One of the most heartrending cases I've experienced as an EMT was two years ago, when we received a call for a pediatric near-drowning.
It was summer: swimming season was already in full gear. Invariably, we would get a call for some inexperienced swimmer who got into trouble--or for a small child who fell into the pool in their backyard (or in the backyard of a neighbor's); and by the time the parents found the child, it would be already too late.
We got the Call on a Saturday morning, about ten, ten-thirty in the morning. The call was for a pediatric near-drowning. We grabbed our gear, headed to the rig, and raced, full-tilt boogie, to the scene.
The area where the incident happened was in an affluent part of the city. The houses were easily into the quarter of to several millions in dollars; the people who lived in these houses never worried for lack of money: these people were loaded. We got to the scene in less than eight minutes.
I think we broke all speed records.
Of course, at the sight of our big, bright orange-and-white ambulance, with its lights flashing, brought the people out from their houses; they wanted to see what was going on. We raced to the house that had the couple doing the ambulance dance: frantic waving of arms, hopping up and down, looks of sheer terror on their pale-stricken faces. They had us follow them to the backyard, where a neighbor was already trying to revive a still, limp form on the ground. It was a little boy, no more than five years old at the most.
At the sight of the pearlescent-hued skin of the child, my heart sank. I thought we were already too late. We pushed the woamn out of the way and immediately set to work in trying to revive the boy.
He was not breathing!
My partner, "Goose", grabbed a pediatric OA tube, shoved it down the child's throat, while I commenced to starting CPR while Wendell hooked the kid up to a portable EKG monitor. The green line on the screen was flat. The kid was asystole: no pulse, no blood pressure reading, no resps. He was in trouble, serious trouble. We had to act fast if the kid was to have any chance of surviving.
We started an IV of saline solution and administered a combination of CPR and rescue breathing. We were soon pouring sweat as we put all of our efforts into trying to save the tiny child that lay on the ground in front of us. Nothing we did seemed to bring any change in the boy. That's when "Goose" had Kendall grab the portable defib (defibrillator); we were going to try to shock the boy's heart back into beating.
After the defibrillator machine was hooked up and ready, we administered one shock to the boy's chest. At the shock, the child's chest rose off the ground, and his limbs jerked spasmodically as if in a seizure; the child then lay still as a stone. Nothing. We tried again. Nothing. We continued our rescue efforts until the ALS (Advanced Life Support System) arrived. Hopefully they could do more for the boy than we could.
The ALS team managed to get a weak pulse back from the unconscious little boy as well as a descernable blood pressure, but by the time the child was loaded up into the ambulance, he went down again. They continued to work on him as they rushed him to the nearest hospital (Nashville Memorial).
As the ambulance left, we got the history from the little boy's stricken parents. The child was named "Jeremiah"*, and he was five years old, just turned five years old last week, according to his mother. The child was a non-swimmer, yet he wanted to go to the pool, as he was hot from playing. That was when he spotted a ball bobbing in the water--only to fall in. By the time he did, he realized he couldn't swim, and he went down after a few minutes of panicked terror. By the time the parents found their Jeremiah, he was found floating, face-down, in the water. That was when the ambulance was summoned.
We later found out at the hospital that little Jeremiah didn't make it. He'd coded again in the ER, and nothing could be done to save him. That was when it hit home because I'd had a little boy myself, and if anything were to happen to him as it did to Jeremiah, I don't think I could have ever lived with myself. I cried at the news, and I will never forget the sound of the boy's parents anguished screams enamating around the ER waiting area as the doctors delivered the terrible news.
Now two years later, I still hear the screams of Jeremiah's parents, and I still see the sight of that beautiful little child lying still, lifeless, on the ground, as we valiantly worked to try to save his life. Now when the call comes and the patient is a child, I still get butterflies in my stomach, and the call suddenly takes on a whole new sense of urgency.
~Written by Patricia Eileen Moss, EMT, Nashville, Tennessee.
*Not the child's real name.