It’s no news flash, people die every day. Most of us don’t see it, but we are aware. Even if it’s not something we think about each day.
There is one little niche in society that does see it. Still not every day, but we do. In EMS, we see it first hand. We see life at each and every stage, some stages more than others, every day. Births, pediatric patients, elderly patients that are chronically sick, middle aged patients that suffer an injury, panic attacks thought to be heart attacks, and yes, death at various ages.
I started my career in EMS a few months ago. It’s been a goal I’ve been working toward for some time now. In fact, I’m still in the process of finishing the second portion of the endeavor.
In just a few short months I’ve experienced a whirlwind of situations. I’ve gained invaluable experience. I’ve seen the various different meanings of the word “emergency” yet learned that each of them are correct. But, the one experience that is overlooked is seeing the end of life and not being able to fix it.
I had a preconceived notion, although not intentionally or consciously, that when it happens it would be an elderly patient. Family would expect it and although they would be emotionally wrecked, it would be easier for everyone involved to ultimately accept. That is, until the “first time” for me was a patient 9 years older than myself with kids the same age as my own.
The call itself was calm. I was calm. It was routine in the sense of protocols and what we as EMS must do in the event of a cardiac arrest. Even after attempting to save her for nearly an hour, I was okay when we called it. It wasn’t until 6 hours later that I couldn’t get it out of my head.
The blood curdling scream from her husband when we told him what he already knew. His voice resonating is my head when he said he couldn’t tell his kids their mom was dead. The look on the family’s face when we brought our bags downstairs without the patient. It was stuck in my head.
No one in EMS can prepare you for the first death experience, no matter how long they’ve been in the field. Not because they aren’t able to find words, but because each of us are different and each call is different. My very first time left me having an entirely new understanding of “tomorrow is never guaranteed” and a deeper appreciation for the ones I love.
Luckily, the agency I work for is incredibly aware of the importance of talking through a bad call. I quickly became at ease with the call itself and have let go of any anxiety it caused in the moment. Yet, I will never forget my very first time experiencing someone else loosing their loved one. Especially being on the other side of things; having to answer their questions and having put hope, physical effort, and medical skill into attempting to save them only to be unsuccessful. My first time will forever be with me, it will help me on the next call, it will allow me to empathize with the next new EMS member, and it will help me love deeper.
I have since been inspired to write about the EMS world as I venture through it. Both good and bad experiences. Some may not wish to read such things and that’s alright! But for me, writing is a hobby in general, and tying it to a career I love is even better. It’s therapeutic and meaningful to me.
Appreciate life, it can absolutely be over in the. blink of an eye.