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First on the scene

December 13, 2012

I’ve posted before about being called to attend someone acutely ill or injured. But there’s more often been the times when I have happened across these incidents being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The first one I remember was driving home to Wales with my sister. I was a medical student and she must have been living in Kent and giving me a lift home. Probably in her Marina. What a shit car that was. You had to double de-clutch to change gear. Kangaroo petrol had nothing on this car.
My memory of those journeys before the M40 was built was of slow slow progress around the south circular and on this particular Friday we were crawling up a road to join the A40 I think. It was a residential area and it was a two way street but nothing was moving in our direction as we waited patiently to get out of London.

A young boy tried to cross the road from our side to the other. He wove between two stationary cars about twenty feet ahead of us and continued to cross – presumably thinking nothing was coming in the other direction. A black cab hit him full on right next to us. He flew up, hit the bonnet and fell to the road. He tried to get up and lay half on the pavement and half on the road. The cab stopped. The driver distraught. He repeatedly said “I never saw him. He came out of nowhere.” It was true. The cabbie had had no chance. The lad must have been on his bonnet before he could blink. The cab hadn’t been travelling fast, but fast enough not to be able to stop in time.

I jumped out. I had agonised for a split second on whether I should or not as I wasn’t even qualified, but reflex opened my door. I had recently completed my paediatric rotation so wasn’t completely scared of kids. My poor sister then had to find somewhere to pull over  I assume. I don’t remember that bit!

By the time I reached him a small crowd had gathered out of nowhere.  People always say that everyone fights to be involved and take charge. Not this time. No one was doing anything. Just staring. The lad was bleeding heavily from his head and lying still, unmoving. Nobody said anything to him or moved to help him. It was somewhat surreal that they were all just watching. I expect nowadays someone would pull out their mobile phone to film it rather than call for an ambulance, let alone bend down and talk to the lad, but it was pre those days.

I went over to him and wasn’t sure really where to start but ascertained he was still alive. In fact he started to come round when I spoke to him. (I don’t think I had miracle powers – it was just coincidental). The good thing about being knocked down by a cab was that the driver was able to radio in for an ambulance. No mobile phones back then.  I got the lad to tell me his name and move his arms and legs, but it was his head that was bothering me as it looked an incredible mess and was pouring blood.  I grabbed the flaps of skin and pulled them together as best I could, pressing hard enough to stop the bleeding but not so hard I thought his skull would cave in further. I tried to keep talking to him and sent someone off to a nearby house to get a towel and a blanket. A woman turned up who knew his Aunty who lived nearby so she was summoned to come give support.  It was the worst kind of support when it appeared – the ‘What have you done, why did you run out, you know you should look both ways..’. continual stream of telling off, presumably because she was so worried, so scared. But I can’t think the wee lad felt better for hearing it.

The ambulance arrived fairly quickly – faster than the towels and blanket – and the ambulance men took over. I used paper towels and some antiseptic wipes in an effort to clean my hands, but the blood was under my nails till I got back to Wales that evening. The memory has stayed with me over thirty years though. Wonder what happened to him.

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2 Responses to “First on the scene”

  1. Kate Says:

    God Sarah I have ZERO memory of this! Either. Blanked it there and then or it wasn’t me with you?


    • Hahaha. You are my only sister and it was definitely you you must remember! I came back to the car as you’d pulled up about 50 yards ahead. Some kind of lay by or bus stop I think. The ambulance came quite quickly- about 15 minutes I think so I wasn’t away long. Or are you saying I’m making it up??.


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