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Seeking Words of Balm


Summer, 2000

The man’s face is waxy and pale. His cheeks and eyes are sunken, the lips drawn in a wrinkled circle outlining his gums. His dentures sit in a glass on the night stand. I take my time attaching monitor electrodes while Pardner attaches a bag-mask device to the oxygen cylinder. If I thought there was any hope at all, I’d have started off with the hands-free defibrillation electrodes. Pardner would have been doing CPR.
I knew he was dead when I walked in the room. Attaching the monitor and watching the flat line march across the screen merely confirmed it. I check his hands and his back. The fingers and wrists are stiff, and his back is mottled with lividity. Pardner and I trade a look.

I straighten and turn to the woman standing behind me in the doorway, supporting herself on a walker with tennis balls on the legs.

“Is there anything that can be done?” the woman asks, her voice every bit as frail as the rest of her.

“I’m afraid not,” I tell her gently. “Nothing we’d try would work. He died sometime during the night, in his sleep.”

She nods silently as she looks at the body in the bed, her husband of fifty years. Behind her stands the staffer of the assisted living home who called us. She looks more emotional than the old woman.

The old woman lets out a ragged sigh and turns back to the living room, pausing to give the aide a gentle, sympathetic pat on the arm as she goes. She putters around the small kitchenette, arranging mail, placing her breakfast dishes in the sink, emptying coffee grounds and her husband’s uneaten breakfast into the trash.

I watch her as she moves about the kitchen as if no one else is there, as if her husband weren’t lying dead in the next room. She pours a cup of coffee, turns around and offers it to me.

“I suppose I need to call the funeral home,” she muses, speaking to no one in particular. I take the cup from her and pass it to Pardner, and steer the woman to the couch.

“I need to tidy this place up before the funeral home boys get here,” she mutters. “So much to do…”

“Ma’am.” I lay my hand gently on her arm. “Why don’t you let us do that for you? You shouldn’t have to worry with all this,” I tell her softly, gesturing to the nearly immaculate apartment behind me.

“If not me, then who?” she asks hollowly, looking me in the eyes. Pardner clears his throat.

“Ain’t there somebody we can call, hon?” he asks. “Family, maybe? A preacher?”

“No, there was nobody but us. He was all I had left.”

And then the tears come.

We sit there with her and wait for the coroner to arrive, me next to her on the couch and Pardner sitting in a chair, for the better part of an hour.

Not a word is spoken. But we stay anyway.

**********
Late Spring, 2005

Her face is misshapen, the blonde hair plastered to her skull, still wet with blood. Her tongue is bloated, her face purplish. She had run straight through the stop sign, striking a pine tree head-on. She lay slumped over the steering wheel, pinned between it and the seat, her blood pooling on the deflated air bag. Her shoulder restraint is still in place.

I play my flashlight around the wreckage of the car while Part-Time Partner rants and bangs on the roof of the car behind me. There is a formal dress still in its cellophane wrapper lying in the floorboard behind the front seats, and a garter hanging on the rear view mirror mount, still stuck to the shattered windshield.This is how PTP deals with the senselessness of it all – he gets angry. He has daughters this age, and I know what he is thinking. There is no one here but me and the deputy to see him vent his fear and frustration. PTP keeps it in and seethes silently when we have an audience.

Goddamned prom parties!” he shouts, gesturing to the pinkening sky behind us. “Why the fuck else would she be out at this time of the morning?”

I say nothing, walking around the wreckage, playing my flashlight over the ground.

“Probably drunk off her ass,” he continues, veins bulging in his neck, “seventeen Goddamn years old and now her life is over before it even started!”

“No alcohol evident in the vehicle,” the deputy points out quietly. “You smell anything?”

“No,” I answer.

Did you know you can smell the alcohol in someone’s blood? You can.

“No skid marks, either,” the deputy sighs, pointing his flashlight back up the road. “She never even hit the brakes. Besides, she was a responsible kid. I’m thinking she fell asleep at the wheel.”

“You knew her? I asked.

“Yeah,” he says sadly, his shoulders sagging. “My daughter’s the same age. We go to church with her family.” He clicks off his flashlight and places it back in the holder on his duty belt, looks absently back up the road. “Wrecker oughta be here in a few minutes, then I’m gonna have to go tell her Daddy. Damn.”

PTP looks at him for a moment, hands still clenching and unclenching, veins still bulging in his neck. Then he marches purposefully to the ambulance, opens the rear doors and climbs in. A moment later, he emerges carrying a folded sheet and carries it over to the wrecked Honda Accord. He unfolds the sheet and carefully, gently covers her body with it.”Sun’s coming up,” he grunts in explanation and I nod my understanding. “I don’t want people driving by and gawking at her.”

As if on cue, a pair of headlights appears over the crest of a hill and grows steadily closer. The deputy removes the flashlight from his belt and signals the truck to go around us. As the pickup pulls abreast of the scene, passing just feet from the deputy, he freezes. The truck continues on for a few feet, and then skids to a stop with a screech of brakes.

