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For Equine Vets Everywhere

A Car Crash

Occasionally life throws you a challenge you can do without! 

It was a Wednesday evening and after work I had prepared supper and then loaded my daughter India into the car to go to collect my son James from football practice. On the way home, our car was hit by another vehicle and we were sent spinning. Our car ended up slamming into a road sign and facing the opposite direction. James had been sitting in the back and was badly injured – the most obvious damage being a huge wound to his forehead caused by the road sign – but I knew there was more going on as he became pale and his breathing became laboured. 

It was the most indescribable feeling – a vet with more than 20 years’ experience of assessing and treating injured animals - sitting helplessly next to my son and being unable to do anything for him except hold him! In a blur, other cars, unfamiliar faces and voices, an off-duty doctor, ambulances and even a fire engine all materialised. The doctor thought James had pneumothorax and a ruptured spleen and suggested he might need a splenectomy. James was quickly put into an ambulance and stabilised before being taken away. 

India and I were both physically OK and I managed to make a few calls before we were also being taken in an ambulance to the hospital. In the emergency room I watched as a team of experienced medical staff worked calmly but efficiently to assess and further stabilise James. He did have a pneumothorax and they quickly punctured his chest to place a drain to relieve it before he was whisked off for x-rays and scans. 

The time I spent waiting for the results were the longest minutes of my life. They found he had a brain contusion, his obvious facial injuries, a fractured rib, pneumothorax and suspected pneumomediastinum, a split and haematoma on his liver and a small fracture to his sacrum. He was anaesthetised and intubated and sent up to the paediatric intensive care unit. He had the most amazing care with his own dedicated IC nurse 24/7 and assessments by specialists in cardiology and thoracic trauma, internal medicine, plastic surgery and orthopaedics but we were all playing a waiting game. 

His head wound was so heavily contaminated they needed to take him to theatre to debride and close it but they needed to wait until they felt he was stable enough to withstand the procedure. I remember them telling me they were going to use a water pik! I think one of the worst moments was when they decided to wake him and until he was fully conscious we wouldn’t really know how he was going to be, mentally or physically. Fortunately, he simply woke up, sore and sorry but he was, essentially, my ‘normal’ James! 

Another 24 hours in the PICU then he was moved to a paediatric ward for several days, still with various tubes and dressings and checks and treatments but getting better each day. We were both soon very keen to get home! 

He still has scars; his forehead bears a jigsaw probably only obvious to those of us who know it is there but the significance of which is branded on my heart. 

The care James received over those dreadful days was simply amazing and we must all be grateful to have access to such wonderful emergency and hospital care that is free to all who need it. We certainly needed it that Wednesday night.

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