Archives for September 3, 2010

I’m Sorry.

Warning: Once again, another reflective/sad post at the beginning, but hopefully I can round it out at the end.

I’m Sorry I lied to you, all of you.  I told you that, everything would be fine, and it wasn’t ment to be.  I knew that from the beginning.  I’m sorry I violated you; the needles, the tube, the compressions, the shocks.  For those that I, seemingly without compassion, drew a sheet over your head, I am sorry that I seemed to not care about what was going on with you. I want you to know that, I grieved for you.  If I could’ve changed the outcomes, I would have.  My box of drugs, my skills, all being used to ward off death.  I’m sorry it didn’t work for you, while it worked for others.  I tried my hardest; don’t ever think because of your station in life I did not bust my ass in my attempt to save you; it just wasn’t ment to be. If I could’ve done more, I would have.  I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry.

I wrote this a few sessions into my marathon therapy run.  I was having a hard time explaining how I felt in words; I wasn’t used to talking about feelings of despair, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and lack of self-worth in relation to myself.  I could play therapist to anyone who needed me to, but I didn’t need one, or so I thought.

My spiral started before I even got on the trucks.  A very good friend of mine was shot and killed, and I was charged with telling his girlfriend.  I had just gotten my EMT card, hell, the ink was barely dry before I was delivering my first death notice.  I gave a textbook delivery, using all the appropriate words like “dead” and not “passed on” and so forth.  I didn’t cry until the funeral, and even then I held back.  I looked back on my EMT class where they talked about not getting emotional…I was too good at it too quickly. 

Call after harrowing call, I kept my stiff upper lip.  I never told anyone I was hurting on the inside.  I wanted to be the perfect EMT. 

Flash forward a few years.  I’m better at the whole “looking calm on the outside” while on the inside I was dying.  Medic class caught me off guard; I wasn’t prepared for the trauma that it was.  So much precepting, so many hours awake without any sleep.  I started taking caffine pills and those little speed tablets you can get from a convienence store.  Hopped up on those, I felt like I could conquer the day.  I was too busy buzzing around like a little worker bee feeling like I was doing EVERYTHING to realize I was doing nothing.  My very first bad pediatric call happened while precepting in the local Trauma Room.  Three kids were walking along a railroad trestle that was 75ft above a small creek.  As they walked, being teenage boys, they jokingly pushed one another.    One boy was pushed and he moved back to lean against the thin railing that separated the boys from falling to almost certain death.  The rail gave out and the boy plummeted to the ground.

He came into the ER a broken mass.  It was a bad, rainy day, so the helicopters weren’t flying, so a BLS crew brought the boy in.  No lines, no tube,  just a crew using a BVM for all they were worth.  The kid was guppy breathing, a ragged noise.  His chest was moving in all sorts of directions as he took each rapid breath.  The scene was horrifying.  I knew the kid; he was two grades below me, his older sister was a friend of mine through school. He had ridden the same bus I did for over seven years.  I knew him to talk to him, I even knew his parents.  He got a bloody nose on the bus when he was 9; I walked him home so he could hold the towel and ice pack on his nose while leaning his head down.  He also shared my birthday.

During their report, I filled in the blanks; Name, address, birthday, and parents’ name.  All I had was his sisters’ phone number that I handed over almost immediately.  Within moments, they whisked him off to CT and I followed.  I had the dubious honor of being the one who would help with compressions if it came down to it.  On the brain scan, there was not a speck of black.  The blood showed up as a white color, filling every nook and cranny of his skull.  There was no doubt he was going to die, it was just a matter of when.

I walked outside the ER and lost it.  I called a friend of mine, an RN at the local peds hospital and I just cried, telling her about what I saw.  She said something to me that reaffirmed the whole, “you-can’t-be-emotional-about-anything” mentality I had.

“If you get emotional about it, that means you can’t do this job.  Get out now or learn how to put your personal feelings on a back burner.”

So I did.

I threw myself into my work, trying to blur the images from my mind.  I hit a bad streak of calls.  Every time I turned around someone else was dying.  Sleep became harder to obtain, so I decided to not sleep unless absolutely necessary.  I front loaded my truck time and my ER time, so I had more hours than necessary per semester.  When I finally reached my breaking point, that was it.  I was immediately asked to come off the trucks.  I saw what it was doing to me;  I was anxious, jumpy, ready to snap someones’ neck at the first word.  My blood pressure was sky high, the bottom number stayed above 120 for almost three weeks, so you can imagine what the top number was.   

I didn’t want to be with anyone.  I saw everyone as almost disposable.  No one was ment to be happy; I saw a woman lose her husband in a car accident on their wedding day, a husband losing his wife and baby soon after delivery, a couple married for 50 years torn apart by cancer.  What was it all worth?

I asked that question while trying to find the worm in a bottle of tequilla.  Rock bottom for me was getting alcohol poisoning after a bad shift.  It was the first time ever that I drank like that.  I just kept going, shot after shot.  The numbness felt good and I didn’t want it to stop.  A co-worker who knew I was not handling the shift well came and found me, passed out on my front porch.  An Ambulance trip by my own company and into an ER I had frequented, being looked over by doctors and nurses who, at one point respected me in the highest, killed me.  I admitted that night I needed help or I wasn’t going to make it through the month.

Three sessions later, I let out what was truly going on in my mind.  I cried…I cried for every patient I had lost.  My heart broke a thousand times over as I let out in gruesome detail the story of every patient I had lost.  The ghosts of patients past that I carried I let free that day.  Each soul I let go made my own feel lighter.  Slowly, life was worth it again.  I could see the sunshine through the rain. 

My therapist asked me to write an apology letter to my patients.  The things I didn’t say to them in the moments I had with them.  So I wrote, and what I wrote is what you got.  You may ask why I reveal such personal information like this, I do it because I want others to learn from where I came.  I want others to know what to watch out for so they don’t make the same mistake I do.

Above all else, I want others to know that, it’s okay to have emotion in this job. 

It’s okay to cry.

Be safe,

~M. Trommashere~