Take a Step for Self-Care

The photo shows the hood of an orange ambulance.
Photo/Adam Mason

It is 10 p.m. when the alarm sounds. A shooting call comes across the radio, so the excitement increases a little. We move toward our apparatus to respond to the call. My partner and I go over possible scenarios and solutions to those scenarios. We arrive on scene and the police department has already secured the scene. It was my night to be the lead technician. I grabbed my airway box and oxygen bag and my partner had the clip board, medicine box and cardiac monitor.

As we approach the house, we can see in the eyes of the officers that this was not like other shootings we have seen. The night was cool and clear, with a hint of winter coming. It had been a quiet night to this point for most of the city. I enter the house first, with my partner close behind. We notice immediately that the house appears to be vacant. There is no furniture, no homeowners and no lights, except for the flashlights of the officers on scene.

Related: Toward a Better Understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

I hear a deep voice come from the front bedroom stating: “Medics in here, please!” My partner remained outside the room as I entered. There were two officers with flashlights and a lantern that was in the middle of the room giving off some light. I see the face of the sergeant in the room. The officer is a tall man with little to no facial expression and next to him was a younger man with a ghostly face of sadness and bewilderment.

I walk in and directly to my left was a table. Sitting on the table was a young boy about 15 years old. He and his buddies were hanging out in this vacant house. It was reported by one of his friends they found a short shotgun with the barrel sawed off in one of the rooms. No one knew it was loaded. They were just playing around with it. Then one of his friends placed the weapon next to the victim’s head and pulled the trigger.

The results were instantly tragic! The blast left an entry wound that was sizable and an exit would of the same. The pressure caused an instant push of the victim’s eyes to lay onto his face. The blast evacuated most the victims brain and left little in place. The victims brain stem was still intact and his respiratory system was still working. The patient was still attempting to breath on his own.

Related: First Responders and PTSD: A Literature Review

In the early 90s, organ procurement was still being developed. It was a rare occurance to work a patient just for porcurment reasons. I looked at the devastation and knew there was nothing that could be done for this child. I informed my partner that we were not going to be working this case and called it. I turned to the two officers in the room and let them know if they needed to leave until the child stop taking agonal respiration, then please do so.

The younger officer left the room, the sergeant remained. The call was the most difficult of my career. I have never seen such devastation to someone still breathing. This lasted for about 10 seconds and then total silence. The officer called for homicide to respond. I remained in the room for a short time pondering my decision and reasoning. Looking at the young boy, I could only search for reasons why I should work him and give him some opportunity to live.

The devastation of the wound and obvious signs of lifelessness still brought me back to the final decision of calling him dead. I looked one more time to sear the imagine in my mind and to feel the sadness that filled me of this event. I have been trained to save lives and educated to use a higher skill set to make a difference. I had nothing to offer this young boy; the call absolutely made me feel so inadequate.

Related: Psychological Trauma: The Silent Stalker

Turning to walk out the door, I glanced once more and exited the room. We gathered our equipment and exited the front door.

The alarm sounds again as a shooting call comes across the radio. The lights go on and crews move toward the apparatus. The call I just experienced was nothing more than a dream of a call I had 20 years ago. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real and serious issue. Attending to our citizens at home gives responders and rescuers a sense of pride and admiration. This can and does effect individuals in emotional ways that leave lasting problems.

Having to revisit and or view areas that cause emotional trauma continuously can trigger PTSD without notice. We, as professionals and caregivers, must know we must take care of ourselves so we can collectively take care of our families and the public that we wish to serve at the highest level. Take care of each other, watch each other and love each other.

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