A Day in the Life

Study of a small girl with a prize Scottish terrier dog, c. 1935 / by Sam HoodThree times in my career, I’ve treated small children who were accidentally backed over by the family car. These kids are so small, so mobile, and very quick – in a heartbeat they are where they shouldn’t be.   It’s made me very cautious when backing my car around my kids. Usually, I just bring them into the car with me – that way I know where they are.

The first kid I saw that had been backed over was in a retail parking lot. His mom had run into the store really quick and the kids took the opportunity to get into mischief. First the three year old boy got out of the car, then, coincidentally, his older sister took the car out of gear. Upon our arrival, we found the boy lying in the parking lot, crying. As I bent down to assess him, he began projectile vomiting – which is a terrible sign for someone with a head injury.

We quickly packaged and transported him to the closest trauma center. I never did hear whether he survived, but I sometimes think of the guilt the mother and sister must feel for that incident.

I was working on the helicopter the last time I treated a kid who’d been backed over by the family car. This was a four year-old boy in Woodland, Washington. We landed the helicopter in the middle of a residential intersection, about 40 yards from the incident. Firefighters and paramedics were already treating the boy.

Like many emergency scenes in rural communities, everyone seemed to know each other – plus, there was a lot of chaos. CPR was being performed, but there was no IV access and he had not yet been immobilized. I inserted an intraosseous needle into his lower leg while Jann, the flight nurse, intubated the boy. We moved him to a backboard and then into the helicopter.

On this particular, warm Summer day, we were in our older helicopter, the BO-105 – which is an amazing machine, but a lot smaller than most EMS helicopters today. Because of its size, it’s impossible to take along extra personnel, and makes it more difficult to work on critical patients. This means we had to work together as a team, to cooperatively take care of this boy – who was very critical.

At one point I found myself doing chest compressions with one hand, and squeezing the bag-valve device that was breathing for him. To do this, I had removed my safety harness and was up on my knees. I took a quick glance out the window, to see where we were, and discovered the helicopter was actually making a sharp turn.

Looking out the side window, I was looking right at the ground – 800 feet below me. And I was leaning against the door – without my safety restraint fastened. In the midst of trying to save this boy, I had a quick vision of the flimsy aircraft door popping open and me falling to my death. I didn’t like that scenario. But fortunately our pilot was so good that our g-forces were towards the floor of the helicopter, not sideways!

As I continued to do CPR on this boy, Jann was preparing to give him blood. She plugged it into the IO and pressurized the bag. Unfortunately, the tubing popped off of the connector and blood began to spurt all around – mostly all over me.

We landed at Emanuel Hospital’s trauma center and delivered this pulseless boy to the team. If he had survived, he’d be 24 this year.

I gathered our gear and proceeded to our fifth-floor office to clean the equipment and myself. Both Jann and I were exhausted, dejected, and sad. No one likes to lose a patient, especially a child.

Meanwhile, my colleagues were interviewing potential new flight paramedics upstairs. As I was walking down the hall, the interview team asked the interviewee if he had any questions. He asked what it was like to work at Life Flight. Just then, my friend Paul saw me outside the office and called me in. I had no idea what was going on.

In I stepped, my uniform shirt was covered in blood and blood was dripping from the MAST suit that we used to try and control our child patient’s hypovolemic shock. I had blood on my sunglasses, in my hair, and on my face. I stood in the office with a dazed look – and five faces looked back at me with equally morbid looks. I turned and left.

As I walked down the hallway, I heard Paul telling this potential medic, “That’s what it’s like to work here.

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Comments

  1. Gary Walter says:

    Yeah, well, as you know Don, sometimes one parent's job requires them to be gone. Plus there are a lot of ignorant people who just have no clue that they are sowing the whirlwind – nor what they will reap.

  2. Wow, Gary. What stories! I've only seen one child that was fatally injured due to the family car. It was when I got to spend the day with my sister who was a Deputy Coroner. The 3 year-old girl looked like a doll laying on the slab in the freezer. It was very difficult to believe she was dead. Children don't look the same as older people when they die. I still can see her beautiful black hair and pale skin.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      These are the worst – totally preventable, and yet sustained by someone who probably loves the kid more than anyone. So sad…

  3. Gary Walter says:

    These are the worst – totally preventable, and yet sustained by someone who probably loves the kid more than anyone. So sad…

  4. kmcdade says:

    Yikes, heartbreaking.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      @kmcdade Very! Sometimes it's like the blood just won't wash out. Images burned in my brain forever.

