In our youngest sons’ medical record there’s a medical report from the children’s hospital in Esslingen to our children’s doctor, dated the 30th of January 2007. The introduction begins:
“Report of the above named patient who was brought to our emergency department at 07:54 this morning. Found this morning …breathing loudly and drowsy. emergency doctor called, on arrival patient unresponsive…“
I can’t read those rather undramatic words without remembering the fear I felt holding my tiny six-month-old baby and trying to get him to wake up, move, respond, anything. I remember the rasping wheezing sound of his breath as I tried to call the advice line to see what I could do, and being met with a barrage of questions about my insurance details, address, and other things that I really didn’t what to deal with right then, before explaining the symptoms and hearing the words “Call an ambulance”. Well, gee thanks. I could have done that three precious minutes ago.
The dispatcher told me the emergency doctor was on his way, and to wait outside the house for them to come so they could find us quickly, so I stood outside for a private eternity, trying to stay calm so my family wouldn’t get even more scared, while a truck decided to deliver in the shop next door and caused a traffic jam in both directions. The doctor’s red and white mercedes came, blue lights reflecting off the houses, and they piled out carrying oxygen bottles, monitoring devices and other unfamiliar but strangely comforting tools of the trade, asking questions even before they were through the door.
Our little boy still wouldn’t respond to light, noise or gentle shaking so an ambulance was called. We carried him there, lit by flashing blue lights, with neighbours watching through the windows, although I admit I felt a slight stab of justice when I saw the Ambulance was parked in the loading bay, blocking the truck in.
After continual talking and massaging in the ambulance, I was rewarded by a squeeze of his fingers as we rattled through the morning rush-hour traffic, and the ambulance drivers were fairly confident that he’d be okay, but he didn’t really seem to wake up until he was being examined in the hospital. The form shows a great long list of things they checked before coming to the eventual conclusion it was Croup, probably aggravated by the Feinstaub (Particle pollution) from diesel engines: at the time we were living in an apartment next to a street with 1500 trucks and 13000 cars passing daily.
That morning ‘caring for the environment’ became personal. For me it’s not just about ‘looking after the earth’ but a memory of waiting for the doctor and not knowing if my little boy would die. I don’t want other parents to have to stand on the street, praying the ambulance will come quickly, that their child will wake up or just keep breathing.
We’d followed the cultural belief that ‘one day’ we would have to get a car but on January 30th 2007, that changed. Our family learned first hand the cost of society’s addiction to driving everywhere, and decided we won’t live that way. The process that resulted in us getting the Xtracycle, going to Amsterdam and bringing a bakfiets to Stuttgart and much else, was kicked into high gear that morning.
We’re a car free family in a car obsessed culture: this is our story.