As an emergency responder, my day is never routine.
Whether we’re transporting a critically ill baby, child or teen, it all starts with a call from a facility or emergency dispatch. In route, we receive information about the child (age, name, gender) and a report on his or her condition. From the second we arrive, our focus is on the patient. Once we have assessed the situation and provided initial care, we turn to mom or dad.
The information from the facility or emergency personnel is helpful, but most often parents are our best source for background information. While we work to stabilize the patient and place them in the helicopter or vehicle, we discuss with the parents what we are doing to care for their child and how sick or injured their child is at that moment. As a father of four children under the age of 14, I always look the parents in their eyes and try to connect with them. I ask them to focus on our conversation. I know it is difficult if their child is, for example, bleeding, having trouble breathing or unconscious. But, I absolutely need their attention and cooperation. Sometimes, parents are in shock and can’t comprehend how ill or injured their child is—it is important that I steadily provide useful details so they can be informed to give us their trust.
A parent can ride with us in both ground and helicopter emergency transport, but only if he or she can remain calm and be a reassuring presence for the child. Again, our main focus is on the injured or ill baby, child or teen. A parent’s job in this situation is to communicate and listen while we are in route to the hospital. Mom or dad will be asked additional questions and told information to gather for arrival. The parent sits in the front with us so he or she is aware of what is going on, and that also gives us the space to care for and monitor the patient while we travel. I tell the child that mom or dad is going to help drive the ambulance or even the helicopter, and that usually gets a smile.
A parent riding along with his or her child is beneficial for many reasons, but one of the most important elements is that it allows the parent to arrive at the hospital with the child. A helicopter transport from Columbus (90 minutes by car) to our hospital takes about 45 minutes. When a parent rides with us, we walk side by side through the door—instead of her or him arriving an hour or two later to catch up.
There is a big difference between caring for adults and caring for children. Not only in size of body parts, injuries and illnesses seen and equipment required, but also in how you bring comfort and decisiveness to the situation. We see stressed parents every day, but with collaboration and coordination, our goal for better tomorrows is more easily achieved.