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I’ve seen death before, but this was different

I’d never had a child ask me what he was going to do after seeing his father dead

This is a guest post by a paramedic who wishes to remain anonymous.

It was an innocent enough night. I was on the back half of a 48 and decided to pick up this call since we were closer, and hopefully it’d lead to some good karma and I’d be able to sleep through the night. It was around 9 p.m. at this point.

I look down at the dispatch narrative and it says that someone’s screaming in the background and CPR’s in progress. I make a comment about dispatch giving us pertinent info, then radio my lieutenant to make sure she’s coming. I turn to my partner and tell him to step on it, and we start our game plan.

My partner and I usually know what each of us will do at a CPR, but this is the third CPR call in a week where I’m not with my usual partner.

We pull up to the house, no lights on. I check the address, get out, grab the bags and start my way up the lawn. My partner’s close behind with the monitor.

I walk into the house, hear screaming, typical CPR call. I walk into a bathroom and there’s a man lying in a puddle of blood, his wife and son crying while doing chest compressions. The wife won’t let us touch her husband, and I tell her to move so we can help, then I try again in Spanish. She understands and moves away. My lieutenant walks in and gets the family out.

My partner and I drag the man out of the bathroom, and my partner jumps on compressions. I slap pads on the guy, confirm cardiac arrest and look for the source of all this blood. It looks like it’s coming from his mouth. I grab the suction, but it just won’t stop bleeding. The canister’s almost full, and he’s still bleeding.

I get my lieutenant to take over while I talk to the wife, and she tells me the man shot himself. I go back in the room, look at my coworkers and just say “suicide.” I walk in the bathroom and find a gun behind the toilet, where we couldn’t see earlier.

My lieutenant checks the back of the patient’s head, finds a large hole, shakes her head at me and gets on the radio, letting dispatch know we have one DOA. The deputies finally show up. It feels like it’s been forever since I called over the radio to ask for cops, but it turns out it was about two minutes.

They begin their investigation while I go explain to the family that we’ve done all we can, but there simply isn’t any bringing back their dad. Usually, my lieutenant takes care of this, but I’m the one who speaks Spanish, so it falls on me tonight.

The wife looks at me and crumbles, almost falling out of the chair she’s sitting in. I catch her and she just sobs. Meanwhile, the now fatherless 14-year-old son tries to run into the room, but he’s stopped by a deputy. He begins to cry while the deputy holds him, looking at me for answers. I can’t give him any.

I step outside, angry and sad. The deputy comes out with the family, telling me that they have to do their investigation and to keep all family out here.

Then a pickup comes screeching in, stops on the lawn, and four people get out, all yelling in Spanish. One tells me that he needs to see his brother and asks who’s in there working on him. I explain that he’s dead. A grown man of 40 just falls to the ground and lets out a scream.

Before we leave that night, another four cars come, just the same. And I explain to each group that their uncle, brother, father, friend is dead. That there’s nothing we can do. That there’s nothing I can tell them.

Finally, the deputies get all the information that they need and my job as paramedic/interpreter is over for this call. I get back in the truck. My partner, who I’ve worked with only once before, asks if I’m alright, and I tell him yes.

We head back to the station. The other truck, staffed by one of my more regular partners and my former FTO, is there. They’re sitting at the table. They hand us sandwiches and ask if we’re alright, and I say yes.

The truth is, that woman sounded like my mother screaming after I got in a car accident years ago. The boy reminded me of my little sister. And seeing the looks of disappointment got to me that night.

I’ve seen death. I’ve seen kids killed and mothers cry before. But I’d never had a child ask me what he was going to do after seeing his father dead. I’d never seen a 14-year-old say that he was going to stay at home that night to take care of his mother, merely minutes after his father had died. Knowing that this boy needed taking care of, but that he would probably have to be the strong one right now.

I was angry. Angry at myself for not doing more. I couldn’t be angry at the man. I’ve been there before and I don’t believe that suicide is the coward’s way out. When I contemplated it, I thought I’d be doing everyone a favor.

Now, though, I’m glad. I’m glad that I never did that. I’m glad that I never put my family through that. I’m glad that my fingers never pulled the trigger. I’m glad that I decided to work through it and get help.

And I’m sad. I’m sad for that family. I’m heartbroken for that wife and son who lost someone so important to them. I’m sad for that man, who thought it was his only option.

And I’ve resolved to love my family more, show them that love, and always, always, be there for them.

I’m a young medic, and I know I’ll see much worse, but this was the first time in a few years that something hit me this hard.

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