Some people just seem to have the worst luck. I was given a call to a road traffic collision (RTC) and the control room asked me to provide a report for HEMS. The initial calls to 999 must have made it sound very serious if they were considering sending the helicopter out. As I pulled up on scene it appeared that the cars had taken the worst of it, but the passengers were all up and walking about – It didn’t look like there was going to be any need for that helicopter thankfully, and so we gave a report to that effect!
Another fast response paramedic (FRU) arrived at the same time as me and he took charge the occupants of one car while I took the other. My patients were a fairly young married couple, they said they had no pain or injuries and adamantly declined to go to hospital from the outset. It was then that I noticed that the woman was clutching a children’s teddy-bear tightly in her arms and her eyes appeared swollen from crying.
“Is there a child in the car?” I asked, becoming suddenly alarmed at the thought.
“No, our son died this morning, we were on our way home from the hospital, the car is full of his things” she replied – Oh my word, suddenly I had to shift my priorities. We were standing on the grassy bank of a central reservation on a busy road with passers-by literally slowing down and gawping at them. How do you begin to comfort a couple that have been living through the greatest nightmare of their lives, in these circumstances?
I threw one of our large red blankets over the metal railings to form a sort of curtain and put my coat on the floor so they could sit down and be partially shielded from the nosey ‘rubber-neckers’.
The fire-brigade and police arrived and I let them know the situation so they could be sensitive to the distressed couple while they questioned them about the accident, dealt with the damaged car (which their son had loved) and their son’s possessions. At times like these there are sometimes practical things that we can do instead of offering the usual blithered platitudes, which are not only likely to be completely inappropriate and insulting, but are quiet simply not enough under the circumstances. Between us we managed to coordinate a lift for their onward journey (which was a considerable distance), phone calls to loved ones were made on our mobile phones and contact details supplied for the Child Bereavement Charity.
The sight of the back-seat of their car stuffed with many of their son’s possessions broke my heart, but they held it together, I can’t tell you how impressed I was by their quiet dignity.