Death usually doesn’t affect me that much. I’ve been at this profession long enough now that my psychic armor is fairly thick.
Not so thick or strong though, that it can’t be penetrated from time to time. This is what reminds me that I’m still human after all.
A child’s death, or the unexpected death of someone by traumatic means are two scenarios where my armor isn’t strong enough.
In this post I’m going to relate a story of death by trauma. I’ll leave pediatric deaths for another post I think.
A death as a result of trauma tends to upset me more than a natural death due to age or illness. In this case I find myself reflecting about how mere moments ago this was a living, vital person with plans and a future. Usually they are in the midst of some boring, mundane daily task when their life ends. Commuting to work, a trip to the corner store, waiting to cross the street and so on.
No one seems to die while heroically saving the damsel (or dude) in distress from a teeming horde of villains. At least not in my, admittedly limited, experience.
The catalyst for this blog was a call I responded to as a solo responder (my partner had left early that shift) for a motorcyclist down on a narrow, two lane rural road.
I know this section of road well as it’s my route to and from work, it’s very pretty but treacherous if you take it at speed. I arrived moments before the transport ambulance did and was faced with a group of people all pointing down an embankment at a tree.
This did not bode well.
I took what equipment I could carry and began my descent, thankfully I was joined at this point by a medic from the other ambulance. We found the patient wedged at the base of the tree exhibiting all the signs of a severe head injury (unconscious, with decerebrate posturing for you medical types).
The patient wasn’t dead, but it was going to be difficult attempting to keep them that way. The heat and humidity of the day along with a dearth of helping hands exacerbated the challenge we faced. We were able to immobilize the patient and I initiated what treatment I could on the slope. Eventually the fire department arrived and we finally had enough trained hands to secure the patient fully and extricate them to the vehicle.
Once there, further assessment revealed several more life threatening injuries that I managed to treat just prior to transport to the helicopter landing site.
I transferred care to the chopper medics and we watched them fly off, into a sunset no less, to a trauma hospital.
I felt pretty good about the execution of this call, all challenges had been met and I had excellent help on scene, including some phenomenal bystanders.
The next day I learned that the patient had died shortly after arriving at the trauma hospital.
That sucked. I had allowed myself to think that maybe, just maybe, they would survive. Nope.
Armor pierced, dammit.
I don’t consider this a failure on my part, the patient was mortally wounded and they would’ve died regardless of what treatment was available on scene, including an operating room full of trauma surgeons.
One second they were alive, hopefully enjoying themselves, the next they were as good as dead.
In a heartbeat.
Be careful out there people.