One of these days I’m going to have an anxiety attack on the taxi.
Today I had to ride in a taxi that had no brakes. Yes, you read that correctly.
The taxi did not have working brakes.
I know this because we had three near-collisions during which the driver simply swerved instead of changing his velocity, and every time we changed lanes we got hooted at because he just sort of skidded across to wherever he wanted to be.
Oh. And the indicators weren’t working.
And he sometimes forgot to use hand signals.
One would think this would be reason enough to feel overly anxious at six in the morning on a weekday. But alas, my blood pressure was raised for a completely other reason.
In the seat in front of me, there was a woman who looked like she was in her early twenties (although I’ve discovered while working in Casualties that I am horrible at dating women’s ages) with a small child who looked no older than two on her lap. The child was pressed against her mother’s breast in what I was assuming was supposed to be a breast feeding position, wheezing and coughing loudly throughout the drive. Only the feeding didn’t look very effective since she was barely suckling and looked so lethargic. Her eyes were lidded and her posture was limp. And she was so tachypnoeic. One minute I measured her breathing to be fifty-five.
And all I could think the entire time was Please let this mom be taking her to the hospital and not to some daycare centre… I don’t usually give medical advice to strangers–it comes across as obnoxious and pompous especially if you’re someone with no kids trying to advise parents on their children when they didn’t specifically ask for it.
But I knew that, knowing what I know from just four years of medical school, this child was seriously ill. Like, General Danger Signs in IMCI sick. Like, put up an IV, administer antibiotics and admit to a paediatric ward sick.
And I said nothing.
I could have struck up a conversation with the mom–albeit awkwardly considering I was sitting directly behind her–and subtly dug around to see whether she knew just how ill her child was, casually dropped the fact that I knew a little bit about child health and made some recommendations. I could have helped get that child to help, or alternatively just assuaged my guilty conscience with the knowledge that that was where she was headed already.
But I said nothing.
Then I hopped off the taxi as it rolled slowly past my hospital and deluded myself with the belief that I was making a difference in the lives of the patents that I saw the rest of that day.
And I’ll never know what happened to that poor baby.