Baby L

Dear Baby L,

It’s been quite awhile since we were last together, yet it feels like yesterday.  I was one of the sweaty paramedics in the back of the ambulance working as hard as I could to save another one of your family members that night.  I was the one who took your limp body from the firefighter’s hands into my shaky arms. I’m one of those people who believe that my partner and I are a team, but ultimately you were my patient and my responsibility.

Just about every waking second since the night of that fire I have tortured myself over the fact that we couldn’t help you more.  I’ve taken you everywhere with me.  You were with me at the CISD.  You’ve been there when I’ve dropped my kids off at school, you’ve been in line with me at the store, you’ve accompanied me to the lake when I’ve made attempts to get my head on straight, and you’ve visited me in my dreams.  Oh sweety, how I really wish I could have done something more for you both. 

 Honestly, and this sounds harsh,  I wish I could forget what your little face looked like that night.  I wish I could see you as a happy toddler playing out in the yard with your siblings on that swingset or in that massive sandbox in the side yard. I would do just about anything so that your entire family could celebrate another one of your birthdays.  I wish I could see you blowing out candles on a cake instead of the little boy with the horrible burns in the back of my truck.  Unfortunately, I don’t get that luxury.  My coworkers don’t.  None of us do.  It’s one of the hughest downfalls to working in EMS.  We see what we see, and we’re supposed to just deal with it.  Some of us are much better at it than others.  For me, it’s been an issue since day one.  What happened to you, and that family member, it was horribly tragic to say the least. And my thoughts and prayers will always be with your family.  It’s impacted me to the point where I actually left a  job and was ready to shred the medic card I worked so hard to obtain.  I felt like you were truly haunting me.  I felt like I was being sucker-punched every time I dared to forget what you had been through that night and then… remembered.  It happened.  What happened to you, it happened

What I didn’t get until just recently was this:  You are one of my ghosts.  You deserve to be remembered.  And not in a negative way. 

I did… We did absolutely everything we could do for you that night, Sweetheart.  We all worked just as hard on your Momma.  I’ve poured over the run reports, I’ve talked to coworkers, supervisors, ER doctors and nurses, other bloggers, friends, fellow EMS folks… Just about anyone who would listen.  What I figured out was this.  We all did EVERYTHING we could.   And in the end, unfortunately, we couldn’t control what happened to you any more than the Firefighters could initially control that fire.  We all would have given anything so that the outcome would have been different.  Believe me. 

So, Baby L…  Sweety.  I will always have you with me.  Always.  So many people who you have never met will. We will always carry you with us.  And we are all so unbelievably sorry for what happened to you.  Just know this… And it’s selfish, I know.  I can only speak for myself, but I know this is true.  Horrible things are always going to happen, sometimes to the most innocent people in this world.  People who have never wronged a person in their life.  People who have yet to really live.  And that is a nasty, horrible thing.    There will always be things that will make us, as providers, spin for a little bit. You can’t work in EMS, or Fire, or Law Enforcement without encountering it from time to time.  But we can’t torture ourselves over it, and we cannot allow us to let it define who we are.  That would make us a little less than 100% there for the next person.  The person who we CAN help. 

You’ll always be with me.  Always.

– Me

16 Comments

  • Been there so many times, we talked about codes earlier tonight, a month ago I had a 3 day old. Sleeping in bed with Dad and he rolled over on him. I have had so many of these. When I drive home I get on the Interstate and go 5 miles and get off the next exit. In that 5 miles there are 12 wooden crosses. Each one of them belong to a child. I see them every day I drive home. They to are my ghosts. We all have them and we will continue to add to the list. Will it ever stop? Not for each of us until we stop ourselves. Thanks for sharing. It does good to share with others who feel the pain themselves.

  • Shell says:

    Thanks for sharing hun, makes me realize that we all have these ghosts. Some days I think I’ve left mine behind and move on but then something happens to spark a memory and I realize, I shall never leave em behind. They have become part of the person I am today.

    *Hugs*

  • usalsfyre says:

    There’s six faces that I can see clearly when I close my eyes. Three of them I remember their names, and two of them have visited me at night. It’s a burden everyone who’s spent any time in this business bears. Just know your not alone.

  • Jenn says:

    As a firefighter/EMT the one thing that gets me through the really tough calls is that what happened would have happened whether I was working or not. The emergency belongs to the victim…not to me. But we should never forget. It’s what makes us train, learn, reach…

  • Dave Kozina says:

    Holy Christ….. Where to begin.

    First off, why didn’t you call me? I’m always here for you. Anytime, anyplace, any call.

    Second, I can remember my first cardiac arrest (soooo many years ago). On a traffic accident. The car LITERALLY wrapped around the tree. Six medics, a couple State Troopers, and a metric ton of firemen trying to get her out of the car. Looking into those eyes. Feeling the chest seperate under the weight of my chest compressions. Know what? I was ready to give it up that night. Turn in my gear, my radio, and my pager. Walk away, and never look back.

    I’m glad I didn’t. Epi, I’m telling ya, in this career, you’re gonna have the faces come to you in the middle of the night. You’re gonna bust out in tears for no reason. You’re gonna get so pissed off you wanna go find a job at a bank, with well-defined hours and paid holidays that you don’t have to show up for. And then you take a breath, and you get back on the squad. Because you know that God gave you the skills for a reason, and you know that out there, someone, somewhere, needs your help.

    Did I ever tell you how I broke my right hand? After working an arrest on a 2-month-old crack baby. Made it to the hospital, they called it, and I put my fist through a wall at St. Luke’s.

