Monday, March 11, 2013


Some calls stand out.

It might be because of the patient's condition, or it might be that things went particularly well- or not well. It might be the weather, or who was there, or where it was, or almost any other detail. There's no question, some stay with us longer than others.

If the reason that the thought lingers is that it was an emotionally traumatic event, there are a variety of ways that people deal with that. There's even a process in place, to bring help to anyone who is having a hard time.

I've been doing this for a few years now, and have seen more than a few things that most people never see. I've had calls go extremely well, up there near the "miracle" category. And I've had some that didn't go well, necessitating much thought and re-assessment and some researching and pre-planning for the next time.

I've had calls that might make most people stressed out not cause me to be so, and I've had some that weren't particularly "bad" stay on my mind for a long time.

I get attached.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. I get emotionally attached to inanimate objects, like my car, or my computer, or the house I lived in as a child, so attachments to actual people isn't much of a stretch. Even if I don't know them.

Through all of this, I've learned what helps me process things, what helps me cope, what helps me stay human, without staying sad.

I recently had a call where the patient didn't make it.
It wasn't a surprise, given the situation at the time.
I would really like to have been able to do something more helpful, but it was not to be.

I read the obituaries every day.
Partly to see if anyone I know died, partly to notice the ages of the deceased, but also, to see if any of "my" patients are in there. Sometimes, we get called to a patient and we don't find out directly what happened, but they never go home again.

It is in those obituaries that I sometimes begin my healing process. I read about their lives, their families. Sometimes the things they have done, or the dreams they had. I see how they were- and are- loved.

I "get to know them," just a little. Enough to say goodbye, and to mourn them as a person. Enough to be sad for their passing, and to remember them.

And then, I can move on.

Goodbye, my short-term friend. May your smiles be remembered, and lighten the hearts of your family and friends.


  1. Hi old friend,
    I just found this blog of yours via the Unschooling Me blog. I wanted to tell you that years ago when my middle daughter Katie needed help from our local EMTs -- as soon as I could, I called and told them that she was going to be fine. Also, since we lived in a small community I was able to arrange a personal thank-you where two of her EMT helpers could meet her "all better." They got two-year old hugs and I got to thank them again. Katie doesn't remember; I'll never forget. ~ Kathy Ward

  2. Throughout my career as an EMT and in the military, I have found it easiest to detach...a lesson learned after my first few motorcycle TCs. It is hard to walk the line of compassion and caring with the daily reality of the job. I found that I lost compassion, especially for the drunks and the patients that overreact and didn't need any care. I guess that is why I got out, you are a better EMT than I.

  3. I am also a volunteer. I have served as both a volunteer firefighter and member of an Urban Search & Rescue Team. We all have calls that get to us. For me, it is calls involving children. We all must learn how to deal with grief. I appreciate honest posts like this one meant to help other EMTs. I have seen firefighters that don't deal with grief burnout or worse.

  4. After reading this post I noticed that it's almost me to a T, for the longest time after dealing with a patient whether that I deep down knew when they were in the back of the ambulance they were going to pass minutes after I dropped them off or knowing that they have all the time in the way world left, then reading there names in the obituaries, I often wondered did I do enough to keep the person alive or was just cold game of faith playing and calming another win, then dealing with patient's I came up with a goal of getting the patient to either smile or laugh once during the transport and if they didn't then I know I didn't do my job right. But after seeing that I'm not the only one that reads the obituaries for any patient's I've had beeping in there makes me feel better and I can agree that it does put some kind of closure to an already either tragic situation or a happy encounter. Thank you for writing a post that I can relate to.