A man and a woman bail out of the truck and run back toward the wreck. The deputy intercepts the man, and PTP and I are left to deal with the woman. I step in front of her and catch her before she reaches the car.

“That’s my baby!”
she screams frantically as I try, and fail, to wrap my arms around hers. “Let me GO! Let me see my baby!” she screams as she flails at me impotently. There is nothing I can say to her, so I lower my head and let the blows rain down. None of them do any damage anyway. She’s not trying to hurt anyone. PTP moves behind her and tries to grab her hands.

I look over her shoulder and see the deputy with his hands on the father’s shoulders, forehead to forehead, saying something I can’t hear.

PTP and I manage to walk the mother over to the front of our rig, and she collapses in a heap, still crying and screaming “my baby!” hysterically. PTP’s eyes are moist and his jaw muscles bunch as he kneels next to her, one hand laid gently on her shoulder as she wraps her arms around her chest, trembling violently.

I walk to the side door of my rig, open it and pull the drug box across the floor to me. I withdraw a 5 cc syringe, fish the Valium out of the narcotics pouch on my belt, and draw up a full ten milligrams.

By the time I walk back around to the front of the rig, the father was there, sitting with his back against the front bumper of my rig, cradling his sobbing wife in his arms. His eyes run with tears as he holds his wife’s head to his shoulder, but he says nothing. The deputy and PTP stand there, watching mutely as I kneel next to her, lift the hem of her khaki shorts, and plunge the needle in her thigh. She doesn’t even flinch.

The husband meets my eyes as I stand up. I say nothing to him. I don’t have to. I just stand there quietly until the woman’s sobs start to wane. It takes longer than I thought it would.

The sun is shining and the wrecker has arrived by the time I can help the husband to his feet. His wife just sits limply against the bumper of my rig, eyes vacant and moaning tonelessly. We try to help her to her feet, but her legs are too unsteady. Her husband picks her up and cradles her to his chest and walks to the back of the rig. He doesn’t even wait for us to unload the stretcher, just climbs into the rig and gently deposits her on the cot.

I wipe the tears and snot from her face and brush back the wet hair plastered to her cheek, and spread a blanket over her as her husband sits on the bench seat and holds her hand, staring blankly at his reflection in the plexiglass cabinet doors.

“Where will you take her?” he asks, breaking the silence, his voice low, harsh and strained.

“She’ll go to Bossier for an autopsy,” I say softly. “It’s required by law. After that, whatever funeral home you specify.”

“I meant my wife.”

I blush in shame and mentally kick myself.

“I’m sorry, Sir. We’ll take her to Podunk, if that’s all right with you. They’ll keep her overnight, keep her sedated. I’ll get you some contact info for some grief counselors, if you’d like.”

He doesn’t answer right away, just stares down at his wife. After an uncomfortable silence, he speaks again, still processing information from five minutes ago.

“An autopsy? Why do…I mean she’s still in her…how do they get her…”

“We’ll take you and your wife to the hospital, and another crew will get your daughter out of the car. The fire department will come, and they’ll extricate her. Afterwards, one of our ambulances will take her to Bossier.”

He nods silently, and I watch as his lips start to quiver. He squeezes his eyes shut, and huge tears roll down his cheeks in single file, and drop onto his knees one by one.

“I don’t want strangers seeing her,” he says pleadingly. “Will you ask Danny to stay with her?”

So that was the deputy’s name. I can never remember.

“She won’t be gawked at,” I promise him. “The men that will get her out all have families, daughters of their own. They’ll be gentle, I promise. And I’m sure Danny will supervise things.”

“Insurance cards.”

“Excuse me?”

“My insurance cards are in my wife’s purse in the truck. You’ll need those, right?”

“No, Sir.”

You will never see a scrap of paper from our ambulance service to remind you of this day. I’ll lose the run report entirely, if it comes to that. But it won’t. The Boss understands things like this.

“Who is going to take my little girl to…Bossier, you said? Do you know who it will be?”

“If you’d like, I’ll take her there once we get your wife settled in at the hospital,” I offer. “I’ll do it myself.”

“Yeah,” he sighs, wiping his eyes with his forearm, “I’d appreciate that.”
And so I did, even though my shift had officially ended an hour before.
**********

Thanksgiving Day, 2001

“Can you think of anything else?” I look around at each face surrounding the man’s body. Everyone shakes their head.

“Four epi, three atropine, fluid bolus, tube placement is good even though end-tidal CO2 never got better than 10,” Paramedic Student Partner summarizes as she does compressions. “Blood sugar is okay, bicarb did nothing, and she’s got a purple face and shoulders. I’m thinking pulmonary embolus.”

PSP is showing promise, and she’s starting to put it all together.

“And still asystolic after twenty minutes of working it,” I finish. “Okay, I’m making the call.”

I flip open my personal cell phone and call Dispatch for a patch to Podunk ER. We always do things like this over a recorded line. I walk to the far side of the living room and turn my back to the family.

