Ambulance, No Sirens, Just Lights.


Life doesn’t come with trigger warnings. Triggers simply exist as ever ready and crude land mines that emotionally dismember, sometimes even before your morning coffee.

Each time I see an ambulance with no siren, just lights flashing — I hold my breath. I actually hold my breath to brace myself for the chaotic flash mob of visceral memories that jump on top of each other, competing like gladiators, to skull whip me.

The sight of a silent ambulance with flashing lights brings me here:

  • when her heart was failing, she wore a onesie that read “Daddy has my heart”

  • the transport nurse said “I was waiting for you to crack” after it took me a few hours to process the extent of Red’s medical fragility. They wheeled her out on the gurney in an incubator past my mum whose oversized sunglasses hid nothing; and my father in law, who I had never seen cry before.

  • We followed the ambulance as long as we could on the highway, before the lights fell past the hill-line, and she was gone, at around 160 km/hour.

  • For every mile that we drove behind her, I thought, “did she die during this mile?” did we just drive over her death?

  • Coldplay’s “fix you” came on the radio and I can’t hear that song anymore.

  • I remember wondering how a death certificate could be issued without a birth certificate.

  • I was 3 days post c-section; I had bled through my pants so badly, people thought I needed medical care.

  • We had to wait 3 hours before they would let us see her in the NICU. During this time, we thought she was dead; no one would speak to us but only told us “sit here, someone will be out to talk with you soon”.

  • Walking through the pods of sick and dying babies to get to the spot where she lay, I remember concentrating on using my legs to walk straight.

  • It took me days before I was strong enough to pick her up and hold her in my own arms.

A silent ambulance with lights only, always reassured me before Red.

I thought “it mustn’t be so bad, the siren isn’t on”.

Now when I see such an ambulance, I hold my breath and try to spit out the sharp thoughts — I look around me, behind the ambulance, to see the parents we were nearly 3 years ago, following that bus —

Then I pray, in that fast moment, that I hadn’t just driven over some child’s death.


8 thoughts on “Ambulance, No Sirens, Just Lights.

  1. My second son was born with extensive disabilities….
    And I remember the incubator carrying him away..and then telling me I need to sleep…
    After my c-section..I never moved so fast in my life…and the drive to the hospital in which they were taking him..was just like yours…
    Thank you…for so many things…

    • It’s such an odd but relieving thing to know other parents have had similar experiences; even horrible ones like this.

      What is your second son struggling with?

      • He was born in respiratory distress. And could not breath on his own and it got worse from there. he had pneumonia and some unknown “other” infection. His lungs were never developed fully and to this day they are not. He has neurological deficiencies, is what they call it. He has Autism and many other things they never gave names for. he had to learn how to speak, walk and how to communicate with a hearing loss. It is all unknown. He is and was worth every second.

  2. Oh my god, Mandy, that is such an array of things to manage and deal with. I have to say, I absolutely love and have a keen sense of the kind of mother you are based on your last sentence: he is and was worth every second. This makes me warm and fuzzy, and little teary 🙂

  3. My son was airlifted to a major nicu 3.5 hours away. I drove that distance 20 hours post c section. It was the most physically and emotionally painful event of my life, next to receiving our genetic diagnosis. I still struggle with the maternity ward, beeps, EMS workers pregnant women and newborns.

    • It sounds like had similar experiences. I feel the same way, it was truly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Trauma is real for parents like us. I hope you and your family are doing ‘well’. Love to you all.

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