It’s been 19 years…..

This year, Christmas Day marked the 19th anniversary of one of, if not THE, most upsetting calls of my career. I am not going to share details. There’s no need or point. It was not a “horrific” call – it was not a car accident or a suicide, or anything like that. But it was inexplicably tragic. One of those that you just can’t make sense out of …..One of those that, if you are religious, makes you wonder how you can possibly maintain your faith.

Maybe part of what bothered me so much is, I was not even working on the ambulance that day. I was driving the engine (Acting Engineer) – a very rare treat and a fantastic Christmas present!

But, when we got on scene, and the true reality set in on everyone there….it quickly became apparent that I had more experience with this type of call than probably everyone else put together. So, I ended up running the call. Or at least guiding the attending paramedic and performing the most difficult physical tasks.

Needless to say, the outcome was not good. Despite our best efforts, and everything running as smoothly as you could possibly hope, we last that battle.

Generally speaking, the timing of the call made it a thousand times worse than it would have been on any other day of the year. That hit me very hard. It was made even worse, though, by the realization that I had run SO many similar calls during my career. Certainly none exactly like this – either in terms of the exact nature or the timing.  But to realize in the middle of this scenario that I had become so proficient in the skills required for this type of call……..I was not working with a bunch of newbies. Of the 5 of us, two had more time on the job than I did and one was not far behind me. But those three together had not performed these skills on this type of patient half as many times as I had…..

I ‘retired’ and worked my last shift just over 7 months later. I would not say that this particular call ended my career. It was one of many that sticks with me to this day. However, sitting on the tail-board of the engine, out in front of the ER while the attending medic finished his report, and thinking about how many times I had written a report very much like this…..It started to sink in – Maybe I had written too many…..Maybe more than my share.

I am actually composing this post very late on Christmas eve, while listening to my kids sleep peacefully down the hall. I am intentionally not posting it until after Christmas…..

Please make sure you hug your kids every single day. And extra tight on Christmas. You just never know…..

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Has it really been THAT long since I’ve posted??

I’m so sorry….I cannot believe it has been so long since I have shared my story. Truth is, I’ve been doing pretty darn well.

It has been at least 2 years, maybe 3, since I have seen my therapist. Although, I have been thinking it’s about time for a bit of a tune up. No full-blown anxiety attacks in years, but recently I have had a couple of minor “episodes”. A few things that have felt like minor setbacks. Much as I wish it wasn’t the case, I’m afraid this is very much like maintaining a car – you gotta look under the hood every now and then just to make sure everything is working right…..

When I started this blog, I intended to share my ENTIRE story – the bad, hopefully followed by the good as I worked through things. As I started addressing my issues, writing was very much a compulsion. A huge release. A way to “talk” about what was happening without actually being face to face with anyone. Although I did hope others would benefit from my story, it was mostly just another, healthier, way for me to vent and cope. However, as I made progress and felt more and more “stable”, the urge to write dwindled.

Because of the feedback I received, and the number of people following along, I knew that I needed to continue sharing – especially as things got better. But it is has been hard…..I’ve been in a relatively good place for so long that, frankly, I was afraid to jeopardize it. I didn’t want to force myself to write for fear of taking my thoughts back to the stuff I had, at least to some degree, put behind me. I thought if I tried to share the good stuff, the bad stuff would come back.

Well, based on the handful of things that have come back recently anyway, I realize that sharing good stuff isn’t going to cause these things to come back – they will find their own way if I don’t stay on top of things.

When I started therapy, I don’t even remember how long ago…..8 years? 10? Something like that….I really hoped I could go spend a few hours of my time (and a few hundred dollars…..), and be done with it. My therapist explained over and over, very patiently, that it just doesn’t work that way. It is an ongoing process that never fully ends. Like I said – it’s like a car…..

I don’t think I really wanted to accept that answer…..I guess I still don’t. But I am beginning to see it for myself. And it’s probably time to get back after it. Certainly, things are not nearly as bad as they were when I started. Not even close. I know that I made a tremendous amount of progress. And I think taking a break for a little while was a good thing too. Kind of like half time in a football game – even if you are winning, you need to take a minute, look at what you have accomplished, and figure out how to proceed.

