The Kiss Of Life
As a Community First Responder, the worst 999 call you to get sent to is a peadiatric one. As a parent it’s everyone’s worst nightmare. For me, that nightmare came true. I want to share my story – my nightmare. The events of that day that will always stay with me. Its just trying it make it easier that counts.
I’m writing this for varied reasons, not for praise or for people to feel sorry for me, but in the hope it’ll help me over come and help it fade away somewhere to the back of my brain. I hope it’ll make the tears stop running down my cheeks during my day at work. I don’t know if it will, but I can try. But what I do want is this: people to imagine themselves in my shoes that day, imagine the emotions, panic, terror. And learn from it! Would you know what to do? Would you stay calm? Knowledge does save lives.
It’s Thursday January 15th. 2300 and my son, George who is 15 months at the time was a unhappy little boy. He’s been unsettled since putting him to bed at 1900. The reason, like all other children, he’s teething. He’s cutting three teeth at once. Poor little man. I’m on my rest days for the next 2 days so it’s my turn to sit in with him. He can’t sleep, he’s crying in his sleep and burning up. Calpol and Nurofen work for a short time but then lose the effect. In the end I decide it’s impossible to stay downstairs so I went to bed. I go and sit in his room, strip him off to just his nappy ( to help with keeping cool) and rock him. Stroking his hair, talking to him. Comforting him. The night went on. We didn’t sleep much. I think about 2 hours in total. But it’s OK, that’s what you do for your kids.
It’s 7 am on the fateful day. Friday the 16th of January. My wife Kaz and the daughter, Connie who’s 4 have woken up. I’m on the sofa with a grouchy George . I’ve taken his temperature and like most of the night it’s hovering around 39 degrees. He’s miserable, off his food and still burning up. He just wants cuddles. He has more Calpol and an hour later his body temperature is now 40.1 degrees. Enough is enough. Kaz took Connie to nursery and then went off to work herself in the local primary school just up the road from where we live. I told her to keep her phone handy in case I needed to let her know how we got on. I managed to get a appointment with our GP, 1040 am. It couldn’t come quick enough. He wasn’t a happy boy. Hot and grumpy.
Shattered and barely awake, I put George into his car seat as he was crying. He didn’t want me to let him go. I had no choice. He needed a doctor to check him out. I got to the surgery parked the car and got him out. He cuddled tight and buried his head in my shoulder with his arms around me. We entered the reception, clicked our name on the screen and sat down in a full waiting room. Today we were seeing a advanced practitioner. I’d seen her once before and she was great. Sitting waiting, George got off my lap, walked around then would come back to me for a hug. He’d break the odd smile to a couple of ladies, then come running back if any man dare looked at him. He was almost his normal self. Flirty, cheeky and mischievous. But it was short lived. He’d tired himself out so came back, still with a temperature and cuddled up, it was difficult, cuddling will only make him warmer but hes poorly, he needs those cuddles. Catch 22.
His name got flashed up on the screen. We took the short walk past the pharmacy, and the main reception in the surgery, down the hallway and found our room. I knocked and we walked in. On sitting at the desk It was as if George knew we were her for him. He cuddled tight and refused to look up. He was being stubborn. So after some coaxing and me pretending to be checked over he came round to our way of thinking. I explained the situation and awful night we’d had. Immediately she took his temp, it was 41.8 degrees. We quickly stripped him off. Nappy only. She did the regular checks. Ears, clear, throat, clear. Chest, very slight crackle which could suggest a chest infection. But hardly anything to worry about. But as a precaution she gave us antibiotics to see if this could shift any infection and start to reduce his temp. After a few more checks, she gave us some advice, I put some light clothes back on him, picked him up and started to leave the room. Suddenly George perked up. He was smiling, pointing to the practitioner, waving and blowing her a kiss. Little monkey. But great, perhaps he was returning to normal.
As we walked back to the reception area, George was still chirpier than he was at home, shouting in is own way, pointing to the bright lights in the ceiling and all the people as they walking passed us. We walked over to the right hand side to the open plan pharmacy counter. I gave his prescription to the lady, and moved backwards to the seating area. We sat down. On my right was a helpful gent who kept talking and smiling to George as we waited. In the end George did give in, he smiled back and even waved. Then I dropped the car keys, the gent next to me bent down and picked them up for me. By this time George was sat on my left thigh. Hes a big lad, and yep hes heavy too. I turned to the right to talk to this gent as I felt George cuddle up to me. Then it happened. My world had almost ended in that split second.
