Another cardiac arrest dragged me and my crew mate miles from base. An 83 year-old man had collapsed in front of his family. He was a known diabetic but had been speaking to his son earlier, with no problems reported at that time.
When we arrived, a FRU and another ambulance, crewed by an Accident and Emergency Support crew was on scene. We were told that a Physician's Response Unit (PRU) was also on the way.
The man was stuck in a tight space and the FRU Paramedic was in the process of resuscitating him, with the help of the A&E Support crew. It was clear that this was a messy and complicated job, and the presence of his family, in various rooms of the house, didn't help the situation. Emotional energy like that can hamper a resuscitation attempt - the task calls for an almost cold but certainly calculated demeanour; having family and loved ones out of sight is important whenever it can be achieved.
Before too long, there were too many cooks in that space. The PRU team had arrived, consisting of a HEMS paramedic and two doctors, so when they joined in to help, there were eight of us working on and around the poor man. However, once a few necessary skills had been carried out and we'd finally managed to get Intraosseous access (IV access proved to be impossible), only those directly involved with the resuscitation attempt were left with him. The A&E Support crew got busy with supplying and tidying away equipment, passing drugs and keeping the man's son, who was in a room opening directly onto the small landing area where his father lay, occupied and out of sight.
One of the doctors dealt with other aspects of the attempt, including communicating the process with the other family members upstairs.
Once again, despite what is said about the job and what we do, when it comes to this stuff, we all know it well. Teamwork and communication is vital during a life-saving attempt. Keeping calm and responding to the situation without allowing it to affect you personally, is what makes the difference, if there is to be one, between death and life. I'm still proud to work alongside my colleagues in situations like this.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts over a long period of time, the doctor discussed termination of the resuscitation with us and we all agreed. There had been no change in the man's condition for almost an hour. It was futile to continue; the effect on the family was bad enough - to draw things out would have been cruel and unnecessary.
The man's body was left at home, appropriately covered and cleaned up as much as possible. The police were called (standard procedure) and the family was left to grieve in peace, with all of us waiting outside in our vehicles until the police arrived to take over the scene.
When we were tidying up, I walked into the small room that the son had been in, until he went upstairs at the end of the attempt. Inside, lying on the sofa, was a Boxer dog. He had his head on his paws and his eyes told me everything about how he felt. This was the dead man's dog and the animal was clearly upset and depressed about what had gone on around him. His eyes followed me without his head lifting, and this just made him look ever more sad.
I tried to persuade him to move into the little kitchen area, away from the sight of his master laying on the floor of the landing, and, at first he followed, tail wagging at the sound of a kind voice (up til then all he'd been hearing were the voices of control and procedure and they are not kind voices). But he turned and went into the landing area, where he bowed his head close to his master's face, before running up the stairs.
I love animals. I love dogs especially; they can be extremely intelligent and are famously loyal, and I believe that what I witnessed at that moment, was a dog saying goodbye to his master.