Thursday, 9 August 2007

The Roads of Ireland

Posted by Dr Indy

What comes into my mind again and again is the roads of this country and the untold amount of young lives lost on it.

Think of the 2 separate serious accidents in one small town of Buncrana in Donegal, think of the 5 lives lost in monaghan - and the two cars that struck were full of people going to the same wedding the next day.

Its horrific. Is it all speed or is it all alcohol and other drugs. Why do people do this to themselves, why do people think they can drive home in one piece every time they drink?

I was driving on the N2 one day - it was a clear day, sun descending at 8:30 at night. There was a touch of rain in the air that turned into a long shower later. I could see rainbows ahead behind the hills that the road gently wound through.

I turned a corner and saw wreckage strewn across the road - a car was perpendicular to the road and rubble strewn across it. I knew this was a serious accident and stopped the car and sprinted to the scene with my stethoscope and resuscitation mask in hand.

What faced me was a young fella, flat on his back and thrown a good 40 feet up from where his wrecked motorbike lay, stone dead. I tried desperately to resuscitate him on the roadside for 10 minutes before the ambulance crew arrived and then another 5 minutes before declaring him dead at the scene. Not once did he demonstrate any signs of life.

I was cut up for ages and angry with myself for not doing more. Gradually, I forgot about it and moved on.

Then I got summoned to the coroners inquest into the incident. All those memories of that dark, stormy night getting soaked by the roadside, surrounded by people crying came back to me. The dark days I spent afterwards questioning every step I made and what if I had brought more equipment? What if I had tried to intubate him? What if I ignored the fact his pupils were fixed right from the start and still insisted on giving atropine and taking him straight to the nearest A&E, 40 minutes away?

The inquest was a surreal experience. I met his family and they all thanked me for being there and trying to save him (this was not how I felt). I made my statement to the coroner and she used this as evidence that he suffered no pain as he was likely killed instantaneously. The pathologist report showed he had a fracture-separation of his spine and a completely ruptured aorta - the biggest vessel from the heart.

I got closure that day. I then finally realised that even if the accident had thrown him directly into the flashest A&E in ireland - he would have not survived. My roadside efforts were futile and nothing would have changed the result. I was beating myself for nothing.

But I also realised that I had forgotten my perspective. All I cared about was bringing this man back - I had lost myself in the plot. I blamed myself for something I could not change.

I was incredibly touched when the family spokesman stood up at the end of the inquest and expressly thanked me for being there that dark cold night. You ask, what if there was a doctor there - would things have been different? There was for him that night and the family took solace in this and I took solace in theirs.


  1. Lost the plot? Me too! But glad to hear that you (Doc Indy) found closure.

  2. I spent a considerable amount of my career involved with the emergency services.

    Your experience might not be mine, but they have parallels. I wouldn't say too much on these public blogs but there were moments when I wondered if there was something wrong with me.