Something didn’t feel right, my left arm felt under a lot more load. George kicked my leg. I looked down at him, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and that was it, he went floppy. Fuck me, whats happened? Then as quick as his eyes rolled he turned instantly blue. George, my only son was in respiratory arrest. As stupid as it sounds for that millisecond I didn’t register, this couldn’t be happening to me, not the CFR, not my boy. This is serious. Holy shit. I remember my coat and keys all going onto the floor as I jumped up. I picked him up in both arms, I shouted to the reception to call a ambulance and get me a doctor, he was still blue, floppy and unresponsive. I looked at his chest, no signs on any movement. As I ran towards the main reception, I sealed my lips around his mouth and nose and gave him 2 Rescue breaths. Still nothing. He was unresponsive. I got to the reception and had to put him down. For some strange reason I asked if it was ok to put him down. Due to Georges size it wasn’t possible to hold him in one arm and do mouth to mouth. So by this time, My gorgeous son is lifeless, blue and making no effort to breath on his own. My Daddy head is off. My CFR head is on. We are in a packed doctors waiting room with my son lifeless on the counter. Hes lying on his back, tears are filling my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. I gave George another breath and in between looked up for a split second to see the receptionist in bits, that finished me off. This is a real as it gets. I remember muttering the words “Come on mate, help me out, don’t do this to me. Not here.” I gave one more breath as a GP arrived. He asked me to pick him up and move him to another room.
For the short walk I still gave breaths to George. Still mumbling how he cant do this to me, talking to him, asking him to help me out. Tears now rolling down my cheeks. Then we lay him down on the bed. I didn’t want to let him go, lose skin to skin contact but I knew I had to. With my CFR head on I asked for a OP airway, something we use to secure a airway in a patient. My son still wasn’t breathing, I inserted the airway and started using a thing called a Bag Valve Mask.
This delivers high flow oxygen into the lungs. By this time at least 3 doctors including the nurse practitioner had all come rushing into the room. She took over on the BVM. We stripped George back off, lifted his vest. Sheer panic. George was Bright red with mottled skin. Shit. What was this? Was it Sepsis? Why is this happening. Still no respiratory effort. Then it hit me. CFR head off, Daddy head back on. I was now a mess. Crying knelt down next to my son, stroking his temple. whispering to him, begging for him to open his eyes and look at me, but trying not to let the ever growing number of doctors see my emotions, I was a professional, but I was also a Dad. The Doctor in charge placed a stethoscope on his chest and muttered the words “his airway is compromised but he has a pulse” This is good, he still has a pulse. (In young children, getting oxygen into the body is priority).
The room is now full. Doctors, nurses, health visitors, receptionists and me. All huddled around my boy. Working hard and staying focused. In tears I’d tried calling the wife. No luck. I rang my sister in law and told her to go pick the wife up. She could hear my panic. I had to tell her. I struggled to say those words, “George isn’t breathing and a ambulance is on the way. Hurry up”. A few minutes later with 13 or so people in the room, With George still being supported for his breathing the paramedics arrived. I was still on my knees, holding my sons hand. Stroking his temple. The Doctors were amazing. holding my hands while still looking after George, rubbing my arm. Talking to me. Convincing me it would be ok. George was still unresponsive with low oxygen levels. I wasn’t convinced. They instantly recognised me from the job. They have backed me up before when I’ve been on CFR duty. They looked at me as if i was booked on. I shook my head and said through the tears, “No hes my son”. I gave a brief history of what happened. They were simply great. They decided to get him onto a stretcher and into the ambulance. As the Para picked him up, George opened his eyes. Shit. Wow. I couldn’t hold it in. I sobbed my heart out. He wasn’t noisey, or crying, but his eyes were open, that’s all that mattered. He was still poorly. As they secured George to the stretcher while still on oxygen, the doctors hugged me, held my hands and told me they were there for me. What a comfort. What a great team.
So here we are, Daddy head still on but doing what I’ve done so many times to my own patients, wheeling them out to the ambulance on a stretcher. Problem is, my son was poorly. I didn’t want to be here. Not this time. Just as the ramp lowered, Kaz arrived with another teacher closely followed by the sister & mother in law. As expected the wife was in bits. My mother is law, who is usually our rock, was unconsolable. This in turn got me welled up. I wasn’t going to cry again. Not in the street. I held it in and we agreed the wife will travel in the back. George was now making noise. Not a cry, but trying. I hear the paramedic tell the sister in law don’t panic, and don’t try to follow us. “Take your time” he said. We are about to set off, All calmed down slightly. As we pulled off I breathed a sigh of relief. A slow drive, no rushing. Surely this means hes going to be ok. But then I heard those three words from the speakers in the ambulance ” 999 mode activated”. Fuck. This isn’t good. Blue lights and sirens are on. The ambulance is going at speed. Its a 6 mile drive from where we were on a Friday morning. Shit traffic. Lets hope they move. I was willing them all to move.