“Hey Doc, this is AD on Medic Four. We’re on scene with an asystolic arrest, been working it twenty minutes now. Down time prior to our arrival was over ten minutes, with no CPR. Got a tube, got two good lines, four epinephrine, three atropine, and one bicarb on board. Rhythm never changed from asystole. I’m thinking she threw a clot. Requesting permission to terminate efforts.”

“What’s her history?” Doc wants to know.

“Non-insulin dependent diabetic, hypertensive, smoker, age fifty-four. Not much else, according to the family.”

“Helluva a way to celebrate Thanksgiving,” Doc grunts. “All right, call it. Family taking it okay?”

“We’ll see,” I answer. “We may be calling you back.”

“Just put me on the phone if you have any problems,” Doc offers, then Dispatch breaks in on the conversation.

“Coroner’s been notified, Medic Four,” she offers helpfully. “They’re en-route to your location.”

“Thanks, Dispatch.” Not all dispatchers are like Satan.

I tuck my phone into my pocket and walk over to the woman’s daughter, standing there in the doorway between the dining room and the den, the food still on the table in the room behind her. She has stood there and watched the entire scene without changing her expression; eyes red-rimmed and tearful, hands clasped over her mouth, she has leaned against the door frame and watched in mute horror as we tried to resuscitate her mother. Her son-in-law had taken the woman’s hysterical granddaughter to another room shortly after we arrived.

I place my hand on the daughter’s arm and can feel her trembling. She tears her eyes away from the EMTs and firefighters doing CPR and looks at me questioningly.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” I tell her gently, “but there’s nothing else we can do. Anything else we could try would be fruitless.”

She looks from me to her mother’s body, and back. “That…that’s it?”

“Her heart had stopped beating before we got here,” I explain. “By the time we started CPR, there was no electrical activity in your mother’s heart. If there had been, maybe we could have revived her. Maybe not. But when there is no electrical activity, there’s not much medicine can do to fix that. We’ve tried all the drugs we can, the same ones used in the hospital. Nothing has worked. At this point, we’re just abusing her body.”

“No…no chance at all?”

“No Ma’am,” I say softly, and then I say The Words. “I’m afraid she’s dead.”

At that, she walks back into the dining room and collapses into a chair, folding her arms on the table and burying her head. Her shoulders shake with sobs. I motion for PSP and the firefighters to stop what they’re doing, and walk down the hallway in the direction taken by the son-in-law. I find him in a room at the end of the hall, sitting on a brass daybed, stroking his daughter’s hair. She is almost asleep, her cries slowed to the occasional snubbing of a heartbroken child.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, answering the question in the man’s eyes. He nods sadly, looking tenderly at his daughter. He sighs and gingerly gets off the bed, successfully avoiding waking his daughter. It’s a little girl’s room, but not this little girl’s. From the looks of the photos, stuffed animals and 80’s vintage posters on the walls, this was once her mother’s bedroom.

“I figured she was gone,” he tells me quietly as he shuts the door behind him, “but thank you for trying.”

“I wish the ending could be different,” I offer. “Sometimes it is, but most of the time we can’t get them back.”

We pause at the entrance to the living room, and he watches as PSP and the firefighters gather up the assorted detritus of a resuscitation and rearrange the furniture we moved.

“We have to leave the breathing tube and the IVs in place,” I explain, “until the coroner gets here.”

He nods absently and looks at his wife, still with her head down on the table. “What happens now?” he wants to know.

“The coroner comes and does his investigation, and then he’ll call whatever funeral home you request. We have to stay here until he arrives. We can call a family member or your minister if you’d like.”

“Okay,” he nods.

“We’ll wait outside,” I offer. “Give you some time alone with your family.”

“Thanks,” he sighs, looking at his mother-in-law’s body lying on the living room floor under a sheet, “but I think we’ll wait outside instead.”

**********
August, 1998

“He’s gone, isn’t he?””Yes, Mrs. Dodge. I’m afraid he is.” I knelt next to the frail body on the bed and gently tucked his hand back under the covers. It was a hand I knew well.

Jeremy Dodge was close to my age, just twenty seven. He had suffered a devastating brain injury in a motorcycle accident when he was sixteen. The strain of caring for Jeremy had taken its toll on JoAnne Dodge. It very nearly ruined her financially and broke her marriage. Through it all, JoAnne cared for her son with an unwavering faith.

We first met him when the home health agency had called us to transport him to the hospital.

“What for?” we had asked.

“He needs an IV access,” the nurse had explained, “and I can’t find a vein.”

“He’s going to the ER just to get an IV line? What if we can get one right here? Can he stay home?”

“Well sure, if you think you can get one,” the nurse had said dubiously.

One stick later by my partner, Vascular Access Wizard, and we had made a new friend. Even the home health nurse had been grateful.

We cared for Jeremy Dodge for five years. On duty or off, day or night, one of us would run over to the Dodge house when they called. We only transported him when we had to, and we got to know JoAnne and her other children, Jeremy’s half-sisters.

The official medical opinion was that Jeremy Dodge was profoundly brain-damaged, and only minimally aware of his surroundings.

We knew better. We could tell when he was happy or sad, and all of the pretty nurses had learned never to lean over Jeremy too closely. Even contracted as he was, he could grope a boob with unerring accuracy.

