Medic reunited on shift with the colleague who saved her husband’s life 21 years ago
Emergency Ambulance Crew Ellie has been reunited with the medic that helped save her husband’s life 21 years ago after he was severely injured in a hit-and-run by a drunk driver.
After searching for years for the medic who attended her husband, Ellie was crewed up on shift by chance with Dave, an Emergency Medical Technician, after her regular crewmate had to take time off work to self-isolate from coronavirus.
Whilst responding to a 999 call the pair were shocked to discover that Dave was one of the medics who responded to her husband all those years ago, and Ellie finally was able to get the closure she needed.
On 16 October 1999 Ellie’s husband, Paul, a London black-cab driver, was on night shift and had just picked up a kebab from across the road when a drunk-driver crashed into him leaving him with irreversible injuries.
Ellie, who was working as a healthcare assistant at the time, recalls that night: “I was woken up around 4am to the dog growling. Paul usually came home around that time, so I thought nothing of it. The dog didn’t stop growling, though, so I went to the window to see if his cab was outside and it was there I saw two police officers waiting at the front door and my heart sank.”
The police officers explained that Paul had been involved in a road traffic collision. Ellie said: “At the time I remember thinking it couldn’t be too serious as he would have been in his black cab which is sturdy – so how much damage could there really be?”
“They said to me, ‘All we can tell you at this moment in time is that he is still alive’ and that’s when I knew it was bad.”
Ellie rushed to Paul’s side at Chase Farm hospital in Enfield. Once there, the police officers explained how they they had caught the driver after he had sped off a few miles down the road and how he was found to be over the legal drink-drive limit.
He was later charged for dangerous driving and served nine months in prison.
Paul, who was 37 at this time of the incident, suffered significant brain damage and was transferred to a specialist brain injury hospital and then back to Chase Farm for further treatment. Once in a stable condition he was then placed into a nursing home that offered 24-hour specialist care.
He remained there for 19 years and Ellie visited with her family most days, and after a while they were able to take him home for day visits a few times a week. Ellie said: “Having Paul at home meant he was able to be around our three young children, Lisa, Sam and Abbie. If anything was going to spark any recognition or memory, it would be at home surrounded by his family.”
But sadly the Paul Ellie knew never truly came back, and he never recovered fully from that night.
However, three years ago and once the children had grown up, Ellie decided after being inspired by the care Paul had received – she wanted to join the ambulance service.
Ellie said: “I always had such great admiration for the emergency services and the NHS – everything they have done for Paul. They have all been so incredible, I just wanted to be a part of it and give back.”
A London Ambulance Service medic at her local gym encouraged Ellie to retrain and kept a lookout for when the LAS next recruited for roles.
Ellie soon applied and got the job as Trainee Emergency Ambulance Crew in 2017 – and has never looked back.
Sadly, Paul died last year and to help deal with her grief Ellie threw herself into working on the frontline during the pandemic.
Since becoming a medic Ellie found herself thinking more about Paul’s care that night. She said: “I would respond to road traffic collisions and this would make me think – did Paul say anything to the ambulance crew? Was he in any pain? Who attended to Paul all those years ago?
“I longed for the answers to these questions and after spending many years of grieving with no closure – I finally met Dave.”
By chance in October Ellie was paired up with Dave on a 12-hour shift. They had seen each other around the ambulance station before but never spoken to each other more than in passing.
As they were out together responding to patients they got chatting about their life and what motivated them to join the ambulance service. Ellie mentioned what had happened to Paul and started speaking about her story, when suddenly Dave stopped Ellie in her tracks and said: “Was he a black-cab driver and he had gone to get himself a kebab?”
Dave knew every detail from that night, and after the initial shock of finding the medic that helped to save Paul’s life – and a few tears from both of them – Ellie got the answers to her questions that she so desperately needed.
Dave, who has been in the Service for 37 years, said: “It’s an absolute coincidence that we met, I was actually due to retire at the start of the year but I decided to put it off for a year.
“Some jobs, they just always stick with you. I always did wonder what had happened to Paul after that night. We usually receive the coroner’s report if a patient dies and because didn’t receive one I always hoped that he had recovered and went on to live a fulfilling life. I feel very grateful that I have been given a chance to get to know Ellie and help her with the answers she needed.”
Since the hit-and-run, Ellie is passionate about teaching people about the dangers of drink-driving and the devastation it can cause. She said: “One person’s selfish decision to get into a car after a few drinks can cause so much sadness.
“It’s so bittersweet thinking about the moments that have been robbed from Paul, like seeing his three wonderful children grow up to get married and now having grandchildren – that’s been taken away from him and that can be heart-breaking thinking about that.
“By finally meeting Dave, I feel I have closure on that now.
“I have made a great friend – one I know I will keep forever – we are bonded in some sort of way.”