It is a night I will never forget. At the age of 14 I became a volunteer firefighter with my towns fire department. At 16 I put myself through EMT school and joined my local emergency squad. On this very night in April, I was in for one of the worst experiences of my life. I wasn’t suppose too be on shift the Thursday night when this incident happened, but my Lieutenant asked if I would stay an extra 6 hours on shift so I did. All of us were sitting outside on the firehouse patio when 4 police cars ripped past the station going onto the highway. Now that we were curious, we grabbed a radio to see if it was an EMS call. No sooner I got up from the table to get a radio, our pagers went off.
“Rescue, Engine, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Rigs, Medic” the pager rang off, “MVA Rescue assignment, report of unconscious person”. Now it was time to go to work. We ran to our racks, threw our gear on and rolled out of the station. The entrance to the highway wasn’t even a quarter-mile from our firehouse. Now being 1 of two EMT’s on board, I looked at the other EMT in the back and I said to her “We should grab the bag, a rig isn’t here yet”.
She nodded and the air brakes popped, what I saw next is a nightmare I wish I could forget. My Lieutenant tells me and the other EMT “Go up and start treating the patients until the Paramedics and Rig get here”, to which I replied “I’m on it”. I walk to the front of the car and I see broken glass everywhere, the front had been smashed into the dash and, where the driver should be, blood splattered all over the passenger compartment.
A scream for help from my partner breaks the silence in my head and I walk around the back of the car and their she is, the driver, bleeding out in the middle of the highway.Immediately I jump down to my knees and start to try and find the source of the bleeding and to control it. My partner goes to feel for a pulse and her hand disappears. Her hand was inside the patients neck that had been slashed with a knife. I lean over to apply pressure and she looks me in the eyes.
I’ll never forget the look of horror and fear in her eyes. As we attempt to control the bleeding, she moves with pain and as the EMT’s arrive, she takes her last breath. “She’s not breathing, start CPR” is yelled out from behind me. i begin compressions as her blood squirts out on the car and on my turnout gear. She was so soaked in blood that the AED pads wouldn’t stick. I was pounding on her chest with compressions, kneeling in a pool of her blood, begging under my breath to bring her back.
Paramedics arrive and immediately set up in the ambulance. Now we are running out of time. 5-6 people from my truck and the ambulance pick her up on a reeves stretcher and rush her into the back of the ambulance. The paramedics drill her with an IO and begin to intubate on scene. Now it is chaotic.Police rush from the scene after receiving reports the killer is still near the scene. Both Paramedics were treating and one of the EMT’s said they need one of us to drive the Medic unit to the hospital, since both medics were treating. Now here is 17 year old me, standing in the middle of this highway covered in blood.
“We need an EMT to drive it so they can also help treat once we get to the hospital”, one of them said. Immediately I said “Chief I’ll do it, let me go”. I went to the rig and got the keys to the unit and left. I am now chasing the ambulance down the highway, lights and sirens to the hospital. The only thing i can think of is “Is she going to make it?”. We pulled into the hospital and rush her inside. No pulses were regained and she has a shockable rhythm but it will not convert to a normal rhythm. Moments later they pronounce her dead.
I have failed. It was my job to save her and I failed. Inside I want to break into tears, but I can’t break, not now.The ambulance drives me back to the scene, and I try to erase what will forever be my nightmare from my mind. After hours on scene, we are finally cleared and I go back to the firehouse to sleep. I toss and turn and am scared awake, unable to scream and struggling to breathe. I look at the clock, it is 6am, time to go home. For the next 24-48 hours I felt nothing, pain, sorrow absolutely nothing. I was numb.
I now have the lasting image in my head that the last time she was alive, that last breath she took, was in my arms and now she is dead. Till this day I occasionally have nightmares, hallucinations and random fits of anger in result of that horrible night. I will forever be damaged and will never forget that day, the day where I thought there was no meaning to life anymore, the day I wanted to quit.
You always hear PTSD stories and you always think “That will never happen to me”. I sure did but now I know not only did she lose her life that night to senseless violence, but I lost part of mine too. That night part of me died with her, and till this day it still resonates with me.
– Story written by Ryan 19 year old firefighter/EMT from New Jersey