Eventually sepsis took him, as it does so many bedridden patients. JoAnne had called, desperation in her voice.

“He can’t breathe!” she had blurted desperately. The home health nurse had taken the phone from her and told us what was going on. So Pardner had swung by my house and picked me up, and we had beaten the ambulance there by ten minutes. Even then, we weren’t quick enough.

Heather, the home health nurse, had cleaned Jeremy up by the time we arrived, and the look in her eyes told me all I needed to know. JoAnne and her daughters had composed themselves, and Jeremy was no longer breathing. A quick pulse check of my own confirmed what Heather’s eyes had told me, and I tucked the kid’s arm back under the covers.

“I’m sorry, JoAnne,” I said as I knelt next to her rocker and hugged her. “I wish I knew something more to say.”

“Sorry for what?” she asked, a warm smile breaking through her tears. “This is a time to rejoice, not grieve. I’ve grieved for my son for eleven years. Now he’s sixteen again, healthy and whole.”

“I believe that,” I tell her honestly.

“Are you a Christian, AD?” she asks. “All this time, and I’ve never asked.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” I answered. “I am. Not as good a Christian as I should be, but I believe, yes.”

“The doctors all say that Jeremy wasn’t aware of anything. He had never been Baptised before the accident. I didn’t find my faith until after it happened. He was born out of wedlock, you know.”

“Yes Ma’am, you told me.”

“Do you believe people can go to Heaven if they’ve never accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior? My religion says no.”

“I believe in a loving and merciful God,” I tell her, “one who wouldn’t condemn Jeremy as he was. So yes, I believe he’s in Heaven.”

“So do I,” she smiled with utter conviction. “So do I.”

“Tell ya’ what I believe,” Pardner broke in laconically. “I figger Jeremy wouldn’t be sittin’ here gettin’ all weepy like this, wonderin’ if he’s with Jesus or not. He’d be up, actin’ up and bein’ a sixteen-year-old kid. Then he’d grab Heather’s boob.”

And we all laughed uproariously and listened to funny stories of Jeremy’s childhood, many of which we had heard before. When the coroner arrived, he thought we were all nuts.

**********
September, 1994

Simple human touch is next to impossible through a PPE kit. You want to touch someone, the gloves, eye shield, gown and face mask thwart you at very turn. Even feeling a pulse is tough through double gloves.More importantly, they can’t feel you.

Not that I wanted to touch her. She was smeared from head to waist with AIDS infected blood. In 1994, during the height of AIDS hysteria, death lurked behind every exposed needle, every splash of blood or bodily fluids. People believed you could get HIV from a toilet seat or an infected mosquito back then. I wasn’t taking chances, not at first.

She had contracted the virus from a boy she met in college. Her parents, highly religious people, had shunned her when they found out she had AIDS. Her first inkling she had the disease was when she got sick for the first time. That cough and the weight loss…well, it wasn’t just HIV, it was full-blown AIDS.

So she sought solace from her family, and her parents cast her out like so much garbage. Not only did their daughter have that homosexual disease, she had fornicated with a man outside the bonds of matrimony. She was dead to them.

And they were probably right, if a few years premature. The cocktail wasn’t widely used back then, or at least I hadn’t heard of it. So she had tried to speed things along in their front yard, by taking a knife to her wrists. For a first-timer, she did a pretty fair job.

I’ll never forget the coldness of her father as he had stood there behind that screen door and watched his daughter lie bleeding on the lawn.

“Get her out of here,” were the only words he had said, a curt directive before closing the door in our faces.

I learned all of these things about her on the thirty minute trip to the Big City, in between her broken sobs and her whispered conviction that she was going to Hell. I don’t remember saying a word. What was I going to do, tell her she was wrong? Her entire religious upbringing told her otherwise.

Her own father had told her she was damned.

So she sobbed and she talked, and she begged me to understand, and I tried to smile comfortingly and answer with my eyes.

Kind of hard to do that behind a mask, though.

Somewhere along the way, she grabbed my hand and held it, and I resisted the urge to pull away. So I put away my forms and my clipboard, and I sat there next to the cot and I held her hand all the way into the ER.

Held her hand all the way through the hand-off report, too. I had to pry her fingers away from mine. I wished the gloves hadn’t been so thick.

The nurse I handed her off to was one of those stern old battle axes who had known Florence Nightingale personally and been working the ER since Hippocrates was an intern. Frankly, she scared me a little.

But when she leaned over that stretcher, there was no judgment in her eyes, and she was as soothing and motherly as the girl’s own mother should have been. An angel, if a stern one. She took her vital signs and cleaned the dried blood off her face and arms and disposed of her bloody clothes and put her in a gown.

I stopped in the EMT lounge before I left and grabbed a couple of Cokes from the ice chest. I ducked into her room, opened one of the Cokes and sat it on the procedure tray next to her bed. I still don’t think I said anything.

But she was able to see my face and eyes, and I clasped her hand again before I left.

Without the gloves.