As predicted, most people moved. The sirens never went off. The Paramedics driving was simply impeccable. Highly skilled but not mind readers. But we still had issues. People didn’t move. They panicked. To them it was another blue light vehicle. One of many they see on the roads daily. I was swearing. Cursing. Don’t they bloody know what blue lights mean, move that car. NOW. My tears started and the paramedic did his best to keep me with it. He had other priorities. We hear noises from the back. George was breathing on his own but slowly. His oxygen levels were still low so still needed a mask.
On arrival in Resus, doctor’s were waiting. George was crying. But that was music to my ears. More doctors gathered round, they got a history and gave oxygen. But now George was fighting the mask being put on. This is good. Hes coming back. Kaz sat on the bed with him, but I could see the monitor, His Sats levels, his heartbeat. They weren’t normal and I didn’t want to see them. Sometimes knowledge can be good, but it can also be bad. Twenty minutes passed and things settled down. Sister and mother in law Arrived. George was coming back to normality. I couldn’t hold the tears in. My sister in law asked if I needed some air, I couldn’t speak. I just nodded. She knew. We walked out side, I turned round and she already had her arms open. I Sobbed for 20 minutes. I relived the last hour so many times. So many what ifs. Thank god for my training.
George was moved to a ward where he stabilized considerably. I stayed with him until about 2200. The wife went home for an hour to make it as normal as we could for Connie, Our 4 year old Daughter. She had no clue about the drama that day. I lay next to George on the bed. Talking to him as he slept. Stroking his hair. Patting his back. He was breathing normally on his own. I cried lots that 2 hours on the bed. Kaz came back and it was my turn to go home. I had to fight it. I didn’t want to leave but he was in good care. I drove home. Alone. No Radio. Just me and my thoughts. Crying most of the way. Drying my eyes before walking in to the house. The mother in law gave me a hug and left. Its now 2335 at night and I’m alone. Connie is in a deep sleep. I went to her room. Watched and listened as she slept. Crying. Gave her a kiss and came down. I opened a bottle of whiskey and then stood on my door step hoping to catch a glimpse of a neighbour. Wanting a hug, someone to tell me it’ll be ok and have a drink with me. No one came. Did I sleep? Simply no. Too many things in my head.
George rapidly improved and was allowed home the following day. I was on tender hooks. I Found myself checking his temperature hourly. I wasn’t going to allow myself to be in that position. The days passed. No reoccurrence. My boy was back. They found a heart murmur while he was in hospital. This was monitored for a little while and then given the all clear. life can return to normal. Finally.
So now you’ve read it, tell me how you feel? Did you cry? Did it put a lump in your throat? I cried four or five times typing it. But its not about that. Its about what lessons can be learnt. If I didn’t know what to do, would George still be here? No one knows but that’s not a chance any parent should take. Every parent should know Basic Life Support. Its a simple as that. I tweet the following poster a lot. Of course there are courses to go on. There are websites. Some of which are listed below.
Share this poster. Show your friends and grandparents. You simply cannot predict who it’ll happen to. Illness doesn’t discriminate. But its how you react that makes all the difference. A calm approach will help you but also those around you. It will help your child if they can hear you.
Here is the website for St Johns Ambulance. Again, share this with family and friends. The more people that know basic life support the better. Its simple to do.
There are three lessons to be learnt from this. Don’t dismiss them. Acknowledge them. Listen to them. It could save a life.
- Get your self up to date with Basic Life Support. Book a course.
- Make sure you are blue light aware. Vital minutes could be lost trying to get through traffic. The Link below is a short clip of what to do if you see blue lights. Watch it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btRHvQEIkcU
- Appreciate the tremendous job that healthcare professionals do. Sometimes in very hard circumstances. remember they are only human like you. They have feelings.
Five months have passed and there here isn’t a day that passes where I don’t have tears. Where I don’t think about what ifs. I look at him playing and well up. I well up at certain TV programmes. The bond I have with George is truly immense. I’ve been back to the doctors to say thank you, to give them a gift, to give them a hug, and yes we all cried together. They were simply tremendous. We have a special connection. When I hold George as he drifts off to sleep I watch his breathing. When I see his eyes close it takes me back to that morning. But I hold him, I smile to myself as I kiss him on the forehead. We make eye contact and just look at each other for a little while. I talk to him softly about the day we’ve had. About the future to come. About us going to the pub where he can buy me a pint and talk like adults. Best mates. But none of this would happen if I didn’t have my training. Like I said earlier, you cant predict when or who it’ll happen to. But you can be prepared.