The darkness is compounded by the cloudy, moonless sky, the heavens showering down their vicious tears with all the contempt they can muster. At least it helps the house stand out like a beacon. It's the only one in the street with all the lights on, shedding some brightness on the otherwise depressing night. As I approach the house through the overgrown jungle that covers the garden path, the door is already open. Standing on the doorstep is Rita, leaning forwards, hands on her knees, struggling for breath. She can barely get one word out at a time.
Rita's man is there, comforting her, encouraging her, keeping her calm. He's doing a good job of it too. It's especially impressive, as Ryan is only 10 years old, and Rita's his mum.
"I'm used to it", he claims. "She sometimes gets very sick and I have to help her".
"Did you call the ambulance?" I ask him.
"Yup. I've done it before. They always ask me the same questions, so I know what to tell them now".
It's about 4 o'clock in the morning. Ryan is wide awake, dressed, has got all of Rita's medications together, and written down the details that we need. It took me less than 5 minutes to get to the call, so he's obviously well trained and very organised. His little sister is half asleep on the couch, still in pyjamas, but with her coat on, ready to go.
While I prepare the nebuliser for Rita, he tells me that his mum has bad asthma attacks sometimes, and that she always has to go to hospital. He was woken up by the sound of a loud wheeze, and knew immediately what he had to do. He'd got everything ready while he was still talking to the call-taker at control, all the while doing his best to calm his mum's anxieties.
Rita's condition and observations mean that she's going to need some aggressive treatment and to be blue-lighted into hospital, and there's no-one else to look after Ryan and his sister, so I'm left with the babysitting duties. The crew and I decide that it's best if they don't travel in the ambulance, as we don't want to distress them any more, so they watch mum being loaded into the back of the ambulance, stare as the blue lights of the ambulance reflect off the vertical sheets of rain, and then climb into the car and out of the deluge. I've got the duty of transporting them to A&E until another responsible adult can be found to look after them.
On the way there, they both remain calm, although Ryan's sister is a little teary. Ryan tells me all about the schools they go to, how he helps at home, how he looks after his mum. More importantly he tells me about the football team he supports, and laughs when I threaten to throw him out of the car for supporting a team that are the sworn enemies of mine. Although, I have to admit it, they're much better than mine. But then, most teams are...
We arrive just after the ambulance, and the kids say a quick hello to mum and see that she's looking a little better and in good hands. They're happy to find the kids' waiting area and go to find some toys. Ryan keeps up his role of babysitter and looks after his younger sibling, finding toys that he knows are her favourites. I watch from outside and am impressed by all I've seen and heard. At just ten years old, this young man is so much already.
Son, big brother, mini-dad, carer. And, of course, whether he realises it or not - a lifesaver.