**********
These little recollections were brought to mind by an e-mail I received from one of my readers, a medical student who seeks the proper words to ease the grief of a loved ones’ passing, or the proper approach to the family of a dying patient. Seeking words of balm, in other words.There are no proper words, Rav. Medical school will teach you how to improve and extend life, how to ease physical pain and suffering, perhaps even how to save a life if the situation presents. Where the training, and advice like mine, always falls short is in what to do when there is nothing left to be done.

You’ll read the words of Elizabeth Kubler Ross, if you haven’t already, and you’ll be taught how to recognize and deal with the five stages of grief. You’ll be taught to use words like “death” and “dead” and to avoid platitudes and euphemisms like “passed on” or “in a better place.”

And all of that will fail if you do not feel compassion. If you do feel compassion, most of that knowledge will be rendered irrelevant. Don’t let the grind of your education beat the compassion out of you.

Compassion is the one thing that traverses all cultural and religious boundaries. It is universally understood, be you atheist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Pagan.

And it need not always be expressed in words.

Hope that answers your question.

Comments - Add Yours

  • dylthedog (EMT)

    Powerful words AD and very well put.

  • dylthedog (EMT)

    Powerful words AD and very well put.

  • Bob@thenest

    Had to make two death notifications when I was a first sergeant. I agree with you — no training in the world prepares one for that. Compassion and sensitivity are what make it happen in the right way. Without those qualities it’s all just a factual rendition.After reading the series in this post I took something else from it, though of course I may be wrong.I think there is a part of you that knows you’re good at handling those situations and it maybe misses being on the rig where you can provide that comfort and support in the most trying of times.

  • Bob@thenest

    Had to make two death notifications when I was a first sergeant. I agree with you — no training in the world prepares one for that. Compassion and sensitivity are what make it happen in the right way. Without those qualities it’s all just a factual rendition.After reading the series in this post I took something else from it, though of course I may be wrong.I think there is a part of you that knows you’re good at handling those situations and it maybe misses being on the rig where you can provide that comfort and support in the most trying of times.

  • Jay G

    Dammit, AD, now you’ve gone and made it rain all over my keyboard.Again.There are many reasons I deviated from my path to medical school. Making calls like these was one of them. Now I’m in sales and as such have no soul… ;)

  • Jay G

    Dammit, AD, now you’ve gone and made it rain all over my keyboard.Again.There are many reasons I deviated from my path to medical school. Making calls like these was one of them. Now I’m in sales and as such have no soul… ;)

  • Loving Annie

    Ambulance Driver,Those stories each brought tears to my eyes. Your compassion was evident, side by side with your professionalism. You are a good role model, for your words of widsom and kindess are backed up by action.Happy Tuesday to you.Blessings,Loving Annie

  • Loving Annie

    Ambulance Driver,Those stories each brought tears to my eyes. Your compassion was evident, side by side with your professionalism. You are a good role model, for your words of widsom and kindess are backed up by action.Happy Tuesday to you.Blessings,Loving Annie

  • Sarah

    The meteorological phenomenon that affected Jay has traveled to my computer too. Well told. Well done and just…wow.

  • Sarah

    The meteorological phenomenon that affected Jay has traveled to my computer too. Well told. Well done and just…wow.

  • Anonymous

    yeah, what they said.

  • Anonymous

    yeah, what they said.

  • Fyremandoug

    Wow AD you brought up old memories and a few tears, great writing,

  • Fyremandoug

    Wow AD you brought up old memories and a few tears, great writing,

  • SpeakerTweaker

    It would be systematically damning for me to shed tears at work, as the men I work with would annihilate me. So I’ll read this again with The Wifey when I get home.I think that Compassion, while profoundly important, is merely a step. Prerequisite, if you will, to Honor.And you have Honor, sir. More than most.tweaker

  • SpeakerTweaker

    It would be systematically damning for me to shed tears at work, as the men I work with would annihilate me. So I’ll read this again with The Wifey when I get home.I think that Compassion, while profoundly important, is merely a step. Prerequisite, if you will, to Honor.And you have Honor, sir. More than most.tweaker

  • Digital Falcon

    I am speechless. Thank you for sharing those powerful stories. Well done.

  • Digital Falcon

    I am speechless. Thank you for sharing those powerful stories. Well done.

  • HollyB

    AD, your compassion is one of your most attractive features. That is what makes you such a manly man.

  • HollyB

    AD, your compassion is one of your most attractive features. That is what makes you such a manly man.

  • Yenner

    Those the most touching and incredible stories I have read. I tried not to sob at my desk. It is so nice to know that there are still people in the world like you. Too many people are unwilling to show compassion any more for one reason or another and it saddens me. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Yenner

    Those the most touching and incredible stories I have read. I tried not to sob at my desk. It is so nice to know that there are still people in the world like you. Too many people are unwilling to show compassion any more for one reason or another and it saddens me. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Queen of Dysfunction

    This has to be one of the best posts I have read on this blog or any blog ever. Very powerful stuff here. It also reminds me of why I have chosen to pursue the profession I am. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • bigdaddyb

    These have left me as close to speechless as I get.Our most trusted and needed (AD’s, police, fire, teachers, etc.) are often our least appreciated. Those who perform these duties while still preserving their own humanity and the dignity of those they serve fit a category that I am at a loss to name.You all have my undying respect and my gratitude.

