Monday, May 21, 2007


She was beautiful. The first time I saw her it surprised me how beautiful she was. She had blond hair about shoulder length. Her hair had just a hint of curl to it. Her skin was white with just a bit of a tan from being out in the sun. Her eyes were a greenish-brown. Touching her hand, I found it so soft.

The first time I saw her, she was being carried out of her babysitters house by one of my paramedics. She was less than 2 years old.

I was acting Lieutenant on the engine with my driver and firefighter. The ambulance was staffed that day by two of our regular paramedics. As has been happening more and more often, everyone was a paramedic that day.

Our ambulance and engine had been dispatched to a difficulty breathing just a few blocks from the station. The ambulance arrived first, less than a minute before the engine. They had told us en route that our patient was a child. The ambulance arrived, went inside quickly, and was told by the babysitter that the child had just quit breathing. She was not breathing, so the medic scooped her up, and started to the ambulance. I met him in the yard and followed him into the box.

Inside the box we began bagging her and assessing her. We could find no marks or bruising of any kind, so we sent one of the guys to talk to the sitter. Her breathing was agonal, and her pulse was dropping.

I have to give credit to everyone on the scene. We worked well together. The second medic on the ambulance was up front in the jump seat, so he was bagging. I was on the side in the CPR seat, so I started looking for a vein for an IV. Not surprising, I found nothing quick, and with her condition began to quickly set up for an intraossias line. I looked up and found that my fireman had a bag spiked with the pedi drip set, and was quickly replacing the tubing for the IO line.

I hated to inflict such an injury on her, but she needed it. I manually inserted the IO into her right tibia. After a quick aspiration and flush, I attached the tubing. The first medic had set up the intubation kit and had taken over bagging while the his partner inserted the tube. I felt better about the situation because now we had a tube and a line.

My driver returned from inside with the sitter to tell us that now she was saying that the child had pulled a chair and a vacuum cleaner over on her. It sounded fishy, but we quickly packaged her as a trauma patient. Because of the time of day and our location, we decided to call a helicopter to transport to Children's Medical Center. I was tasked with driving a few blocks to the landing zone.

As I drove, dispatch advised us that the helicopter would be coming from Fort Worth, over 20 minutes away. We knew we could be to Children's in 20 minutes so we disregarded them. Normally, the helicopter in Dallas has a 7-8 minute ETA to us. They can be landing at a trauma center 15-18 minutes after we call them. Depending on the time of day (rush hour), and our location they can be faster.

As I head toward the highway, I hear the medics in back (all four of them) saying her pulse was going down. They had checked her sugar and it was fine. Her O2 sats had been in the 60's, but now with the tube and bagging they were in the 90's. But her heart rate kept falling. The medics were all very busy, so I was on the radio in front with medical control. We got orders for Narcan just in case, but it didn't change anything. Her heart rate continued to fall despite everything we did. As it slowed passed 60, they began CPR.

Because we were forced to begin CPR, medical control ordered us to go to the nearest hospital. It was our local hospital. They are pretty good. I've been a patient there myself. But they are not equipped for a child like this. The child needed to go to Children's, and I should have taken her. I should have disobeyed orders from medical control. I should have lied when they asked what our location was. I should have.

But I didn't.

We went to the local hospital. When we arrived, she had no respiratory drive at all, and her heart rate was in the 40's. The hospital was overwhelmed. We stayed to help. We took turns doing CPR. It took 45 minutes to get a helicopter to the hospital and get her transferred to Children's. 45 minutes to get her to the hospital I should have taken her to in the first place.

The next shift, a police detective came by to get statements. The child had died at Children's.

We gave our statements, swore our affidavits, and signed the notary book. Then he told us the rest of the horrible story.

The child's mother had a new job, and no sitter. The next door neighbor had kids, so she asked her to watch the girl. For whatever reason the child cried all day (according to the confession of the sitter). The sitter had been shaking the baby all day to get her to quit. The last time she had shaken her for crying, she went limp in her arms. She panicked and called 911. Then we arrived.

The autopsy reveled massive brain injuries.

This is the case I hinted at here. The sitter was charged with capital murder.
Just the other day we were to go to trial. I was to testify as to the sitters emotional state among other things. The assistant DA called and told me that she had plead guilty to a lesser charge, and wanted a jury to decide punishment. I was told she could get 20years to life.

All the years of the rest of her life will not bring that little girl back. In 20 years, a little blond haired girl could have gone swimming in the ocean. She could have had her first boyfriend, her first kiss. She could have gone to her first dance. She could have attended her prom. She could have painted with her hands. She could have had her picture taken in the the Texas bluebonnets wearing a Sunday dress. In 20 years she could have fell in love and been married. She could have even had a little girl herself.

But she won't get that chance.

Not in 20 years.

Not ever.

I'm glad this electronic paper won't show teardrops. I'm going out back of the station where no one can see me for a while.

Mr Fixit


Ambulance Driver said...

Three things:

1. I'd think a helluva lot less of you if you DIDN'T get choked up over that memory.

2. The only shot she had at surviving, you gave her. You should feel no guilt. Zero. Remember - the only perfect call is the one we haven't run yet.

3. That was one well-told story. Good writing, Blog Brother.

Anonymous said...

My heart is breaking for the pain you're feeling. AD is right - you did what you could with what you had to work with. Carry that sweet girl in your heart and go on to your next call.

Strings said...

And people ask me why I do what I do...

I know your pain, Brother. I have to think about it when I get a call for help, and it's too far away for us to provide that help: is this going to be someone we hear about later, as another statistic? Is there SOMETHING I can do, that we can do, for this child?

You did everything you could: that it wasn't enough isn't your fault, but the fault of the 'sitter who couldn't handle her job. Keep that girl's memory alive, so she doesn't become a statistic... and believe you did everything you could...

Jethro said...

I don't think I could have said it any better than AD. You got to remember the good calls with the bad and hope somewhere they even out.

Matt G said...

Well told.


With massive brain trauma, it's probably as well that you didn't get the poor thing to Children's in time; they might have kept the body alive.

Are there more like this coming? Because I can't handle much more.

Brandon said...

I'm sorry that you had to go through that; but take comfort in the fact that you did the absolute best that you can and that it just wasn't meant to be that she was going to go home to her family.