Wednesday, August 6, 2008

One Missed Call

I happened to be around town last weekend and able to go out on two ambulance calls. The first was a routine transfer from the care facility to the hospital. The second was again from the care center to the hospital but, because of the nature of the call, we were met by the ALS (advanced life support) crew from the neighboring hospital. Both were interesting and good safe calls to go on for my first ever ambulance rides as an EMT-B.

The other day I missed the pager going off. I happened to catch the dispatcher saying something about a car accident and my town, sending me running out the door in case it was a multiple casualty situation. I knew I'd missed the ambulance going out so I took the pager with me and headed out to the highway. The local deputy's car went screaming past me so I followed him out of town. By the time we got to the crash site the ambulance was loaded and on its way back through, what we call a "grab and go" situation. Because the crash? Was car versus train. I knew it was only a single patient because dispatch would have called for a second ambulance crew if more than one person had been involved in the crash. I turned around and headed home, knowing that I was not needed. And spent the rest of the day kicking myself for being too slow to be there when my hands were needed.

I went to work at the restaurant that night and heard from friends more info on the crash. It was a lovely young woman that I had the opportunity to meet when I was teaching at her school a couple of years ago. A young woman who is active in her community, a giving personality, and her whole life ahead of her. She was not wearing her seat belt and no one knows exactly why she did not see the train.

And now I am feeling guilty for being glad that I was too slow to catch the call. Because the ambulance did not take her to the hospital. They took her to the funeral home and the county coroner. I have heard that at least one of the EMT's that caught the call was too wrecked emotionally to go to their job that day.

I feel guilty for missing it, yet guilty also for being glad that I did miss it. I don't know how I would have handled the death that occurred. It's hard enough knowing the hole that has been carved in the lives of her family, her boyfriend and his family, and the suffering of the family that she was on her way to see that morning.

I know that I will most likely find out how I will handle death on a call, as I plan to join the ambulance crew in our new town. This missed call, for me, brings to the forefront that small town EMT's more often than not, are answering calls for friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and most scarily, family. How does one handle that? Especially in the instance when the patient of that call does not survive? The loss that this community will feel for this young woman is overwhelming. How does one handle the knowledge that what you could do for that patient wasn't enough? I know that it doesn't matter who caught that call, with the severity of the crash, the chance of survival was slim to none, there was nothing that could be done to save her. My heart is just aching for that woman's family and friends, and for those fellow EMT's who caught the call and the emotions they're dealing with now.

There's no real point to my ramblings right now. It's just where my mind keeps returning to. We all go blithely along our way, living life, making plans, forgetting that we just never know what curve fate it going to throw at us. Go hug your loved ones, tell them that you love them. Marvel at the newness of each day. And drive safely and defensively. My fellow EMT's and I don't want you to be on that call that ends at the funeral home instead of the hospital.

Slan awaillia (sp?) or safe journey.


miwise said...

Years ago, one of my husbands was on the volunteer fire department in our small community. They went out on car crashes and train wrecks and saw friends and neighbors pulled from the wreckage. All we could do when they returned home was to offer hugs and support, knowing that it would happen again. It's going to be tough the first time and probably every time. It's a job that sees the pain of life. I couldn't do it. I wish for you the strength that you will need but I think you already have that.

CelticBuffy said...

Thank you miwise. I debated about publishing this post. The guilt I'm dealing with seems rather selfish when contrasted with what her family and friends are going through. I felt that we could all use a reminder, though, that it only takes an instant for life to change drastically.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the world of EMS my dear.. My only death call was the wife of a friend of ours..

Semi Truck vs. Tracker.. head on..
I took it pretty hard, but that is why you have the support you have in EMS..

We are a small 5 member, non transport,, very rural unit.. We are 15-20 minutes at best from an ambulance.

We go in our own cars, with jump kits.. and pray the ambulance hurries..we are First Responders and EMT-B's.. I am the latter.

Best wishes in your EMS work.. You will do will find that they were teaching you more than medical skills in class.. they were teaching you to deal..

you will do fine....

The Real Life Fairy Tale Princess said...

*off topic*
Hope you had a great DAY!! Here's wishing you many more happy one's to come!!

Don't forget to check out your Dedication. I did yours first as a present!!

Vanessa said...

I have no words of wisdom to offer for this situation. I have no idea how you do it other than you must have a massive reserve of strength inside you to do what you do. Fate intertwines our lives in mysterious ways.

Nichole M said...

I have learned and realearned one simple fact over and over: We all walk the fine line between this world and the next every day, with almost everything we do.

So, live for the now. Because now will never come again.

Shania said...

I know you may not agree, but I'm glad you missed the call. Why have more pain, particularly if there was no help to be offered? I'm sorry this happened, not just to you, but everyone involved.

J at said...

This year has been the kind that kicks your ass, for us. I don't ever want to live another like it. And yet, I know I will.

Being an EMT is a wonderful job...not that I've done it, but to be there for someone in their time of need, I think that's a wonderful thing.