The Worst Possible Moment and Other Stuff

To say that it’s been a crazy couple of weeks would be the understatement of the year.

Between schedule changes, starting school and calls that leave you going “what the hell just happened,” I’ve been running ragged.  I’m holding down my couch, my wife is in the kitchen and I’m able to take a break from the goings on the world to take a break, write and just be a civilian.  I enjoy being the Rural EMT-B but I do also like being just Joe Citizen every now and then.

I’m not one to pat myself on the back but I think I deserve a break.

The biggest event recently was a really bad call I worked a couple of weeks ago.  It had been a slow day and I even got to go to bed a little early.  I was solo in this particular sleep room that night and I spent a good bit of the early evening watching some TV, playing around on the net and just enjoying some downtime.  I finally fell asleep about 2300 or so.  Then the phone rang and the voice on the other end was flat scared.  “We have a call and it sounds bad. Get down here NOW!”  So I get dressed real quick and rush downstairs.  My partner was already in the truck with the lights going and told me that he would drive.  As we get en route I notify dispatch that we’re gone and I finally ask him… what in the world are we going to?  “Car versus tree with fire and ejection.  The caller stated that the driver was on fire.”

Uh oh.

We get on scene and get to the patient.  To say he was “bad off” would be like calling the Sears Tower a shack.  Until that moment I had never seen a person burned so badly and still alive.  Yes, he was still alive.  I won’t go into any more specifics (for the usual reasons) but it honestly left me dazed.  I spent the rest of the night trying to get the back of the truck cleaned and just trying to take it all in.  I guess I was a bit more dazed than I realized because it turns out that I didn’t do such a good job of cleaning and restocking the truck after that call (and me and my supervisor had a nice chat about that).  At the end of shift I went home and slept literally all day, to the point that my wife was worried about me.  When I finally woke up that afternoon (yes, the afternoon) I kind of puttered around the house but wouldn’t really talk much.  I just couldn’t and didn’t say much of anything at all until the next day.

I was emotionally exhausted.

I finally let it all out and it felt good to do that.  Once my mind started to clear, I began to think about all the other aspects of the call, things other than issues directly related to patient care.  One aspect is that the driver’s father was present when the accident happened and he had to see him burn.  Also, one of the patient’s best friends was first on the scene when the fire department he is a member of was paged to assist.  It got me thinking about how we, as EMTs, are often present during the worst moments in a person’s life.  Not only might that person be the patient but it could be a family member or good friend who is watching them suffer, knowing there isn’t much that they can do to help.  Sometimes that person could even be a fellow crew member who’s having a “I’m not completely sure what to do here” moments.  As EMTs, we’re often there when the unimaginable has happened and may even see that moment happen.  We always have to be conscious of this fact.

We have to be prepared to care for more things than just what’s going on with the patient.  We have to be prepared to deal with what those around the patient may be experiencing.  Sure, our biggest concern (aside from ourselves) is the patient but we also need to acknowledge that others may be suffering with the patient in their own way.  It might be saying goodbye to granny as she’s losing her battle with breast cancer or watching as we try to bring back their aunt after she’s been in a MVC.  We also need to acknowledge that we also may have a moment during a bad call where we go, “what in the world do I do here” and take a moment to compost our thoughts so that we don’t get overwhelmed with the task at hand.

We’re often right there during the worst moments of someone’s life.  We have to be ready, able and willing to treat all aspects of that moment.  Think about that next time you’re called out.  It might be many people experiencing the event but only one patient hauled.

I did get to go back to school!  An arrangement was found in my work schedule to allow me to take a couple of prerequesate classes I needed to paramedic school.  If all goes well, I should be in medic classes starting this fall.  As I’m already experiencing, it will be a lot of work.  Currently I’m taking A&P I during the week and working a 48 hour shift Saturday and Sunday.  As I was reminded of this past weekend, study time is going to be at a premium.  I know that the story will be the same when I start paramedic classes but I’m ready for the challenge.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to pursue paramedic education and can’t wait for what lies ahead.

I also found out that this blog was mentioned in a list top EMT blogs!  The post was made on (editor’s note: I just discovered that the link I posted here yesterday now goes to another site. I’m not sure what’s up with this but if I find it again I will post it. Again, I sincerely apologize) and I have no clue who wrote it.  Regardless, I appreciate the kind words and that you even took the time to read this tiny blip on the radar screen of EMS blogs.  You don’t have to identify yourself but I hope that you will continue to enjoy reading my ramblings.  Hopefully I can squeeze in some blogging time more often.

Rural EMT-B

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