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Anniversaries of a bad emergency call

Discussion in 'Military & Emergency Services' started by enough, May 25, 2018.

  1. enough

    enough Well-Known Member

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    This weekend marks an anniversary. Kids involved, death of both parents, pretty horrible. My worst thing that I remember now is the huge number of spectators. Literally hundreds. They all saw the scene unfold from start to finish including me not starting on one victim and reluctantly helping on the other with my first words being "you don't have to do this anymore" to the people doing CPR.
    They refused to stop so I got involved by monitoring pulse while calling off the life flight helicopter crew who was busy anyway, it being labor day. After several cycles with no response I asked if they would stop when relieved by my chief who was about 10 minutes behind me, I told them I would be stopping then because I knew he would tell me to, and they agreed. I could feel the hundreds watching us, I saw others around the other corpse, I worried that they may be starting CPR over there.
    The first to arrive (after me) was actually our local ambulance and I knew the crew well. They went to the first victim as I had. I waited for them to get to us but they knew me and trusted me so they took their time on the first victim. I had been alone and assessed death based on visual evidence of the trauma and the only time I had taken over there was to cover with my turnout coat. It seemed like forever before they got to us and I was relieved and they started in getting the other people to stop. The entire crowd was silent when we all stood up.
    I had a partner when I got there, where was she? She was with the kids who were totally fine she said they didn't even have any signs of what they had been through. The second truck arrived and together we covered both bodies, the police arrived and made an arrest. Standing ovation with some muffled applause meant to taunt the killer. I heard it as, "way to go jerk"- but it was aimed at me. I might as well have been home for all the good I did. Everything that happened would have happened without me, except for the raised hopes of the masses when I forgot my training and took part in the CPR.
    I have lots of bad scenes in the memory banks, lots of failed CPR, I never saved anyone that way actually. The big differences for this call from all the others was the way these people died, and the place they died, and the amount of time I have spent there, before and after this call, the huge crowd, and their mass anger at the killer, sorrow for the victims and their children, and disappointment at our ineffectiveness.
    I would probably be able to just let this one go except that the scene is a ferry landing and I sit alone in my truck waiting for the ferry at least once a month, and I cant do that much time without thinking about it. Avoiding the ferry just makes me aware of the memory and the alternate route just means more time before I get home and on to other things.
    I remember thinking I would get past it without thinking about it this year, that I was almost over it, and then I was with a group of guys that had just fished that stretch of th river and the conversation turned to the history of the deaths and I got another dose last week.
    So, I have written this all out and it reads like I am a weak whining bad firefighter that is more concerned about the disapproval of the crowd than the deaths of the victims. I have to admit, that much disappointment carries its own momentum, but there was no way anyone would have saved those victims and I knew it, first look. It was the kids, it was the anger, it was every kind of pressure I could have felt and then, there I was, taking pulse on a victim and becoming one at the same time. I was never that involved in this call, my partner has to remember consoling those kids, not me. I didn't even touch a victim except to feel the compression pulses and search for the beats I knew werent coming. All I should have carried away from that scene was some blood on my turnouts.
    Delete?

    it was memorial day- how come we cant edit our posts?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2018
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  3. FragileGlass

    FragileGlass Active Member

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    I know it’s hard to separate ‘usefulness’ on a difficult call like that. I can imagine that if there had been a faint glimmer of hope on any of the casualties you would have done what you could as I’m sure you have many times before and after this event. The hardest thing for any of us to remember during these calls is the sad reality of scene management, field triage, assessing importance of life until you have a full crew on hand.

    Try to reflect on your experience and realize that you helped someone stop performing CPR. You took that call off their hands rather than them either arrive at their own conclusion and make that choice themselves. Which is a good thing. Your experience and usefulness was absolutely important here.

    My thoughts are with you! Anniversaries are difficult. I dread them all.
     
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  4. enough

    enough Well-Known Member

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    @FragileGlass
    Your post makes me glad i wrote this out. You helped me remember rules one and two. Sometimes I forget. It sat here on my screan for a long time before I posted it, thanks,
    All witnesses to an accident are victims of the accident and if i rendered aid in any way I helped a victim, the guy that flags traffic is helping victims.
     
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  5. brokenEMT

    brokenEMT Well-Known Member

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    [[ About 9 years ago my partner and I responded to an atv accident in a rural area, a minimum 2 hour drive from the closest trauma hospital. When we arrived, a volunteer FF was there by herself, doing cpr, literally surrounded by the family and friends of the patient. Before we even got out of the unit, it was obvious that she shouldn't have initiated cpr. This patient was obviously non-workable. Why did she? it was the same reason we continued cpr against protocol.... because of the large crowd around her and us, all people who knew and loved the patient. They would have torn us apart if we hadn't "worked" their family member. We did cpr for them, not for the patient. For the optics. We worked obviously hard in front of them, and continued hot to our little community hospital because they were following in their cars. I even continued chest compressions from the bay to the trauma room, because some of them had passed us on the highway, to beat us to the hospital and make sure the bay was clear for us to pull in. Once in the trauma room, we explained to the doc just what the hell we were doing, he completely understood, and called it. ]]

    We called and explained to our medical director afterwards, and he completely agreed with our call. Scene safety is #1, always. If that means we have to provide a useless treatment in order to stay safe, he was on board with that.

    OP it reads to me like you did the same thing we had to do. Crowds don't understand emergency protocols, and they sure as hell don't understand discontinuing cpr on scene. Everyone has been taught, for years, that if someone doesn't have a pulse you do cpr... the general public has never been taught when to stop cpr. They don't understand, and the optics look bad.

