When talking about the kind of work I do, people often ask me how I deal with everything that I see. I usually come up with some generic answer like: “Oh, we just get used to it after a while.” The truth is, I often wonder how I don’t deal with everything that I see.
Let’s take a trip in the way back machine….
It was my 2nd week of field training at my very first ambulance job. I had just celebrated my 19th birthday and my very first EMT-Basic certification. I was working in a rural farming community in Central California. At the time, it was the only ambulance service that would hire an inexperienced 19-year-old. We were dispatched to an “unconscious person” in the far reaches of our response area, way up in the mountains. By the time we reached the patient, he was showing signs of an imminent cardiac arrest. In other words, he was dying.
Shortly after loading him into the ambulance, his heart stopped and we immediately started CPR. After nearly an hour of driving, doing chest compressions, pushing cardiac medications and managing his airway, my preceptor made the call to terminate resuscitation efforts. He didn’t respond to any of our treatments and we had completely run out of Epinephrine and maxed out our dosages of every other possible drug to administer. The ER doctor granted our request to terminate and we stopped CPR. My preceptor and I were both pouring sweat and exhausted from all the chest compressions. We placed a blanket over the now-deceased man and sat back to catch our breath. My preceptor turned around, rubbed his hands in sanitizer, opened a cabinet, pulled out his lunch and said “well, now’s just as good a time as any”. I sat there in complete disbelief as he ate his sandwich. How could he possibly eat after what we had just experienced?
Now let’s fast forward to a couple years ago…
(Continue with: What Happens When You Feel Nothing?)