  • Queen of Dysfunction

    This has to be one of the best posts I have read on this blog or any blog ever. Very powerful stuff here. It also reminds me of why I have chosen to pursue the profession I am. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • bigdaddyb

    These have left me as close to speechless as I get.Our most trusted and needed (AD’s, police, fire, teachers, etc.) are often our least appreciated. Those who perform these duties while still preserving their own humanity and the dignity of those they serve fit a category that I am at a loss to name.You all have my undying respect and my gratitude.

  • curmudgeon

    “The nurse I handed her off to was one of those stern old battle axes who had known Florence Nightingale personally and been working the ER since Hippocrates was an intern.”Simply brilliant!Great post.

  • curmudgeon

    “The nurse I handed her off to was one of those stern old battle axes who had known Florence Nightingale personally and been working the ER since Hippocrates was an intern.”Simply brilliant!Great post.

  • WR Olsen

    I hope the next book you write will be one of ethics and philosophy since you are brilliant when you discuss the human side of public protection.

  • WR Olsen

    I hope the next book you write will be one of ethics and philosophy since you are brilliant when you discuss the human side of public protection.

  • knitalot3

    Geez, AD! Couldn’t you have put out a tissue alert at the beginning?Thanks for sharing. I never know what to say to someone about a death. It always sounds so cheap and plastic.Going to go hug my family now.

  • knitalot3

    Geez, AD! Couldn’t you have put out a tissue alert at the beginning?Thanks for sharing. I never know what to say to someone about a death. It always sounds so cheap and plastic.Going to go hug my family now.

  • Hammer

    Very moving as always.Thanks, it makes me appreciate things even more.

  • Hammer

    Very moving as always.Thanks, it makes me appreciate things even more.

  • Scott

    Wow! Very sad stories. And very well-written. I just wrote a post about death on my blog yesterday. It’s not nearly as good as yours, though.

  • Scott

    Wow! Very sad stories. And very well-written. I just wrote a post about death on my blog yesterday. It’s not nearly as good as yours, though.

  • Ambulance Driver

    “I just wrote a post about death on my blog yesterday. It’s not nearly as good as yours, though.”I read it, and a good post it was, Scott.

  • Ambulance Driver

    “I just wrote a post about death on my blog yesterday. It’s not nearly as good as yours, though.”I read it, and a good post it was, Scott.

  • Judy

    AD, You made me cry and you made me laugh — but most of all, you made me hope that someone like you will be there if ever I need them.I know we have AD’s like you around here. I’ve met a few. They may not be so eloquent, but words aren’t always necessary.

  • Judy

    AD, You made me cry and you made me laugh — but most of all, you made me hope that someone like you will be there if ever I need them.I know we have AD’s like you around here. I’ve met a few. They may not be so eloquent, but words aren’t always necessary.

  • skywriter

    powerful stuff. This is the reason I put you on my blog today with a “blog award”. I didn’t do you justice.scully

  • skywriter

    powerful stuff. This is the reason I put you on my blog today with a “blog award”. I didn’t do you justice.scully

  • Kate

    It’s raining at my keyboard, too. Thanks, AD.

  • Kate

    It’s raining at my keyboard, too. Thanks, AD.

  • Squeaky Wheel

    These are the kinds of stories that result when someone with a heart works where they’re needed. Sometimes the simplest things are all that are required.Great stories. And you tell them very well.

  • Squeaky Wheel

    These are the kinds of stories that result when someone with a heart works where they’re needed. Sometimes the simplest things are all that are required.Great stories. And you tell them very well.

  • Brandon

    Those are very moving stories, thank you for going above and beyond what you had to do with the families. The world would be better off if there were more people like that.

  • Brandon

    Those are very moving stories, thank you for going above and beyond what you had to do with the families. The world would be better off if there were more people like that.

  • KG2V

    Thanks AD,My Mom is expected to die sometime in the 7-14 day span. Just a bit too long for in patient Hospice around here, so she will have to go to accute care tomorrow. Lung cancer, and she is only awake a few minutes at a time. It’s good to know there are caring folks out there

  • KG2V

    Thanks AD,My Mom is expected to die sometime in the 7-14 day span. Just a bit too long for in patient Hospice around here, so she will have to go to accute care tomorrow. Lung cancer, and she is only awake a few minutes at a time. It’s good to know there are caring folks out there

