When I first got into the EMS field I heard stories; stories of close calls that became saves, calls that turned out to be stranger than fiction, and even calls that turned out to be nothing Every EMT has them. Every EMT loves telling them. However when asked one simple question you get a completely opposite reaction. "What's the worst call you've ever been on?" Most people's face expressions become stoic, the moment they remember the call that continues to haunt their thoughts every so often, the one that still comes to them in their dreams.
It would randomly be brought up from time to time, some able to share that call that got to them, others just dismissing it by changing the subject. Others would blow off their own recollections with suggestions as what was to come for us new EMT folk. Most of the EMS people I talked to were curious as to how I would handle my first truly bad call. I have to be honest I wondered that myself, the thought coming up at least once every time I was paged to a call. Would it cause me to lose sleep like it does most? Would I freeze up being completely useless during the call? Was I cut out to be there in someone else's worst moment?
Well having that call is inevitable. Sooner or later it is going to happen. The best I can do is do what I have been trained to and do it to the best of my abilities. So I was told, and what I told myself.
Well I was hoping to finish this rambling with a quip about me still having yet to experience this call and how I think I can handle it. The truth is, Last Friday night, October 22nd I experienced that call. ATV crash with a patient who was DOA. I won't go into details on it as I would rather not like to think about it, but forever will the patient's face, body, everything be burned into my mind, forever will the screams of hysteria and the patient's significant other clutching me haunt my thoughts. I did my job and did what I was supposed to, but I didn't sleep the rest of that night. I'm still waking up every so often with my mind going to that night. Yeah these calls will become easier in time and yeah I am going to see a lot of these calls in my career.
I've been told that I need to not take my work home with me, and I am getting a stronger stomach in taking these calls but having people tell me that I will get to a point where they won't affect me at all. In all honesty I'm hoping I never reach that point. I have to learn to not let these calls take a hold of my life and strangle it and I need to learn to accept that call for what it is and move in but it won't. That call, my first bad call, will forever be with me. I hope to learn to let it not affect me so deeply but to not let it affect me at all in my opinion causes us to lose the very thing that made us want to lose sleep in the first place, to see people at their worst and help them. Without that empathy, without that sense of what those people are feeling and a longing to make that go away we become complacent. We lose our urge to do our best and we lose a chance to make a difference.
I end on the fact that I will probably continue to lose sleep thanks to my career choice and what I have/will see. I am learning how to handle these calls. Most importantly I am learning how to be empathetic without letting these calls eat me from the inside. It will take time, it will take struggle, but in the end, that's what makes it worth it.