    You did nothing wrong by continuing the cpr. You did nothing wrong in suggesting the cpr be discontinued. You did nothing wrong. You managed an unbelievably difficult scene in the best way you knew how, with the hazards that were present at the time (namely, the crowd). You did everything right.

    And the stats on cpr actually working on adults are really low. Kids are a bit different, and electrocution/lightning are also different. But for the most part, you just don't get adults back, even when you do perfect cpr.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2018
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  6. brokenEMT

    brokenEMT Well-Known Member

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    oops posted to quick

    ETA :hug: and :tup:
     
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  7. scout86

    scout86 I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

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    No it doesn't. It reads like the story of a human being, trying very hard to do the best job they could, balancing competing interests, in a difficult situation.

    When you guys keep up CPR, even though you know it's hopeless, for the benefit the crowd, I think it really does benefit the crowd. They know you care. They know you'll do all you can. They know the dead had what ever slim chance they had. There will be no doubt, no second guessing, no "if only". That can bring a lot of peace of mind, once the dust settles, and that has value. Doing CPR on someone who's dead? You can't actually hurt them, can you? But you can bring some peace of mind to the living.
     
  8. Justmehere

    Justmehere Defying the odds Moderator Premium Member

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    While you didn't have to console the kids, it still makes sense it's difficult to face not being able halt deaths that caused kids to be without parents.

    Ease up on the "shoulds." You did all you could. That is more than enough.
     
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  9. Freida

    Freida Been There, Done That, Lived to Tell the Story Premium Member

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    Dispatch here......... so you know I'm gonna smack you with a feather duster!
    My heart breaks for you -- but you are not the bad guy in this

    You did an incredible job. You recognized you had multiple victims - possibly hundreds - not just those involved in the scene. Did it go against "training" to continue cpr? Possibly. But not in that kind of situation. Like @scout86 said --- we do CPR for the living, not the dead. Every spectator was vested in what you were doing. Because you were doing something. We know that there was nothing that was going to come of it. But you gave them time to accept that by simply working on the patent. You helped the 100s of people who saw something horrible happen also see that someone cared. That you fought for the victim. Only we to know that it was hopeless. Because of what you did those people will be able to put this behind them and go forward.


    Good grief! You had a mass causality trauma incident with hundreds of spectators that YOU also watched unfold. You had to work it knowing there would be a ton of Monday morning quarterbacking going on. This call was HUGE. It's not just a random "grandma dropped and we are doing CPR" call. The pressure on this call would have been tremendous. You were not ineffective. Repeat after me.... we were not ineffective. You knew there was nothing you could do. That is completely different. And yet, you did something. Hopeless yes. Ineffective - never.
     
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  10. Freida

    Freida Been There, Done That, Lived to Tell the Story Premium Member

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    Wait! I hit reply to soon...

    yes hun -- you were. You were involved just as much as your partner. She was dealing with the kids. You were dealing with the dead. She could see results in what she was doing. You knew there was no hope.

    this call was awful awful awful. Please tell me you got a debriefing after it. If not, please go talk to someone. They need to help you get on the outside of this so you can see what we see -- -that you did the best you could in an impossible situation. They need to help you see the 100s of people you did help -- simply by being there.
     
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  11. enough

    enough Well-Known Member

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    @Freida
    in 10 years of service there was never anything like a debriefing for any of us, unless you did something wrong and then you got it second hand. Small towns are like that, we had officers that seemed to like having screw ups they could talk about more than they liked the opportunities to train those screw ups and have an effective force. I quit because of it. My life was endangered more than once because of it. i did my ten and walked away feeling like I had given it all I had.

    I get it that everyone on a scene is a victim. I get it that I did my best, no second guesses. And i would do it the same way again, for all the reasons you posted. Yes, this was a bad call, any call with kids is bad but this was witnessing the total destruction of a family, and those kids were never going to be the same.

    Like I said, it probably has to do with having such a long personal history with the place, and that I had done exactly the same thing those people were doing when they were killed many times. When I got home my phone was ringing as friends heard about the tragedy and wanted to be sure it wasn't me in the coroners wagon. Yes, It was an awful call, and If you had to make a list of the worst possible people to be there and see it, I would have had to have been on it.

    Thanks for taking the time to offer the support. My self foregiveness is running pretty well right now and your kind words have helped it along even more. I remember rules one and two, except when I forget. I seem to forget on this one, just a little is enough to make me fall into reliving it again, and start searching for that missing part that explains why it makes me feel like throwing up even now, years later.

    My counselor says I am about as close to having survivors guilt over this one as you can. I wasn't in peril from the same trauma that the victims were. No different than any of the hundreds of car accidents, after all I drive too. This one carries so much more than that.

    Thanks to everyone, maybe from now on when I remember this tragedy I will remember having posted this and I can finally turn the corner on it.
     
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  12. enough

    enough Well-Known Member

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    @Freida @Justmehere @scout86 @brokenEMT @FragileGlass

    Thanks again to all of you. It is good to feel the support you have offered up. I am feeling like talking about this with you all has been a good thing that I almost passed up by hitting delete. We cannot change our past but we can stop wasting our energy on it and use it to make a better future. You folks have helped me find hope for better memorial days in my future. That is enough.
     
  13. Freida

    Freida Been There, Done That, Lived to Tell the Story Premium Member

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    I'm so happy it helped!!!! :hug::hug:
     
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