It was an absolutely beautiful July summer day.I work in the Law Enforcement field and part time as a Paramedic. I had arrived at home to my wife and children after working a 7AM-3PM shift and quickly got out of my uniform and into a comfortable pair of shorts and shirt. I picked up my 3 year old son and sat on the sofa with him on my lap so we could watch his favorite TV show.
Right around 15 minutes later my pager went off for a rescue call at my next door neighbor’s house for a child not breathing. My neighbor’s house is literally 10 yards from our house. I passed off my son to my wife and headed out the door to the house.I had known my neighbor, Michelle, since we were small children and started kindergarten together. Michelle and I had both gone through elementary school and high school together in addition to growing up together in the same small Village. She was a single mother now with a 12 year old son who I was aware had a seizure disorder.
When I arrived at her front door it was locked so I pounded on the door. Michelle came running down the stairs from the upstairs section of the house. When she unlocked the door and opened it she screamed to me, “It’s Michael he’s not breathing”. I headed up the stairway to find her young son lying on his bed in a supine position in a full arrest state. I moved him to the floor and called our dispatch center to advise them I had a full code and was starting CPR. They acknowledged and I started CPR on the child.
As I began to work on him Michelle was kneeling next to his other side obviously hysterical. As I was doing compression I looked up at her at one point and she looked right into my eyes and begged, “Allen…..please don’t let my baby die”. That tore right into my very being.I had never experienced slow motion perception in my 20 years of being in the EMS and Law Enforcement fields but I did during this incident. I still feel like it took the ambulance and crew 30 minutes or so to get on scene but the dispatch logs actually showed it was only 9 minutes.
We loaded Michael into the ambulance and headed to the closet hospital but despite all efforts on our part and the ER staff he did not survive.Over time I noticed that this call was not fading away like the other serious ones I had worked over my time in the EMS field. Like many know after a bad call some of it can stay quite vivid for a little bit. This one was staying very vivid to me and not fading at all. I could still recall every exact detail of the call from the clothing Michael was wearing, his position, the room décor, and many other aspects. It was like living a constant running movie over and over again each day.
I tried speaking to colleagues and even my wife a bit but none of it helped. I began having serious trouble sleeping and was wearing down physically and emotionally on an intense level. I also began to self-medicate with alcohol. Before this I had been what you would refer to as a very light/casual drinker. I spent close to a year living at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. I was gradually able to swim my way out of that bottle and pull myself back up but it almost took me down.
I’m thankful that I had that tiny bit of strength left to last until it began to get better. In retrospect I should have sought out professional help with this call but like everyone else I thought, “I’m good. I got this”. I was wrong and you could be too at some point. The resources are there for you if you begin to see these things I have described to you after a serious call or after a length of time as they build up. We are there for you.
– Story written by Allen, 45 year old paramedic, 23 years in EMS.