How come what I was trained to do, didn’t work?
I became a basic EMT in 1975. This is a story of my first loss.
When you are a young rookie, you hate to lose. Some things never change, but when you are young and inexperienced it leaves a mark.
When you first come out of EMT school, you think that you can cure most if not all of the ills of the world. Also, as gruesome as it might seem you sort of wait for something bad to happen to really test your skills. I guess it is sort of like the military that way, you don’t want to have a war, but it is nice to see all of this training in action so you know it works.
Paul & Dennis were twins. Both of them served as volunteer firefighters when they were ages 16 through 18 and had first aid training. Paul and Dennis went to school with my sister. You know, it’s sort of funny that in small villages or towns, there is always some connection to your own family or back to the department somehow. I think that is something that folks in large municipal fire departments miss, that direct connection to the community.
None of what Paul and Dennis did as volunteers, or the fact that they went to school with my sister mattered now, but those thought went through my mind somewhere while I was repeatedly counting out loud,….One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three on thousand…. Paul was 29 years old, and was lying lifeless on the floor. We found him sitting upright, with the telephone still in his hand, from his mom’s answering service business. My partner on this particular day, Dave, lived three doors away and was a good friend of Paul’s about a couple of years younger. As I breathed into his lungs, by sealing my mouth over his, Dave continued to pump on his chest. I asked for an airway to put in, because we were getting air in, but his color was getting worse, from gray to blue from lack of oxygen. Paul’s elderly and handicapped mother was hysterical and that made it very difficult to work on him. One one thousand, two one thousand,….breathe dammit!
Paul was a very large boy and probably weighed over 270 pounds so moving him out was a real chore. We continued CPR, we ventilated with a bag valve mask with oxygen, but his color only got worse and worse. When we arrived at the hospital, we explained all that we did, and they worked on him a little and then the doctor said to stop.
Stop! What the hell do you mean stop! he is only 29 years old! C’mon, lets keep going I said to Dave. The nurse had us stop and took us into the small side room where the EMTs made their report. Dave and I made eye contact, and we both started to become emotional.
Dave had lost a friend, I had my very first loss. I kept reviewing it all in my mind, what had I done wrong? I did exactly what I thought was right and what I had been taught. Just then the doctor came in, and spoke to us. It seems that Paul had an aortic aneurysm, a sort of a bubble on the main artery leaving his heart. This aneurysm ruptured suddenly and he never felt anything, and all we did , by doing CPR was to fill his chest cavity with blood.
How come nobody told me about that during EMT class? Sure we learned about heart attacks, and anatomy, and even about aneurysms, but I was supposed to be able to fix that, after all he was only 29.
I still have that mark, that was left on me so many years ago.