  • outside_of_apex

    Powerful stories AD. And I like how you don’t get words in the way of the telling.The summer after my first year of college I worked at a hospital taking EKGs (electrocardiograms). Let’s just say that you might have recently graduated out of diapers at the time. Minimum wage, no experience necessary.Most of the EKGs were routine. Dr puts in an order on Tuesday, we performed it on Wednesday, and they got the results on Thursday. The good ol’ days.However, if it was your turn to carry the pager, you could be called on a code blue. I went to about two dozen of them that summer. I don’t know if they have code blues any more but this was when a patient either had a respiratory or cardiac arrest. One always seemed to follow the other so there wasn’t much difference in my uneducated mind.My job was to get a rhythm strip. That meant attaching wires to each wrist and a leg (forget which, maybe both and one was a ground). Woe be unto me if I did not have one when the Dr asked for it.However the entire initial episode was utter chaos. There’d be a nurse straddling the patient doing CPR. The respiratory folk would be sticking stuff down his/her throat. Other nurses would be sticking IVs in. I would be fighting for limbs to stick my wires on. I hope today the team is as choreograped as a Nascar pit crew.Anyways, the point is, every time but once the patient died. But by being there, working, with a bunch of professionals, not knowing the person I was working on, and so on, their deaths did not affect me as I thought they would (I had never seen someone die).Of course it wasn’t up to me to tell someone that their loved one had died.

  • outside_of_apex

    Powerful stories AD. And I like how you don’t get words in the way of the telling.The summer after my first year of college I worked at a hospital taking EKGs (electrocardiograms). Let’s just say that you might have recently graduated out of diapers at the time. Minimum wage, no experience necessary.Most of the EKGs were routine. Dr puts in an order on Tuesday, we performed it on Wednesday, and they got the results on Thursday. The good ol’ days.However, if it was your turn to carry the pager, you could be called on a code blue. I went to about two dozen of them that summer. I don’t know if they have code blues any more but this was when a patient either had a respiratory or cardiac arrest. One always seemed to follow the other so there wasn’t much difference in my uneducated mind.My job was to get a rhythm strip. That meant attaching wires to each wrist and a leg (forget which, maybe both and one was a ground). Woe be unto me if I did not have one when the Dr asked for it.However the entire initial episode was utter chaos. There’d be a nurse straddling the patient doing CPR. The respiratory folk would be sticking stuff down his/her throat. Other nurses would be sticking IVs in. I would be fighting for limbs to stick my wires on. I hope today the team is as choreograped as a Nascar pit crew.Anyways, the point is, every time but once the patient died. But by being there, working, with a bunch of professionals, not knowing the person I was working on, and so on, their deaths did not affect me as I thought they would (I had never seen someone die).Of course it wasn’t up to me to tell someone that their loved one had died.

  • Ambulance Driver

    Prayers to you and your family, kg2v.My old man was a HAM operator for years, call sign K5QAS.

  • Ambulance Driver

    Prayers to you and your family, kg2v.My old man was a HAM operator for years, call sign K5QAS.

  • AZBanjo

    Raining here too ….

  • AZBanjo

    Raining here too ….

  • BuckeyeEMT

    Compasssion…Caring…..Understanding. Just a few words that come to mind when I read these posts. You are the total package AD. You have the knowledge but you also have that other aspect that is so sorely needed in this field….you have a tender heart. From the little time I have been in this field, I have seen more than once where that has not been the case. It’s refreshing to hear that someone still does. I think it makes all the difference in the world. In my opinion, that might make more of an impression on the family than anything….knowing that the person who came to help them at their greatest time of need CARED and treated them with the kindness, compassion, dignity and respect they so deserved.My hat is off to you AD.

  • BuckeyeEMT

    Compasssion…Caring…..Understanding. Just a few words that come to mind when I read these posts. You are the total package AD. You have the knowledge but you also have that other aspect that is so sorely needed in this field….you have a tender heart. From the little time I have been in this field, I have seen more than once where that has not been the case. It’s refreshing to hear that someone still does. I think it makes all the difference in the world. In my opinion, that might make more of an impression on the family than anything….knowing that the person who came to help them at their greatest time of need CARED and treated them with the kindness, compassion, dignity and respect they so deserved.My hat is off to you AD.

  • vipin

    As Rav’s roommate and as an EMT – those were powerful words that were well put in ways that I probably will never be able to describe. The emotions and feelings that you describe are real enough to be felt by your readers as if they were their own – amazing work.

  • vipin

    As Rav’s roommate and as an EMT – those were powerful words that were well put in ways that I probably will never be able to describe. The emotions and feelings that you describe are real enough to be felt by your readers as if they were their own – amazing work.

  • pixie.dust

    I’m glad you were there for those people, and also for all the others whose stories we have yet to hear. Your compassion is inspirational. Two thumbs way up from the Pagan corner! ;)

  • pixie.dust

    I’m glad you were there for those people, and also for all the others whose stories we have yet to hear. Your compassion is inspirational. Two thumbs way up from the Pagan corner! ;)

  • Lea

    Thank you, and Blessed Be you and yours.

  • Lea

    Thank you, and Blessed Be you and yours.

  • PierreLegrand

    Oh my…came over from PJ media…what a tremendously moving blog. We just lost two folks in my family, my wifes father and my uncle who was like a father. Thank you for sharing its good to know folks like you exist.

  • PierreLegrand

    Oh my…came over from PJ media…what a tremendously moving blog. We just lost two folks in my family, my wifes father and my uncle who was like a father. Thank you for sharing its good to know folks like you exist.