    Tonight, I worked one of the worst arrests in my career. I’ve been a fireman for 10+ years, with 3 as a lieutenant. I’ve seen my share of burned bodies. Tonight was a male on home O2 who decided to go have a smoke. Know who found him? His 14-year-old granddaughter. The patient was still on fire when we got there. It’s bad when this fat man drops his jump kit and monitor to sprint back to the squad to grab a fire extinguisher. Nothing I could do for him, since his airway slammed shut as soon as the fire hit it…… and nothing I could do to try and take away the pain that little girl was going through. I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it.

    Tomorrow, I’m getting back on the squad, even though I don’t want to. God gave me the gift to help the sick and injured. He gave YOU that same gift.

    Will you climb back on that squad with me? Pick up the radio, and tell dispatch you’re in service. Come on Epi, you’ve got this hon. I’m right there with you, to infinity and beyond.

  • Rachel says:

    I think one of the things that defines us in emergency services of all forms, gives life to why we do what we do, is because we feel, we remember, and we see more than most. We know what death looks like in all its disguises….peaceful, traumatic, sudden and slow. It’s not something everyone sees, and it’s so incredibly hard to flip back and forth between the “normal” everyday, and processing what we have seen or done. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of simply pumping gas, and wondering if everyone at the gas station knows how badly you are hurting…can’t they see it all over you? How can they go about their lives, not being touched by what you’ve been touched by?

    It’s not something that everyone in this world has experienced, and it sometimes overwhelms us. You get through it sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. To each their own time. Get through it, but never over it. Because at the end of the day, we are viscerally connected to what we do and all the faces we see when we close our eyes…the ones we could help, and the ones we couldn’t.

    If you talk to those who have left the field, for one reason or another, most miss it. Eventually, anyway. They might not miss the politics, the ridiculously low pay, or the obnoxious partner whose snores wake the living dead, or the smells. But they miss the chance to try.

    I’m sorry you are hurting. I’m also glad you are on the path to healing. We’ve missed you.

  • Penguin says:

    So very happy you’ve found a place in your heart for this. The way you’ve penned this is heartwrenching but also a very poignant reminder that we all have this happen to us. You’re not alone.

  • Mack505 says:

    Wow, Epi! Sorry to hear the bad time you’ve been having, but glad to hear you’re gong to be OK. Remember that a monkey can do skills; it’s heart that makes a good paramedic.

  • Keith says:

    Like all the others have said, we have all been there before. It is what makes us a better paramedic and person, I believe. We all have to find our own way to deal with the tragedies that we have to face almost every day. But it is the caring and sympathy that makes us what we are. As long as you care and feel the way you do, you will go far in this bussiness. It is only when it becomes a “JOB” and not a way of life that it is time to find another career. I have been doing this for a little over 16 years and every bad call still makes me a little shaky. I know those feelings and questions that come after the call only make me better for the next one. It is only when those questions and feelings don’t come afterwards that it is time to turn it in and find another line of work. It is only natural to feel that way. So keep up the great work. I know by what you wrote that you are only getting better and if I ever need it, I would let you work on me anyday.

  • Old NFO says:

    You’re not alone Epi… But I think you’ve found at least some closure with this post. NEVER forget though.

  • Anne says:

    Wow, I’m still a rookie so I have no real ghosts but I have guilt over the blown calls. I can’t imagine what you went through. I had no idea this was what you were talking about, I’m dense and apologize for it.

  • LR says:

    I’m still a newbie EMT and while I’ve had some pretty intense calls, I haven’t had any calls quite like this. But they’re coming, I know, because it’s part of the job. I’m sure I’m not as prepared as I like to think I am, because who can truly be prepared for such a thing, yet I can’t think of anything else on earth I’d rather do for a living than be an EMT, so I will deal with it when the time comes, one patient, one day, even one hour or minute at a time. Whatever it takes, I will work through it, because somebody, somewhere, will need me again and maybe that time I will be able to help them.

    I’ve been talking with my coworkers lately about some of the most difficult calls they’ve run, and they tell me a lot of the same things you have said here. They tell me these patients, especially the children, will always follow us, and we have to make peace with them, understanding that if we have done our best and there is nothing more to do, then that is enough.

    Thank you for sharing, Epi, from the bottom of my heart, because it’s these kinds of posts from you that help me remember it’s okay to feel deeply about my patients, whether the ending is what I hoped for or not.

  • KSEMT09 says:

    Glad you shared this. I too am new at this. I am taking paramedic school this fall. I already know that the hardest thing for me will aslo be dealing with pediatrics. I know there are tools out there for dealing with things that we dont understand. This blog is a great outlet for you. Good luck epi, in your career.

  • I hope this post helps you, Epi. After blogging about the worst of my ghosts that kept reappearing, things got a lot better. Maybe because the memory is no longer solely carried by one person, but by all others who read about it. Maybe that’s unfair, throwing some “splashed sadness” on the blog readers, but if they didn’t want to see it, they would not keep returning, reading, replying, and caring. You are a good person, Epi.

  • NYC EMS says:

    Mine is a suicide.She left a note that said she felt like a failure because she had lost her job and now was losing her apartment.She was 24 years old.

  • AEMT6810 says:

    Epi,
    Reading this post brings back two calls of mine that the ghosts of will be with me forever. One was the 8 month old who went down for a nap and never woke up. We worked her all the way to the ER and they worked her too.. The second is the 2 year old blond haired blue eyed angel who was just going for a ride with his grandpa when they hit the big rig pretty much head on. These patients are the ones that make you realize that in order to do survive in the world of EMS we need our brothers and sisters to talk things through with. You are never alone. The ones we lose are the ones that make us strive to be better at what we do.

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