After years of searching for the medic who saved her husband’s life 21 years ago, emergency Ambulance Crew member Ellie has been reunited with him at last.
A twist of fate called an end to the two decade long search, when Ellie was paired with Dave, an Emergency Medical Technician by chance, after his usual crewmate was self-isolating at home from coronavirus.
Ellie was finally able to get the closure she needed, when they made the discovery whilst responding to a 999 call.
‘My heart sank’
Ellie’s husband was severely injured in the accident 21 years ago, when he was the victim of a hit-and-run by a drink driver, leaving him with life-changing injuries.
On October 16, 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.”
Rushing to Paul’s side at Chase Farm hospital, Enfield, Ellie was informed by police officers that the drink-driver had been caught after speeding off a few miles down the road. He was later charged for dangerous driving and served nine months in prison.
Sadly, Paul suffered significant brain damage as a result of the incident, and was just 37 at the time. He was transferred to a specialist brain injury hospital and then back to Chase Farm hospital for further treatment. Once in a stable condition he moved to a nursing home that offered 24-hour specialist care.
He remained in the nursing home for 19 years, where Ellie visited most days with her family. After a while they were also able to take him home for day visits a few times a week.
‘I wanted to give back’
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.”
Devastatingly, Paul never fully recovered from that night, meaning the Paul Ellie had known never truly came back.
Inspired by the amazing care Paul had received, once their three children had grown up, Ellie decided to join the ambulance service.
“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,” said Ellie.
Tragically, Paul died last year. Ellie threw herself into working on the front line during the pandemic in order to deal with her grief.
Working as a medic meant Ellie found herself thinking more about the care Paul received 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.”
Chance drew Ellie to Dave, after being paired together in October for a 12-hour shift. As they were out together responding to patients they got chatting about life and what motivated them to join the ambulance service.
Ellie started to share what had happened to Paul, when suddenly Dave stopped her and asked: “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.
‘A few drinks can cause so much sadness’
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 I 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.”
Ellie remains passionate about teaching people about the dangers of drink-driving and the devastating consequences it can have.
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.”