It couldn’t possibly rain any harder, but then suddenly does, much harder, a startling intensification of the storm that obliterates every detail of the street in one furiously grey and undifferentiated pall of water. Luckily, there’s room in the street to park right outside the house. Jane’s partner Paul is waiting for us at the open door, hanging back like a man sheltering in a cave behind a waterfall.
Paul and Jane were late for work. They were hurrying out of their first floor flat together when Jane stumbled at the awkward tuck at the top of the stairs. She was holding a bag and umbrella in her hands, which meant she didn’t have time to grab on to the banister and stop herself falling. She toppled headlong, scrabbling on her front down the entire staircase until she came to a stop face down in the hallway.
Paul turned her on her back to make sure she was still breathing.
She lay there stunned, staring up at the ceiling.
Paul phoned for an ambulance.
‘My wife’s just fallen down the stairs and she’s thirty-eight weeks pregnant’ he said.
Paulo, a Critical Care Paramedic, is also sent to the scene. I tell him that despite it being a long fall, Jane seems to have come off pretty well. There are no distracting injuries, she’s not complaining of any pain, nothing in the neck or back, doesn’t have any neurological deficit, she wasn’t knocked unconscious, has good recall, GCS 15 throughout, hasn’t felt sick or been sick – in fact, doesn’t have any of the signs or symptoms that might worry you. There’s no getting away from the height of the stairs, though, and the fact that she’s thirty-eight weeks’ pregnant. No problems with the pregnancy to date. She’s forty. This is IVF.
And no, she hasn’t felt the baby kick since the fall.
Paulo works quickly, reviewing everything before we think about moving the patient. He clears her neck and back, and together we sit her up. I help Rae take out all the immobilisation equipment we’d brought in, and prep the truck ready to go. A minute or so later Paulo walks out with Jane and Paul. We settle them in the back, and then set off for hospital.
Paul is sitting next to Jane, holding her right hand tightly; her left hand is across her lap, following the curve of her bump. She strokes her hand backwards and forwards beneath the bump as she talks.
‘I can’t believe I did it,’ she says. ‘I’m so sorry. It’s all so stupid.’
‘Don’t worry,’ says Paul. ‘It could’ve happened to anyone.’
‘But me. Why’d it happen to me?’
‘Those stairs are lethal.’
‘We should’ve moved when we had the chance.’
‘Yeah – but that far out of town? C’mon.’
The ambulance is buffeted from side to side and the rain rattles against the side.
‘Hark at that,’ says Paul. ‘It’s like the end of the world.’
They’re quiet for a while.
‘Shall I phone your mum?’ he says, eventually, pulling out his phone..
‘No. Let’s find out how things are first,’ she says.
‘I don’t want to worry her.’
He holds the phone without doing anything, then puts it away again, still holding on to her hand.
I don’t ask her if she’s felt the baby kick yet. I know if she had, she’d say immediately, and I don’t want to make too much of it. There’s not much to be done either way.
‘Were you off to work?’ I ask instead.
‘Yep. Not much longer to go and then, you know.’ She looks down at the bump.
‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a primary school teacher. The kids are going to want to know what happened.’
‘That sounds like a nice thing to do, primary teacher.’
‘Yeah. I love it. The kids are great. Well – they can be dreadful. But even when they’re dreadful, they’re kinda brilliant. If you know what I mean.’
‘Sounds like you really love your job.’
‘I do. I love kids.’
She strokes her bump gently.
The lights flicker off and then on again.
‘Dodgy electrics’ I say.
‘Oh,’ says Paul.
And we hurry on through the early morning commuter traffic, the storm, the next five minutes, to the hospital.