I am a single mother to two amazing young women, Annabelle who is 21 and Lillian who is 11. Everything I’ve done over the past 21 years has been for them. When my oldest was young I fell in love with medicine, specifically emergency medicine.
At that time my daughter was about two years old. I was standing in the kitchen making our dinner plates. She sat just beside me, on the floor, playing with her magnetic letters on the fridge. After my fourth ten-hour shift of the week, I decided to splurge and get us take out for dinner. I had just gotten a ten cent raise at the restaurant I worked, it had been a very busy week and I had decided to celebrate! To a twenty-one-year-old single mom every extra cent was worth celebrating and it was so rare, even with my employee meal discount, that we would get takeout. Anyway, as I stood there arranging our plates I stole a piece of steak, chewed too quickly yet not enough, and began chocking. It wasn’t like a dramatic scene you see in the movies. It was almost quiet, peaceful, and calm. There were no sounds coming from me as my windpipe was completely blocked. I remember looking down at my baby and realizing she was going to watch me die. My next thought wasn’t about my own life but fear of how long it would take before someone came looking for us and found her, would she be, ok?
It was at that last thought that I found this strength and unknown knowledge; I began to thrust myself against my kitchen counter repeatedly until I threw up the bite of steak! Unknowingly I had performed abdominal thrusts on myself with the help of that kitchen counter. It was that experience that made me sign up for a local CPR class the very next day. That CPR class was so interesting to me that from there I started volunteering at our local ambulance squad. After only a few short weeks volunteering I decided to sign up for Bucks County Community College’s Emergency Medical Technician- Basic accelerated program at our local Fire School and became a state certified Emergency Medical Technician- Basic. I was determined to do anything I could to help my community in their most needed time, in the hopes that no mom would ever die watching their baby watch them.
I remember one of my first volunteer shifts after receiving my certification; the call was for an auto accident on the bypass. As we arrived on scene, we were informed that the passenger, a young lady, had been ejected from the car on impact. Once assessed, it was determined that I would dress the back of her hands. You see, the back of her hands was nothing but a wrist to fingertips abrasion/road rash. She had covered her face with both hands when she had been ejected and when she made contact with the road it was the back of her hands and not her face that took all the damage.
We packaged the young lady up and put her in the back of the rig. Considering mechanism of injury, we transported her to the local trauma center. As I was assisting the Emergency Medical Technician- Paramedic on the way to the hospital, the young lady starting crying. Stating how angry her mother was going to be when she found out she hadn’t been wearing her seatbelt. The paramedic then said, “I’m sure your mom will just be happy you’re ok. Ask Jennifer, if you were her daughter, she wouldn’t be angry at you!” It was that moment, the moment he compared this injured child to my own child that my medically trained brain took a step back and my mom brain stepped forward. I was able to give this young lady a little assurance that even if her mom was upset about her not wearing her seatbelt, her relief that she was alive would matter more. However, if she never wanted her mom to receive the worst news any mom could ever get, I hope she never forgets to put on her seatbelt again.
About a year later, I was called out for an auto accident. As we arrived on scene, we were informed that everyone involved was ok and that they were all going to refuse treatment. As we approached the group of older teens, a young lady calls out, “JENNIFER!!”. Turns out that the driver of the vehicle that had been hit was my patient from the year prior. As we were doing our assessments she said, “We are all okay because we were wearing our seatbelts! I make everyone put their seatbelt on before I’ll start the car. No one will ever forget if I’m around!”
Though that young lady ended up being ok, both times, things could have ended very differently. I feel that even in the most serious calls we as providers need to remember that our patients are people, very scared people that need not only amazing care but also a bit of tenderness.
It is because of my experience and this experience that I work hard to remember that with every call, I need to not only treat their injuries but to be sure I treat them as a person and not just another patient.