I saw someone die today.
It’s something I see nearly every day. It’s a normal part of the cycle of life, and within the hospital we have so many tools at our fingertips to keep it at bay. We can allow it or we can fight it. We regulate it.
Outside of the hospital… is where things get scary, we don’t always have everything we wish we did. Death is not regulated, it’s messy, it’s brutal.
I love my job, I love the skills I have learned and the years of training I have gone through. But using these skills off duty always leaves its mark. I saw someone die today. And there was nothing I could do. Nothing. Which burns a hole in my heart and brain. What could I have done differently? Could I have prevented the loss of another soul?
I saw someone die today.
But I also helped save the lives of many. I witnessed this accident. Actually, if my car was only 2 cars ahead of where we were stopped, it would have been our bodies laying in the morgue and not his.
The second I saw it my EMT brain took over, and I jumped out of my car, yelling for sawyer to call 911, immediately accessing the scene and triaging within my head. I found myself running towards the red Vibe, the first vehicle that was hit, and the one with the most visible damage. I saw many others running to the silver Malibu, that had hit the car I was nearing. The driver, a middle aged male was slumped over, I braced his c-spine and felt for a Carotid pulse. None. Radial. None. Femoral. None. Shit.
I hear screaming. “What do we do next?” Over and over again, it’s repeated. I suddenly realize they are asking me. My brain untunnels. I quickly scan the scene and see smoke coming from the vehicle that took this mans life. I direct all the others to check for breathing and consciousness of everyone in all of the other cars as I run towards the smoking car.
Thankfully, two gracious souls had already began to extricate the elderly couple from the car. The passenger has a gnarly head wound and looks like he’ll pass out any second. I yell for more hands to come help. The driver is a larger woman, for which I am thankful that adrenaline give you super powers, and that she had a seated walker in her car that miraculously was not crushed. It took what seemed like forever to remove her from the vehicle, she kept grabbing the seat belt, almost as though she though we were kidnapping her.
Eventually, we got her, and her mangled legs out of the car, as we quickly as possible, wheeled away to safety. She kept mumbling that she “couldn’t find the brakes”, and that “Peanuts” was in the car. I turn around only to see the engine compartment spewing flames. And thankful to see a young woman carrying a shaking poodle walking towards us.
Taking a quick traumatic assessment of her mental status and injuries, I noted a slow pulse, her hyperventilating and pinpoint pupils. Great, she’s going into shock, and I don’t even hear sirens yet. About 2 questions in, just to keep her talking, I finally hear sirens.
Praise the good Lord, Hallelujah!
I begin breaking down the situation for the Police, and that I believe this lady should be transported first. She continues to panic. Do you know how hard it is to calm am elderly woman going into shock is?? We get her ready for transport and she refuses to let go of my hand, stating I can’t leave her. I finally convinced her that she will be ok, and I can’t come.
We wait, for what seems like hours for the humane society to come retrieve their dog, and to give our eyewitness statements to the police. Which is when the officer tells me that my actions kept many alive today. My actions. My situational awareness. My directing of responders.
Regardless of training, isn’t it something anyone would do?
If it was me in one of those affected vehicles, I hope someone else would have done the same thing.