Editor’s note: Content warning for pediatric deaths.
One call. Seventh hour in.The tones went off. We responded. One male with gunshot wound to the abdomen. Accidental they said. Upon arrival we were met with local police who said they were actively searching the area for the wife and children nearby.
We were permitted inside. The man was laying in his own pool of blood with gasping respirations. We applied pressure and worked feverishly. The man kept reaching toward me. He kept trying to speak and I soothed him with hushing tones convincing him we would find his littles and bring them to him.
That moment is when we heard a gunshot inside the home. Followed by another. And another. And another. The police raced inside the home and into several rooms..one leading to the basement. A 1 year old, 3 year old and 5 year old were shot in the chest and the mother lay lifeless beside them.
We handed patient care off to the next unit on scene and aided helping in the basement. All three children were alive but barely. The 1 and 5 year old went in my unit. We tried everything as we raced to the hospital that was thirty minutes out. A landing zone had been set up only ten minutes away.
Within four minutes on the road both children passed away. I held those tiny fingers in my hands as they went from rigid with fear to soft with peace. I met up with our other unit after to learn the three year old had also passed away. We all hugged and screamed and cried.
The father lived and later told the police that he and his wife wanted a divorce so she killed them all. I cannot get the sounds of the breathing from my mind nor the feeling of those tiny fingers that lay so calmly in my hand.
We had a 45 minute debriefing session and were required to finish our shifts. I quit our agency and found solace in the emergency room as a nurse. I still see those faces, eleven years later. 2 hours and 18 minutes was all it took for me to have PTSD.
– Story written by a former first responder who is now an RN. 17 years in the field.