  5. @lyzadanger says:

    Fascinating and touching.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Well said. Thanks for checking in @lyzadanger!

  6. My mean authoritave parent side says: where was the other FREAKING parent when this happened. Small children should not be left unattended for ANY REASON!!!..grrr…

    1. gwalter says:

      Yeah, well, as you know Don, sometimes one parent’s job requires them to be gone. Plus there are a lot of ignorant people who just have no clue that they are sowing the whirlwind – nor what they will reap.

    2. Donald, as a single parent my question is exactly the same thing. Where is that FREAKING husband that decided to leave? OK, not all men decide to leave, and women leave, too; however, life is like that. Sometimes accidents like this happen and it is a horrible tragedy. Other times, parents do fail to watch their children because they just don’t care. The sad thing about all of these situations is the children still suffer, and the ones that arrive on-scene to try and keep things together until further help is given are the ones that end up with some of the deepest scars a lot of the times.

      1. gwalter says:

        Yeah, where is that no account #$%? I thought he seemed like a pretty good guy when I met him.

  7. Jenn says:

    I pray we never have to go through that with our kids. Heartbreaking….

    1. Gary Walter says:

      @wifenkids Some accuse me of worrying needlessly – but I prefer the Boy Scout motto: "Be Prepared." I'd rather know I did everything to prevent this, than live in guilt forever more.

  8. Donald, as a single parent my question is exactly the same thing. Where is that FREAKING husband that decided to leave? OK, not all men decide to leave, and women leave, too; however, life is like that. Sometimes accidents like this happen and it is a horrible tragedy. Other times, parents do fail to watch their children because they just don't care. The sad thing about all of these situations is the children still suffer, and the ones that arrive on-scene to try and keep things together until further help is given are the ones that end up with some of the deepest scars a lot of the times.

  9. Jason Bruce says:

    What a story. I also can't imagine the guilt a parent goes through. Great job to all emergency paramedics. Thanks for sharing it.
    My recent post What the Future Holds

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Thank you Jason! Appreciate your feedback!

  10. Ray says:

    The helicopter shown is similar to the MBB-105 CMBS that was flown extensively in the US and on which Gary flew as a team member and I on occation as a prarmedic from Clackamas county when another medical person was needed–before paramedics routinely flew as part of the crew.

    When I was in Pendleton as a flight paramedic, i had occasion to breifly fly the BO-105, and the BK-117, of similar but larger design. The rigid rotor system and 4 blades make this a very responsive and fun machine to fly.

    For those interested in the history and technical evolution of these 'birds' here is a link. http://www.vectorsite.net/aveucop.html

    Thanks for making your real life stories more than just stories, but ones with lessons attached for us to apply to our lives. It is an important task to take tragedies and make them into positive lessons, as it provides some sense and meaning to senseless tragedies.

    1. gwalter says:

      Thanks for adding to the story Ray! And thanks for the link.
      BTW, if you sign up for an Intense Debate account (http://intensedebate.com) you will have more options – as far as editing and monitoring your comments here (and on other blogs). It’s really a great service. Plus, you can sign in with your Facebook, Twitter, or other accounts!

      My recent post daddytude: RT @gwalter: I'm building a #boysonly treehouse in my backyard and no #thegirls are allowed. They have cooties! RT to join!

  11. gwalter says:

    Thanks G&T, I appreciate the feedback!

  12. As a parent of small children this kind of retelling makes me feel sick, and sad, and worried for the safety of my kids…My heart breaks for parents that have to endure this kind of pain and guilt, whether they are culpable or not.
    .-= the inadvertent farmer´s last blog ..I love Classic Chrome! =-.

    1. gwalter says:

      Indeed Kim. When I saw you today, I almost warned you away from this post – but figured that might just spark undue curiosity, and if I didn’t mention it, maybe you’d just miss it.

      We hold our kids hands walking through parking lots – or anywhere there is traffic. Little Miss I’m 4 and a 1/2, almost 5 year old Darling Daughter rails against this sometimes, but that’s OK. She is also the one most likely to dart after something shiny. Even when holding her hand, she sometimes goes after shiny things.

      At this age, they are small enough to not be seen easily by drivers, but old enough to be independent and precocious.

      I too grieve for those families – and the hundreds of others whose lives have been touched by death during my watch.

  13. […] | Filed under: Parenting, Thoughts | 1 Comment » I remember responding to the scene of a senseless accident.  A four year old boy had been killed when his mother backed the car over him.  There are many […]

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