I still have a lot of stories to tell. I started a handful of posts that never got finished. Most of these deal with the rough patches, but I do intend to finish them and share. I also plan to start sharing the good stuff too….I think it is just as important for me to acknowledge the accomplishments as it might be for some of you to see that things do get better…..

Thank you all for your support! And for your patience as I have worked out a game plan for the second half….

Article: I Have Ghosts in My Head

This is a powerful article about the inevitable party question: So, what’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?

I can’t remember how many times I’ve been in this situation. I’ve been out of the business for quite a while now, so it doesn’t happen much any more, but man…..Always bothered me. My standby answer was: “Depends on your definition of worst.”

That could be followed with: “Do you mean how much blood was spread across the highway? Or how long it took to clean the puke, blood and other bodily fluids out of the back of my ambulance? Or how long it took to get the smell out of my nose? Or do you mean saddest – cuz I’ve got a bunch of those.”

Too many definitions of “worst”. And on the rare occasion when I do share some stories, it’s never even close to the actual worst……

Article: I have ghosts in my head.

“It’s Not Your Fault”….I Lied….

Wow, is this powerful….The video in the link below describes a scenario that probably almost anyone who has spent a few years on an ambulance can understand.

While I don’t remember any specific time I told this type of lie, I am quite certain that I did. How can you not? “It’s not your fault…..” “It’s not as bad as it looks….” And any number of little (or big) white lies we tell to comfort the patient or the family……

And our selves……

Here’s the link to “It’s not your fault”

I do not belive I ever told the lie he describes, although I dealt with at least my share of SIDS. However, I was in a very similar situation – the only difference was that Mom already knew….and lying to her would not have changed anything……

(I have written about the emotions surrounding my experience and how it effected my for years, here, , if you are interested….)

 

 

 

Link: Video Describing PTSD and Treatments

Here is a link to a video describing the symptoms of PTSD. The first half talks about what causes it and some of the symptoms. The rest addresses some treatment options.

It is very basic and simple, but does a great job of hitting the important highlights in a fairly short period of time – a bit over 5 minutes. If you know someone who is dealing with PTSD, but really don’t understand what that means, I think this will be very helpful. But keep in mind, this video will not help you comprehend the intensity and magnitude of the symptoms, or the loss of control that is often felt by someone with PTSD.

It is a great place to start…..

Article: 5 Stresses of Firefighters

Great article…..

http://uniformstories.com/articles/opinion-category/5-stresses-firefighters-deal-with-that-non-firefighters-should-know-about?fb_comment_id=861044530640807_861192523959341

A Pause to Honor….

I find this very interesting. It is a fantastic idea. And, at the same, possibly a horrible idea.

The article linked below talks about hospital emergency workers “pausing” to honor a patient that has not responded to their efforts to save their life. Essentially, a moment of silence for someone they did not know at all.

In many cases, probably most cases, I think this would be a great way to bring a different kind of closure to a situation that is, in itself, so final – and yet, possibly not completely resolved for those who worked so hard for a different outcome. Taking just a moment to come to grips with what has just happened, might make it easier to step away and move on….

On the other hand, at least for me, there were many times that stopping to accept what had happened would have put me over the edge. The scenarios that were just so utterly horrific……If I stopped to think about it, I would not have been able to get back in the ambulance and run the next call…..

The article is about hospital workers. I wonder if it would have the same effect on field crews. Not to take anything away from the hospital folks – the death is just a real – but it is a different situation. Chances are pretty good that the patient the ER staff has stopped to honor was brought in by an ambulance crew who has already left the room to do paperwork and clean up the rig. Would it be effective for the crew to come back to the patients room? Or stop where ever they happen to be when they get word? If they even get word?

Yep, definitely interesting……….

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/09/27/443104073/trauma-workers-find-solace-in-a-pause-that-honors-life-after-a-death?sc=tw

Article: Nobody Taught Me How…….

This is an excellent post! Not about PTSD, but about being a paramedic – It’s about the parts of the job nobody taught you and you had to learn on your own…..

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/im-paramedic-nobody-taught-me-how-julia-cornah

PSA: No warning for PTSD

Yep……

http://www.emsworld.com/video/12105247/no-warning-ptsd-and-first-responders-psa

A Paramedic’s Comfort

This is an excellent post by a fellow blogger. Sums it up nicely, if you ask me….

https://paramedicnatsmentalhealthjourney.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/382/comment-page-1/#comment-617

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