened as the County EMS Dispatcher started announcing our EMT Crew’s page:
“Attention Rescue 100: In your village, at the corner of West Main and Green Streets, for a nine-year old female reportedly hit by a pickup truck. Time out 1806. Take this on E-EDWARD [EMS radio frequency].”
As I listened to the page, my body tightened up, and the words, “Oh, no!” escaped from my mouth, as I instantly turned towards the door, grabbed my car keys and bolted out through the garage to my car, listening to the rest of the page on the way.
I threw open the car door, jumped inside, swung it shut, belted up, turned the key, stepped on the gas to move forward out of my driveway and onto the street, and started my way towards the EMS Building, which was located about 10 blocks southeast of my home.
As I started out on that emergency journey to the EMS building, I reminded myself to remain calm, not to speed, and be extra cautious, to try to beat down the adrenalin surging through my body in those moments. When a medical emergency page comes across which involves a child or infant, it seems that there is a heightened level of that adrenalin. And that evening, it was there.
It seemed like all four of us EMTs on the Primary Crew arrived at the Ambulance Building at about the same time, quickly parked, ran for the big door, opened it and got in the main ambulance, flipped the lights on, radioed EMS Dispatch that we were en route, and moved out through the door, turned on the siren, and headed towards the highway just in front of the building, which would take us to downtown, in about 3-4 minutes, where the emergency was located.
While we were en route, about halfway there, the EMS Dispatcher radioed more information about the call, announcing that there were two EMTs already on location, and that apparently, the girl had been, in fact, not hit, but had been run over by the pickup truck.
When I heard that information from the dispatcher, a feeling of dread, of fear, overcame me.
When we heard that, we immediately radioed back to Dispatch to start the nearest available Paramedic Unit on the way to our location (they were only 8 miles away) to help us out, and to put the nearest Medical Flight helicopter on immediate standby, if they were available. The Medical helicopter Unit was based at one of the nearby hospitals, about 15 miles away, by air.
And just like that, we arrived on location at the accident scene.
Scores of people were lining the streets, many who were actually in line waiting to vote, and others who were around the accident, and saw it happen. The two EMTs already on the scene, had also been waiting in line to vote when the accident happened outside the Village Hall and approximately 40-50 feet up the street, at the first intersection to the west.
Our driver radioed that we had arrived on location, and we all jumped out of the ambulance and hurried over to where the young girl lay in the street. We immediately moved the crowd back away from the young girl, and quickly obtained details on what had occurred, and did a detailed quick trauma exam on the patient. One of fellow EMTs already there, advised that both the front and rear pickup truck wheels had run over the girl’s upper body.
Upon hearing that news, the feeling of dread and fear I had within me, intensified immensely.
We immediately radioed EMS Dispatch to send the Medical helicopter as quickly as possible, to our building, where it would land in the field next door, and we would transport the patient there.
These actions literally happened in only moments of time, as we quickly formulated our next moves. One of the EMTs had gotten the cot out of the rig and moved it next to where we were assessing our patient.
At that point, we decided to carefully pick up the patient, secure her on the cot, load the cot into the ambulance immediately, and head for our ambulance building, where the Paramedic Unit we had requested would be arriving in a few minutes, and the Medical Helicopter a short while after that.
As we carefully lifted the young girl in unison onto the cot, holding her small body in our hands and arms, I was crying inside, as I suspect my crew mates were also doing.
As we left the scene, en route to our EMS Building, we did our best to obtain her vital signs, and relay that information to the incoming Paramedic Unit.
A few minutes after arriving at our EMS Building, the Paramedic Unit Arrived, and took over primary care of the patient.
Shortly thereafter, we were assisting them in doing CPR.
A few minutes later, the Medical helicopter landed, and the flight doctor and flight nurse came running over to our ambulance, and they then took over primary care.
Several minutes later, the Medical helicopter flight doctor advised that CPR should stop. The truck had done just too much damage.
Our EMT crew was all standing outside the ambulance next to the doors when the Medical helicopter flight doctor advised to stop CPR.
As I looked around, I saw that all of us Crew members were crying, the two Paramedics were crying, and the Medical helicopter flight crew was also crying.
Those moments were some of the most helpless of my life.
One of our female crew members walked away from the ambulance to a spot about 75 feet away, sat down on the curb, holding her head in her hands, sobbing. I walked over to her, sat down beside her and was just there with her. She said, “My kids are her age. It could have just as easily been one of my kids.”
In a sad twist of irony, one of the EMTs who was in line to vote when the accident happened, told us shortly thereafter, that the girl’s father had told him that when he and his daughter started to walk across the street that night, his daughter grabbed his hand in hers, and said to her dad,
“Hold on to my hand, Daddy, I don’t want to get run over.”