Death In An English Village And My American Expectations

Late yesterday afternoon the sound of a helicopter drew me out of the house. It is rare to hear any air traffic over our tiny village and after a quick look at the two emergency vehicles parked on our street, I hurried down to the far end of the road to see where the air ambulance was going to land.

Any time you hear a helicopter hovering low over the village, you can bet it’s here to help someone. We have several elderly people on our street and my first concern was for the welfare of a sweet man in his 90s who lives a few houses from ours near the small car in the photograph.

Some of my neighbors were outside watching to see where the helicopter was landing and who might be needing emergency care.

A few years ago, the elderly man I mentioned had a heart attack and the air ambulance landed in the same field on the other side of the hedge.

It turned out it was our next door neighbor they were coming to help, but after being inside the house for a while, they left without him.

The sky was on fire while we watched what was happening outside their home and one by one the emergency vehicles drove away without taking anyone with them. It was too late to change the outcome and we learned early this morning that our neighbor had died. I think he was younger than I am.

Things are done differently here when people die and today I feel like someone at the scene of an accident unsure about how to render aid. My heart hurts for my neighbor and I want to do something to help, but it has been suggested by several that a card through the mail drop in the door is the best way to offer our sympathy to her.

At home in Georgia there would be no question about what to do. I would be standing at the door now offering a casserole, or a meal of some kind, handing it over to a relative, or close friend tasked with accepting the offerings of those wishing to offer some comfort if only through a favorite recipe.

A death in the American South seems less constrained and more emotional than the three I’ve experienced here and even though I was not close to the couple, I wish I could do more.

I saw a car arrive this morning and a family member stayed the night so I know our neighbor is not alone. People won’t bring food here, John said it is just not done and would be considered odd. I can’t imagine anything more lonely than walking into the empty kitchen of a home visited by death.

It seems more sad to me somehow than countertops covered over with foil wrapped dishes, and plastic containers of sandwiches and cakes, meant to feed people as they come to pay their respects. I know that food doesn’t equal love, but in the south, it does mean we care.

I don’t know how many people will be coming to help her through this sad time, but I think I may hang convention and make a cake or something because odd or not, it’s a better way for me to say I am sorry for your loss than a card through the door.



Air Ambulance To The Rescue

Air Ambulance To The Rescue

The Air Ambulance above is ER bound or as they say here, A & E for accident and emergency. While I was working at my computer yesterday, I heard this terribly loud noise. It was not a sound I’d heard here before even though I spent the better part of last year in this village with John. It took me a second to realize that the sound I was hearing was not a plane landing on the house, but rather a helicopter flying in tight and low looking for a place to land. Just about the time I realized what it was, it shot over the house past a window and I was up off the couch as John came inside saying, ” Elizabeth, that’s an air ambulance …”  Grabbing my shoes, I was reaching for a light coat when John said, ” Do you want your camera?”  Want my camera…most of you know I don’t leave home without it and I was scooping it up practically as he spoke. It circled twice and headed in the direction of the village green, but there are so many trees on the green, I knew it wouldn’t be putting down there. I ran out the door with John following at a more leisurely pace and ran down just past the pub to find two women directing the odd car or so away from the lane (small road bordered by tall hedges) because there had been an accident.

It seems a group of about ten walkers had been been having a Sunday hike and were passed by three people on horseback. I often encounter riders when I’m running or out for a walk with John. The horses usually seem as used to people and cars as we are to them, but yesterday…one carrying a teenage girl of about sixteen spooked and dumped her. In trying to find it’s footing, her horse trampled over her according to the two women at the top of the lane who were directing cars. They were part of the group of ten who were there during the fall. 

In this country, when something occurs that we might call an ambulance for, or if you’re sure you should go to the A & E , if you call the emergency number (999) you may see any one of three main types of vehicles and medical people show up.

All three were present yesterday. These next two photographs were taken after the crisis. A Rapid Response Vehicle may get there first before the ambulance arrives, “Rapid Response Vehicles (RRVs) RRVs are normally staffed with a single Paramedic or Technician who can get to the scene of an emergency quickly and provide patient assessment and advanced life support techniques. If possible the RRV may transport a patient with minor injuries or it may have to wait for back up from an accident and emergency ambulance or urgent transfer vehicle. Alternatively the crew may refer the patient to another health agency.”

Rapid Response Vehicle

Rapid Response Vehicle

Or you might see this a larger vehicle show up with more equipment and medical personal such as an Accident and Emergency Vehicle, ” accident and emergency ambulances are normally staffed with a Paramedic and a Technician crew. The ambulances are fully equipped to deal with most circumstances and can transport a patient either sitting or lying down on a stretcher.”

Accident and Emergency Ambulance

Accident and Emergency Ambulance

Finally, you see the Air Ambulance which I followed on foot. For those of you in America, you probably think like I do that air ambulances are reserved for the most critical situations…well, you’d be surprised how often they’re used here and for the types of accidents or emergencies that most of us wouldn’t think of as requiring a flight out to the nearest trauma center. If you’re interested in knowing more you can check out this site for more information. The quotes I used above were taken from it and I was intrigued to see that they have medical people responding on motorcycles and mountain bikes as well.

Last thing…something I don’t think you’d get in America anymore due to privacy laws..the ambulance attendant gave us an brief update on the way out of the village by saying they thought the girl would be okay. The attendant said she might have a fracture, but it was more for precaution that they were taking her by air.


Picking Up The Patient

Picking Up The Patient

 Look low to the ground…it’s sitting in a field near the injured girl.


Up Up And Away!

I have to share what I was thinking as I ran down the road following the path of the helicopter. As I paused to snap a photo in mid run…I thought , “Elizabeth you’ve turned into an ambulance chaser.”

Good News Update:

I received an update on the injured girl after a trip to our village shop today. The postmistress who was present yesterday for all of the watching and waiting told me today that she had been told the teenager was going to be fine. She had two stitches to her face and was released.