I worked an accident involving a vehicle that went over the side of the bridge. 40 feet down and halfway submerged we knew we had our work cut out for us. Our policy stated that we were to wait for the fire department with Rope repel rescue, and to not put ourselves in any unnecessary danger. But we knew we could not just stand idly on the top of the bridge, knowing that someone down there needed our help.
There was already a civilian in a boat underneath the bridge who witnessed the accident trying his best to pull the occupants out of the wrecked vehicle. Another civilian on the top of the bridge with us came running up with rope. I looked at my partner and asked if he wanted to be lowered down to the water to help the people in the vehicle. He replied “Hell yes”. With that, we were tied the rope around his waist and lowered him down to the water and to the unknown injuries below.
After getting him untied, I pulled the rope up to the top of the bridge, tied off our medical bag and then lowered it down for him to use. The next thing I heard, gave me chills. “The baby is not breathing!” I knew that it was my turn to go down and help my partner because I was concerned the man in the boat would not be able to help him in the way that he and I were trained. After getting down to the water I swam to the boat, but my partner told me to go back to the car, and that there was one more patient.
I got to the car the water was chin deep. When I got inside I could barely move due to the way the car was crushed. I found the last patient with her head under the water not moving. I check for a pulse I pulled in I tugged on the seat belt but could not get her free. I then made the decision to save the patients we had on the boat versus a patient that had no pulse. I got out of the crush vehicle and went back to the boat. My partner looked at me and asked “where is the other patient?” To which I replied “DOA”.
With that, I climbed into the boat and helped him do CPR on the child that he freed before I got down to the water to help. We got her back. Her older sister was in and out of consciousness but everyone else seem to be doing all right, besides a little shock. The man brought us to the boat launch a mile down the bayou. When we arrived at the boat launch, it was like looking at an Army.
At least five ambulances, multiple sheriff deputies and state police. Even the operations manager for the area came to help us. There was a helicopter waiting for the little girl that we brought back with CPR. My partner was transported with the little girl to the helicopter and flown to the nearest hospital. I had the task of helping unload the other patients. Between the packaging and helping take baseline vitals and getting any additional information I could, I felt a sickness in my stomach. I felt like I didn’t try hard enough to get the last patient out of the vehicle but, we are taught that in an incident involving more than one patient, we must save those that we can save.
We ended up getting an award from our company, and the Bureau of EMS for our state. But that does not change how I feel. I felt like I should’ve tried harder. I felt like I failed, even though We gave the little girl a chance at life again, I can’t go onto that bridge without crying. I relive the entire call in my head, wondering if there was something I had missed. If there would have been something more I could have done… I just don’t know… and it haunts me still to this day…
– Story written by Elise, 28 year old Louisiana EMT, 6 years in EMS.