Kids rang Triple-0 but mum was dead
IN eleven years of treating the sick, the dying and the injured, of seeing the trauma of car crashes and assaults, Natasha Adams' best and worst days as a paramedic are one and the same.
In the one day, the Brisbane-based critical care paramedic saw everything from the mundane, to the heartbreaking, to the elation of bringing a patient back from the brink of death.
It was Boxing Day, 2018, and Ms Adams 12-hour night shift began with a car rollover.
There had been nothing for her to do there, no serious injuries, so she stopped a moment to chat to a couple of responding fire fighters about their Christmas.
She remembers standing there, talking pleasantries at a car crash that could have been serious but wasn't, when suddenly her day changed.
Because 20 minutes later, she was inside someone's home. A woman with three little children - children who had called Triple-0 when their mum suddenly collapsed.
"They had no-one else there with them," she said.
Ms Adams met an advanced care paramedic team at the house. But despite their training, their equipment, their skill, they could do nothing for the young mother. She was already dead.
"There was no explainable reason. I'm not sure why she passed away.
"But there I was, having to tell her three young children that she had died. It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."
The Queensland Ambulance Service team found blankets for the children. They made them comfortable with food and drinks. They made a bottle for the youngest.
And when the children were settled, she told them.
"It's something that no amount of training can prepare you for," Ms Adams said.
"You can't prepare yourself for it.
"You have to be honest with them so they understand. In the back of my mind I was thinking: they are going to remember these words for the rest of their lives.
"I have three kids. It just made me think, what if this had happened to me? What would someone say to my children?"
A supervisor had arrived while the team was preparing the children and he sent the advanced care paramedic team home.
"He sent them home. It was enough for one day. He offered the same for me and in the end I took an hour to re-centre myself and went back to work," Ms Adams said.
Ms Adams would go on to respond to three cardiac arrests before her shift was done. In each case, she and the responding paramedics delivered their patient safely to hospital.
But it was Steve who would make that terrible Boxing Day shift one of the best of her career.
"He was really unwell. Critically unwell," she said.
Steve's wife had made the call to Triple-0 and he'd been conscious when paramedics arrived at their home in south Brisbane. But he went downhill fast. Then he was in "flatline".
"He was expertly treated before my arrival," she said.
"His medical condition required me to administer certain drugs that only critical care paramedics carry. So that was my role.
"But if the advanced care crew hadn't recognised what was wrong, he wouldn't have survived. It was an absolute privilege to work with that crew."
Steve recovered well. A couple of weeks later he dropped into the ambulance station to thank the people who saved his life.
Ms Adams was on leave when Steve visited but she said visits from patients were invaluable.
"You never recognise them from when you were working on them," she said.
"It's like you are meeting them for the first time. It makes all the heartache and long hours and time away from your family worthwhile."