Paramedic shares serendipitous shift with colleague who saved her husband's life 21 years ago

Alexandra Thompson
·5-min read
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Ellie was put on a 12-hour shift with Dave (both pictured) after her regular crewmate had to isolate with the coronavirus. (Supplied: London Ambulance Service)

A paramedic has "found closure" after sharing a shift with a man who helped save her husband's life 21 years ago.

Ellie's husband Paul, a taxi driver, was hit by a drunk driver on 16 October 1999 while picking up a kebab following a night shift.

Aged just 37, Paul was left with life-changing brain damage, forcing him to spend the next 19 years in a 24-hour care nursing home.

Inspired by her "great admiration" for the NHS, Ellie trained to become emergency ambulance crew three years ago, around the time of Paul's death.

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When her regular crewmate was forced to isolate with the coronavirus in October 2020, the mother-of-three was paired with Dave, an emergency medical technician who was at the scene of the drunken hit-and-run.

Following an emotional conversation, Ellie feels the pair are "bonded in some way", with her finally getting answers as to what happened that night.

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Paul, Ellie's late husband, never fully recovered from his brain injuries. (Supplied: London Ambulance Service)

Ellie, a former healthcare assistant, vividly remembers the night her late husband endured his life-changing injuries.

"I was woken up around 4am to the dog growling," she said. "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.

"My heart sank."

The policer officers explained Paul had been in a road traffic collision.

“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?" said Ellie.

"They said to me, 'all we can tell you at this moment in time is he is still alive', and that’s when I knew it was bad."

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Ellie rushed to her husband's side at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, North London.

Police officers explained they had caught the driver, who fled a few miles from the scene and was over the legal drink-drive limit. He was later charged for dangerous driving and served nine months in prison.

Paul was transferred to a specialist brain injury hospital, before returning to Chase Farm for further treatment.

Once in a stable condition, he was placed into a specialist nursing home, where he remained for 19 years.

Ellie, who visited most days, was eventually able to take him home for day visits several times a week.

"Having Paul at home meant he was able to be around our three young children – Lisa, Sam and Abbie," said Ellie.

Despite hoping this would help restore Paul's memory, he never fully recovered from the collision.

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Pictured before the collision, Paul was hit by a drunk driver following a night shift as a taxi driver. (Supplied: London Ambulance Service)

The ordeal motivated Ellie to retrain as ambulance crew in 2017.

"I always had such great admiration for the emergency services and the NHS, [after] everything they have done for Paul," she said.

"They have all been so incredible, I just wanted to be a part of it and give back."

Since Paul's death, Ellie has found herself thinking more and more about that night.

"I would respond to road traffic collisions and this would make me think, 'did Paul say anything to the ambulance crew?'" she said.

"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."

Ellie and Dave recognised each other from the ambulance station, but had only ever spoken in passing.

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On their shared shift, Ellie mentioned what had happened to Paul, only for Dave to stop her in her tracks, asking, "was he a black-cab driver and he had gone to get himself a kebab?"

Dave, who has been in the service for 37 years, said: "It’s an absolute coincidence 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 [we] didn't receive one I always hoped he had recovered and went on to live a fulfilling life.

"I feel very grateful I have been given a chance to get to know Ellie and help her with the answers she needed."

Since Paul's collision, Ellie has been raising awareness of the dangers of drink-driving.

"One person's selfish decision to get into a car after a few drinks can cause so much sadness," she said.

"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 heartbreaking 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."

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