4.20.2008

Lonely

David McMahon asked the question "Have you ever been lonely?" He then asked that we answer it on our own blogs, and perhaps ask those who read ours to chime in, etc. Well, seeing how this isn't my public blog about EMS, and not my private blog about my regular life, I'll interpret it in an EMS sort of way.

I distinctly remember two times when I was lonely.

The first was my first call as the real attendant in charge. It wasn't until we were about half way to the hospital that I looked around and realized that I was the person with the highest level of certification. If I messed up, needed help, made a mistake--tough luck, kid. It was all on me, and it was terrifying. I felt about 2 inches tall and all alone. Looking at the rider sitting in the airway seat, I felt truly lonely, even though there was a driver, a third and the patient.
I've grown into my skills a lot more, although I don't claim to be any sort of super star. I know when I need help, but I know when I can handle the situation. Luckily, I don't feel lonely anymore.

The second was after my first major cardiac arrest. I didn't write this in that post, but after doing CPR, I passed out. I'm not just a pansy, so shhh. As it turns out, I had appendicitis the week later, and my family has a little history of passing out the week before having an appendectomy. So, worried about employee health and all that, my supervisors asked that I be checked out in the ED. "Fine, fine," I remember saying a little groggily as they literally picked me up, put me on another squad's stretcher and wheeled me into a room, sheeting me over to the hospital bed.
A tech came in, drawing the curtain behind him, and proceeded to take off my uniform shirt with little explanation. I guess he supposed I knew what he was doing. I was still a little confused after losing consciousness, so as he set up a 12-lead EKG, I pointed to the major bay and said "is he okay?"
"I'm sure he's fine, ma'am."
...Ma'am? Does he realize that I'm the one who did compressions on that guy's chest while he was lying unresponsive on the floor of his house? Does he know that I'm the one who breathed for him all 25 minutes on the way to the hospital?
"No, no, the one over there, is he okay?"
"Fine, really."
beep beep beep beep, I hear as the monitor picks up my heart rhythm.
"Hm, your heart is beating pretty fast. Stay still, try not to breathe for a few seconds while this works, okay?"
Yeah, my heartbeat was pretty intense. 120, supine. Not unheard of, though, I have a resting of anywhere from 80something-110ish. Really healthy, right?
So a few minutes later, my roommate Liv comes in to check on me. She was there doing clinicals for her EMT class, and heard about the code and my fainting. She decides to watch them work the patient I brought in. She leaves, and I'm sort of sitting in the room all by myself, shirtless in bulky BDUs, a little flustered.
"Major Bay 2, code blue. Major Bay 2, code blue." Hey, that's my code patient. No, no, he was alive when we brought him here. That's not him. He was a fighter, breathing against the bag, grabbing at the stretcher, fluttering his eyelids. No, that's not him.
Liv comes back in and says, kinda softly, "Hey Sam...your code patient died. I'm really sorry."
And as she went back to her clinicals, I looked down at myself. All alone in the room, the only noise accompanying me is the steady beeping of the monitor as it acknowledges my heartbeat. My heart, which is still beating, is the only thing keeping me company. I laugh a little under my breath. I feel guilty for being alive, I feel like a bad EMT because he's not alive, but most of all I feel completely alone. I think of his family, of my family, of what he had for breakfast and how none of it matters. I have never felt an irony or a loneliness that profound in my life.
I feel my heart rate climb, and my hands start to sweat. The monitor races to keep up, and that's when the alarms start. I glance over at it and see that my heart is now beating steadily around 198 times a minute. The monitor is flashing red and reads: TACHYCARDIC.
A nurse runs in, checks the monitor, checks my radial pulse, and calculates.
"Honey, you need to calm down. Are you okay? Do you feel alright."
"Yes. I'm fine."
Hardly.


Well, then, those are the times in EMS that I've felt lonely. Feel free to tell me when you've felt lonely as well!

Yours,
Sam

8 comments:

david mcmahon said...

You certainly grabbed my attention with both these narrations.

I also enjoyed your previous post, about the callous driver.

You are a gifted writer because you engage our attention immediately.

Your sentence ``I've grown into my skills a lot more'' says so much about life.

Witness said...

You are a kind and compassionate person. Those are rare qualities in our field... so often we become callous and uncaring. I'm sorry you lost your patient.... unfortunately, we lose cardiac arrests. Five minutes later, two days later, one year later. The damage is done, and we can barely do what we can to help.

I think I'm going to blog about my experiences of being lonely in EMS.

Scott said...

I'm sorry your patient died. Remember, he was already dead before you started CPR. You just tried to bring him back, which is a noble thing to do for a stranger. And even with ACLS, the odds off bringing them back aren't that great. Remember: Baywatch CPR is only for TV!

Wow! That is some scary tachy! When I had a post op emergency related to my cancer, I went to the ER because my resting HR was 135. I was too drugged and out of it to realize that my airway was mostly obstructed by 2 golfball sized masses of dried blood, pus, and mucus. Doctor pulled them out of my throat with forceps and my pulse halved insantly.

CrazyCath said...

That is a very powerful and emotive post. Really well written. It is so hard to go from being the one in control to being controlled and "another patient" in a split second like that.

Thanks for sharing. It's good. Over from David's.

Maggie May said...

Came from David's. Just as well we have people like you who can deal with emergencies. I suppose its inevitable that some patients die & am sorry that particular one did.
This post was very good.

Anonymous said...

That was a very meaningful post!

~Kate

Sandi McBride said...

Oh behalf of patients in urgent need of care everywhere, may I say thank you for your career choice. This was a very heart touching post, so glad David sent me over
Sandi

Epijunky said...

Sam, You have such an amazing talent, both as a writer and as a medical professional. You are one of the few people I'd want to be around if a family member of mine needed care. (You know what I mean when I say this.)

Your post brought tears to my eyes and made me want to give you a big hug. Very well done, and congrats on the nomination by David.