And so he died under my hands, right there on the table.

"Stop, just stop," the doctor said to me softly, pulling the leads off his chest.
"But, I..."
"Just stop, Sam, it's okay."

Twenty-one years old, with his whole life ahead of him, and he's dead. There's no word for how dead he is. Alive, shot, dead.

His memorial tattoo for some relative or friend looks up at me. Twinkling eyes, even in that tattoo, taunt me. "RIP," it says, but now it's for him.

Shot in the femur. Dead.

My compressions do nothing but circulate stale blood through tired veins. The bladder has given up too, and the muscles relax for the first time in twenty-one years.


"Time of death, 2213." He was dead before that, but now he's dead in the eyes of the government.

"Good job, everyone." Yeah, right. If it were a good job, he wouldn't be so...dead.

His arm hangs, useless, to his side. Hitting me in the leg during CPR is its final act. I pick it up gently in my hands and put it on top of his stomach.


"Somebody get this kid a blanket, extubate him, and call the family into the meditation room."

"This kid." A year and a half older than me, than this kid. I'm just one kid who tried to save another kid's life.


I skid on some blood on my way out. Fuck it, I don't care and neither does he.

And then a funny thing happens. I go to the locker room, and call my mom. I've done this after every code I've run. I tell her what happened, feel a little sad, and usually cry.

But tonight, I shed two tiny little tears, hang up the phone, and go back to work. I don't spend the night thinking about him. I don't actively confront my own mortality. I just move on.

It's not that it doesn't hurt--it does. It's just that I don't have time for it to break me down.

And for some reason, this satisfies me. I'm getting stronger, getting better at this. I still feel it; I'm not jaded. I'm just less affected.

But he's no less...



Anonymous said...

Very touching Sam. You're growing stronger.

Evil Transport Lady said...

I'd imagine it takes time. But you did what you could do. Hang in there, you'll be fine.

Anniforscia said...

My love, you don't know how good this is to read.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...this is good.

Don't get jaded Sam, don't do it. You're a good EMT with a good heart. Don't get jaded.

JS said...

You do this long enough, and it will just be another code. Believe me, you will stop feeling for patients like this. I do everything in my power to save someone, but I don't lose sleep when it doesn't work. Death is nothing like the movies make it out to be. In 10 years I've only had 2 cpr saves and both were with ACLS. We do our best and we move on, dwelling on it will eat you up. Its good that you are moving past being sad for every patient. The codes become easier and easier as time goes on. The only thing that really bothers me now is kids. What we see and do only makes us stronger! JS

Gertrude said...

You never really stop feeling. You just learn to box it away. Then you cry at funerals for not only who you came to send off but for every one that you have had come before. For every family member that you have had to say "I'm sorry" too. If you can't box it up or you stop feeling than it is time to pack it in.

Gertrude said...

dang girl. You made me go write a post of my own.

30 yr ff/pm said...

Good read.

I'm getting stronger, getting better at this. I still feel it; I'm not jaded. I'm just less affected.

I thought I had worked enough calls and hardened my resolve to the point that codes, even young ones that got cheated out of life for no good reason, wouldn't affect me.
I was wrong. (and I am jaded)

I have not been able to completely blow off young codes...and I'm not sure I really want to. Empathy has its drawbacks. So does being stoic to the point you stop caring.
The 19 yr old trauma code I worked this summer may not ever bother me. Or he may come back for a haunt after the next 2 yr old drowning. You never know.

It just is what it is - a shitty situation.
You cope and deal however you need to and trudge forward.

Stay safe.

John-Michael said...

I am quieted by the sacred whispering of your Spirit ... spoken throughout this bit. I hear your depth of compassionate care ... your sweet concern ... your idealistic desire to "make it OK" ... and I am hushed. Thank you, Dear One, for your Self ... so honestly revealed.

Rogue Medic said...

As with Gertrude, I could not confine my comments to the comment section. Just as The Hecklers from The Muppets try to take over the show . . . .

Herbie said...

It's not your fault he chose the life he did that ended in him getting shot (unless it was a random act of violence). Don't beat yourself up over it, or you're not going to last.

Polar Doc said...

Your writing, your ability to communicate the story, it takes my breath away. Keep going.

Cheating Death said...

It is obvious to anyone that you care. Caring is great. We HAVE to care. Compassionate care is sometimes all we have to give.

However, there has to be a line drawn in the sand. Sometimes people die, and sometimes for no good reason. Remember though, that if you've done everything you can, it isn't your fault. I find myself more angry at the people responsible than that someone died in my hands.

Good Luck Sam. Keep your chin up, watch your back, and keep doing what you're doing.

TrekMedic251 said...

Nice work, Sam.

As I recently told Rogue Medic, I was orienting a new, ink-not-dry-on-the-card medic a few months ago. We were called to the local ER for a CCT run to the "big city hospital." The patient, a 50-something gentleman with no real history, was treated at the local hospital for a seizure at work.
The head CT said it all: a massive tumor was invading his brain. All we were doing was transporting him to a specialist so his death clock could get wound up and passed along to hospice.

The transport was fairly unremarkable, but you could see in the newbie's eyes that she wanted to do something for the patient. She eventually took my lead and calmed down.

Was I being jaded? Nah,..just being a realist. If I didn't care, I wouldn't remember the transport and bother posting the rehash.

Rogue Medic said...

I read your post and was reminded of some Good bye letters I have read. I don't know you well enough, no matter how well you write, to know what goes on inside your head.

I am glad to be wrong. I am wrong enough of the time that I don't even cry about being wrong any more. :-)

What worried me most was your response to the doctor's comment that everyone had done a good job. This after you mentioned that he was dead before he even got to the hospital. So I wondered if this was writing style or an attempt to reconcile mutually exclusive ideas that was not working out. Again, I am glad to be wrong.

TrekMedic251 is making a good point about the need to do something. It is difficult to accept the times when there is nothing you can do, but watch the patient die. Yes, you can do TrekMedic251 is making a good point about the need to do something. It is difficult to accept the times when there is nothing you can do, but watch the patient die. Yes, you can do something, but you can't do anything that will make a difference. A very important distinction., but you can't do anything that will make a difference. A very important distinction.

Where Vince and I used to work, we had only one book in the office Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, so we may have a more morbid interpretation of some benign wording. Not that we didn't read a lot of other books, but that was the only book that was the office's.

There is not any one right way to deal with grief, but there is one very wrong way.