It was morning time, about 9:00, when we were dispatched to an overdose. The agency is volunteer in an ultra rural area and we respond from home. We got the ambulance from the station and responded. When we arrived the person’s face was grey and covered in vomit and they had no pulse.
We placed them on the floor and started CPR. We were working for about 10 minutes when the person who called 911 told the Police officer the patient’s name. I looked at my partner briefly and went back to working the code. It was someone we went to school with, and I’d only been out of school for about 2 years at the time.
We worked the code until Advanced Life Support arrived and then rode in their truck to the hospital. The entire time we ventilated and did compressions, vomit came out of the mouth and nose. When we arrived at the hospital the patient was pronounced dead.
Our ambulance arrived and all of our portable equipment was covered in vomit so we were there cleaning when the family arrived. We saw their pain and anguish and all we could say was we did everything we could. I still remember the patient’s name. I was in a school club with them 12 years ago.
I keep playing the call through my head and I know everything that me and my crew did we did it right. There were 4 of us on the ambulance that day. I was the attendant in charge and I can say we all did what we were supposed to do.
I wonder if I documented enough I read it before submitting and I felt better because it looked just like the scenarios we were given in training. Everything looked right and in order and all treatments were just like in training so I realized everything that could be done was done.
After that the “frequent flyers” would call in and I’d arrive with a pissed attitude right off the bat thinking “there are people dying and you’re complaining about something this stupid “. I would get aggravated because of their stupid requests because they always go by ambulance services and not rescue squads so the ambulance service would cater to them and coddle them because they were customers.
When we would arrive as rescue they would be mad that we wouldn’t do the same. One asked me if we’re bringing them back home and I said “nope we’re delivery only”. The patient was very aggravated and stated “I’ll just call these people next time” and I said “ma’am we’re rescue not an ambulance service. You are a patient not a customer. I’m not getting paid for this either way. We’re going to the hospital. Everything that I can do medically I’m doing. You are not that sick!”
I’d never blown up at a patient like that before and I didn’t care either. The overdose call was very awakening. Now I’m always worried that someone else I know will be driving through or living in our area and I’ll respond to them because of a wreck or sickness.
My girlfriend lives in the area and she’s a diabetic but has also had a bad past and at one point I was worried shed be the next code because she was depressed and anxious and contemplated suicide once. I think if I responded to pick her up off the floor, either from a suicide or a diabetic emergency, that she wouldn’t survive. If that happened I don’t think that I’d ever get on the ambulance again.
Those fears are still there and so is the overdose patient’s face and name. I’m afraid will be with me for the rest of my life.
– Story written by an anonymous first responder from rural Virginia. 6 years in EMS.