We all will have it, that one call, the call that haunts us, follows us……changes us. For me it was 3 years ago today. The picture above says it all. I posted it that day. I have never really talked about it or the effects that it had and still has on me. So today I will. I will talk about it, I’m putting it out there for everyone to read. This scares the shit out of me. 3 years ago today started out as just a normal day for me. I wasn’t working, I was home with my kids and my husband was in the field seeding. I was making supper for the kids when my phone rang.
It was my Mom, she is also a paramedic and was working for another service that day. She told me that my service was responding to an ATV accident out-of-town, she didn’t have many details , just the location and that there were 2 patients. One was in cardiac arrest. She was responding with her service to help out but I was closer and she asked if I could go and lend a hand. My oldest daughter who was 17 at the time was able to stay with my younger kids so I put on my uniform and rushed out the door. I work for a small rural service, we know pretty much everyone that lives here. This particular call was to a farm and a family I had known all of my life. Their one child was the same age as one of my daughters. 3 at the time. I didn’t know the age of the patients but as I drove to the scene I just knew it was the kids. I prayed that it wasn’t but in my heart I knew. I pulled up on scene and it was chaos. I remember it all so clearly, the sights, the sounds , the smells. It’s as if It happened yesterday.
I got out of my truck and it’s like I was in slow motion. I surveyed the scene, I recall vividly the boy’s mother walking across the yard screaming and crying. I remember feeling intensely angry. I am not sure why. There was a group of responders with one victim, a 6-year-old boy. They were performing CPR. There was a bystander with another boy, a 3-year-old. She was crying , holding c-spine and she had blood smeared across her face. I was the senior medic on scene and had the highest level of training on our crew so I took charge . All though I knew we likely would not save him, I made the decision to transport the 6-year-old and give it our best shot. We packaged and transported both boys in our unit. As I mentioned earlier my mom was on her way with a second unit but they were coming from a good hour away. So we loaded the boys and left for the hospital. We had arranged to meet STARS air ambulance there. We met my mom on the way and stopped to let her in with us. We had 4 medics and 2 boys in the truck. We went about our jobs, assessing, monitoring, starting IVs. We did CPR for 45 minutes on the way to the hospital. Never once did I feel tired. I strongly feel I had an angel with me that day. A 6-year-old little boy, taken too soon, guiding me and helping me to save his brother.
The rest of the call is a blur. We arrived at the hospital. The Doctor and nurses continued the resuscitation efforts for the 6-year-old but the trauma was too great and they called it shortly after our arrival. STARS was still on the way for the 3-year-old who was critically injured. Once STARS landed and stabilized him they loaded him and flew off. We were left with the aftermath. The 3-year-old survived but he had a long road to recovery . He is now in Grade 1 with my daughter.
My feeling of anger dissipated during the heat of the call, there was so much to do, so many decisions to be made. But it returned after all was said and done. I was so so angry. Angry that a 6-year-old boy had died, angry that his parents had to go through this, angry that they had to leave their 6 year old’s body and rush off to the trauma center with their 3-year-old. And I was angry that I had to do the things that I did that day. I wasn’t even supposed to be working. I was home with my kids. The days and weeks that followed were difficult. We had a critical incident stress debriefing for all that were involved that day. It helped some but afterwards there was nothing. Just me at home with my kids trying to figure out what the hell had happened. I cried a lot, I seconded guessed every decision that I made. I still do . I went to the funeral.
I had a dream about a week after the incident. I heard footsteps coming down the hallway to my room, it was so real. I thought it must be my son coming to crawl into bed with me, but when I sat up, it was the boy who had died. Just standing at the end of my bed. And then he was gone. The next day, I was outside doing some yard work, listening to music. Crying. It was a particularly hard day. I sat down on the tail gate of my truck and a white feather floated by. I read later that it’s a sign that an angel is with you.
The months following were not great. I sank into a really dark depression. I was crying all the time, and so angry. I would get so mad at my kids over the littlest thing and then break down crying with guilt. Why would I get so mad? At least I had my kids with me, happy and healthy. I wasn’t the one who lost my son, I wasn’t dealing with another critically injured child while trying to plan a funeral . I remember once my husband found me crying on my bedroom floor and said what is going on with you? I just told him I wanted to put a bullet in my head. And I did want to, or to swallow a bottle of pills and just forget. To be free of the pain. I knew that I needed some help but I just couldn’t ask for it. I finally did make a call to go see a therapist but I cancelled it the next day. But I knew that I was at a breaking point and that I had to do something to pull myself out of it. I still couldn’t ask for help but I knew my family needed me and leaving them was not an option. I decided to help myself. I started walking, eating healthy and taking some vitamins. Slowly, very slowly I started to feel better. I was able to get back up, be a better mom and a better wife. It’s been 3 years now and I still sometimes struggle. I have found myself wanting to reach to alcohol for comfort but I recognize that is not the way to go and stay away from it for the most part. Drinking alone is a big no-no for me. It takes me to a very dark place so it’s something I have promised myself I won’t do . This last winter was a hard one. I had a lot of shitty calls. I coded a former coworker. I also responded to a 6-year-old girl who had fallen down the stairs. She ended up being ok but it was a major trigger for me and immediately took me back to this call.
I still struggle, I have good times and not so good of times. I still have not asked for any help with it. I do think I am managing it all right on my own and I hope I don’t ever go back to that dark place where I just wanted a way out. If I do , I hope I am strong enough to ask for help.