Sunday, August 17, 2014

Superheros don’t always wear masks

Sitting next to my semi-conscious baby inside an ambulance is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Just like you cannot describe the joy you feel when you hold your baby for the first time, the horror of seeing your baby lie on an ambulance bed cannot be described. You feel your heart throbbing in your mouth, and your very life force being sucked away. Gathering the thin shreds of strength that’s still left in you, you try to focus…on her, on her eyes, on her breathing. “My precious little bundle, this can’t be happening to you”. But it did. And it does.
She had a febrile seizure, which is “a convulsion associated with a significant rise in body temperature. Turns out, both A and I had this when we were babies. They most commonly occur in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years of age.” Approximately one in every 25 children will have at least one febrile seizure, I was told. But if you are one in that 25, statistics does not really help. What helps is being trained in first-aid and promptly calling triple zero.

All medical emergencies are scary to watch and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to help. Standing in the middle of nowhere, we were shocked to the core and panic stricken. Even common sense had deserted us. We were lucky that we were with friends who dialled triple zero. We were lucky because a stranger opened their home to us, held our baby the way she should have been held and rocked her to comfort until the ambulance arrived.

Thankfully, she is okay now. The good news is, although these seizures can be frightening to parents, the vast majority of febrile seizures are short and harmless. The bad news is, if you have been in an ambulance with your little bub, you never quite recover from that shock.
This was my second time in an ambulance. And it didn’t get any easier. The first time, I was in it with my father, after he had two massive heart attacks. We lost him shortly after we reached the hospital. It was too late. The night before, he kept insisting that his chest pain was due to a gastric problem (a chronic condition that he suffered from for years). We shouldn’t have listened to him. We should have rushed him to the hospital much earlier.

If you have ever been in an ambulance with a loved one either sick or hurt, you would know this. Your life changes forever. You split it in half - life before the incident, and life after (whatever be the outcome of the incident, good or bad). The feelings and thoughts that flood your body during that helpless journey to the hospital, haunt you often.  You replay the chain of events over and over in your head, think of a million things you could have done differently to save the situation. But sometimes, it’s too late. And most of the times, it’s not your fault.

I always thought ambulances were for other people. Triple zero was just a number, until I needed to dial it one day. After that fateful day with my father, every time I saw an ambulance speed through the roads with its red lights flashing, my heart said a secret prayer….for those on the ambulance bed, and those by their side. I forget to breathe for a second, as I remember the cold touch of the metallic rails on the ambulance bed. On the other side of the cold rails was someone I loved. Someone who is no more. But after this recent episode with my little one, every time I see an ambulance, I say a secret prayer and a silent “thank you” for all the kindness there is in this world, which often comes from the most unexpected corners.

Donating blood, helping a stranger in a roadside emergency, saying a kind word to someone in crisis, opening your heart or home to someone in need, donating money/clothes/food for a natural disaster appeal, sponsoring a child’s education, funding a water pump in a remote village, spreading awareness for a noble cause, volunteering your time at an old age home or an animal rescue shelter…whatever be our cause, whatever be our limitations…we can all be a blessing to someone, just like those strangers were to me that day. Superheros don’t always wear masks. Sometimes, they just rock your baby to comfort, when you can’t.

Dedicated to the kind family in Hammond Park, Western Australia, who helped us out that day.

For ideas on how you can help, visit:

For more details on first-aid training in Perth, visit:

Finally, remember that calling triple zero promptly can save lives. Don’t take a chance.

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