I worked with an EMT yesterday. My partner went home sick early in the morning and the EMT in question was the only one that could come in on short notice. I've seen him around a few times. He's about done with Medic school but he's not arrogant about it. Many of the students that are at the end of the class think that they know it all. I wonder if I was like that... I suppose I was. It's funny, I've not had my patch long, on one hand it seems like yesterday, on the other it seems like years....
Anyway, we had a few good runs and the call volume was back to normal. Which is good because with the baby and 2 toddlers at home, sleep is a thing of the past.
I got woke up from a nap by a call for a pedestrian struck. At first I thought I was dreaming, well dream is too nice of a term. I thought I was having another nightmare. The dispatch info was almost the same: Pedestrian struck, small child, no other information at this time. As I realized that I wasn't dreaming I got up and started for the truck and then I started sweating.
When we got there, I took one look and I knew it wasn't going to be as bad as last time. The child was laying on the ground, screaming. His mother was kneeling over him and the whole family was there as well.
The kid had no real major threats. He had ran out behind a car and his lower leg had been run over. He had an obvious tib/fib fracture and a possible hip as well. We stabilized the leg and loaded him up. With the mother on board and the rest of the family in tow, we made our way to the hospital. And that was that. I breathed a sigh of relief once care had been transferred to the nurse.
In the early hours just before dawn I was woken up again for a possible code blue, our talk for a person down and not breathing. We arrive and go inside. There is a middle aged woman lying face down in the bed. Her two small children are there and looking scared. The oldest one had called 911 just like she had been taught in school. There is a bottle of pills scattered across the floor below the bed. I roll her over and note the purple face, cool extremities and slight rigor. She has been down for a while. My EMT partner, the fire department and a cop all look at me.
"What do you want to do?" their eyes ask.
I almost turned around to look for someone else, someone else besides me that they are looking at. I know there is no one else. It's my decision and mine alone. This is the responsibility at its best and worst that my patch provides.
Anyone that has been in this business for even a short time has probably had to decide not to work a code. This was my first. Due to the condition of the body, I knew it was pointless. I also knew that it would only traumatize the children even more to see their mother being put through that.
I'm not ashamed to say that I hesitated in my response to all those eyes. I knew what I should do. I should just attach the wires, run my strip, call the Medical Examiner, etc. etc. All this happened in the space of about 2 seconds in real time. But in my head it stretched out for what seemed like an eternity.
I made my decision. I told a few of the first responders to get the kids out of there. I attached my wires and ran my strip. I called my supervisor and then put in my call to the Medical Examiner. I had taken a look at the pill bottle on the floor and it wasn't something she would have taken in an emergency. Also there was an empty alcohol bottle on the night table and a piece of paper tucked under it. I'd call this an open and shut overdose.
Since I was in charge, it's also my responsibility to talk to the survivors. There is no other adult in the house. There was only the deceased and the 2 kids. The question I began asking myself is, How do you tell two kids less than 10 years old that their mother is dead?
I did it. I did it with tears on my cheeks, but I did it.... I don't know what else to say about that.
As family members were called and friends and neighbors start to arrive. I got the rest of the story. The husband and father had died not a month earlier, car accident somewhere in the mid-west while he was away on business. The woman didn't take it well her sister said. How do you take it well I wanted to ask her. I didn't, I kept my mouth shut and noted down all the pertinent information for my report.
How does someone do that? How does someone get so far down to swallow their own death with a bunch of cheap wine and their kids are in the next room?
I don't know about anyone else that was there. But I went home and picked up my kid and didn't let go for a long time...