  • Pseudo_Doctor

    AD,Seriously an email would have sufficed =). This has to be one of the best posts I’ve ever read from you because in every one of your stories you answer my question with a different platform from a gesture, to silence to whatever else felt right at that moment. Thats probably the best advice I could have received and its something that I doubt I will forget.Thank you….

  • Pseudo_Doctor

    AD,Seriously an email would have sufficed =). This has to be one of the best posts I’ve ever read from you because in every one of your stories you answer my question with a different platform from a gesture, to silence to whatever else felt right at that moment. Thats probably the best advice I could have received and its something that I doubt I will forget.Thank you….

  • Jean

    Soul salve.

  • Jean

    Soul salve.

  • John

    “Do you believe people can go to Heaven if they’ve never accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior? My religion says no.”I don’t care how much the Bible says about Salvation through Acceptance & Confession of Jesus—(I know that to be true)–BUT— WHO ARE WE TO EVEN BEGIN TO SAY WHEN OR IF A PERSON ACCEPTS JESUS? Somehow & at sometime- I believe God makes HIMSELF known to the Jeremy Dodds of this world!!! I can’t PROVE it- but I too believe it! You Ministered and Gave His Mom what Jesus would have given her. Compassion, Love and Unconditional Acceptance!! You gave her exactly what she needed– The Truth as you saw it, and with it, confirmation of her own belief that Jeremy made it!.”Are you a Christian, AD?” she asks. “All this time, and I’ve never asked.”AD: “Yes, Ma’am,” I answered. “I am. Not as good a Christian as I should be, but I believe, yes.”You sir are as fine an example of a Christian working in this World System as I’ve met (read)- never ever sell yourself short on that!!! God is using you just as much as any Preacher on any given Sunday throug this Blog!GREAT CALL!John

  • John

    “Do you believe people can go to Heaven if they’ve never accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior? My religion says no.”I don’t care how much the Bible says about Salvation through Acceptance & Confession of Jesus—(I know that to be true)–BUT— WHO ARE WE TO EVEN BEGIN TO SAY WHEN OR IF A PERSON ACCEPTS JESUS? Somehow & at sometime- I believe God makes HIMSELF known to the Jeremy Dodds of this world!!! I can’t PROVE it- but I too believe it! You Ministered and Gave His Mom what Jesus would have given her. Compassion, Love and Unconditional Acceptance!! You gave her exactly what she needed– The Truth as you saw it, and with it, confirmation of her own belief that Jeremy made it!.”Are you a Christian, AD?” she asks. “All this time, and I’ve never asked.”AD: “Yes, Ma’am,” I answered. “I am. Not as good a Christian as I should be, but I believe, yes.”You sir are as fine an example of a Christian working in this World System as I’ve met (read)- never ever sell yourself short on that!!! God is using you just as much as any Preacher on any given Sunday throug this Blog!GREAT CALL!John

  • T

    wow – what an amazing heartfelt read – I hope all that are involved in tragic events come across someone as compassionate as you.

  • T

    wow – what an amazing heartfelt read – I hope all that are involved in tragic events come across someone as compassionate as you.

  • Kiki B.

    June 19, 1990…The day after Father’s Day. Twenty minutes outside of St. Louis, MO. A husband and wife both 48 years old on a trip to MI and then OH. The husband is driving a van pulling a 29 ft. travel trailer for them to stay in on their trip. They hit construction traffic in this area outside of St. Louis. The husband says, “Aren’t you glad I’m…”, and then gasped. The wife thinks they just had a blow out, especially as the husband isn’t steering. In the process, he takes out one of the extremely large digital construction signs that hits the front of the van, and flies over the trailer. The wife realizes something is seriously wrong with her husband when the van and trailer scrape the underside of an overpass. She can’t get to the steering wheel because it’s one of those nice vans with the Captain’s seats, and the armrest is down. She finally gets her seatbelt off, and goes for the steering wheel. She can’t reach the brake because his foot is blocking it, but she throws the car into park, and it stops at the edge of the road, as though they pulled over to the side of the road to park. There are construction workers all around who come to help. All they see is the accident, so they won’t help move the husband or do anything, but call the police and ambulance on their radios. By the grace of God, there just happens to be an ALS ambulance 2 minutes away that diverts from their call and comes to the scene. They take the husband out. He’s in V-Fib. on the side of the road. They work him for 20 minutes into the hospital, and 10 minutes more there before calling the code. A kind police officer at the scene has called his home and asked his wife if this man’s wife could stay with them until their family in Houston could come pick her up, and she said that she could. As it turned out, the family had some friends in the area who came and got the wife, and took them to their home to stay until the oldest son could pick her up.The youngest daughter, who was in nursing school at the time, wasn’t home, so the wife got ahold of her oldest daughter who remembered that the husband had written out everything he wanted done with his body before he left on that trip. He had never done that before.A few hours later, youngest daughter is at work at Houston NW Medical Center. She sees a pastor friend of the family and her younger brother coming through the glass that surrounds the Newborn Nursery where she is working that day. They take her into the nurse’s lounge where she is told that her father just died of a heart attack that day. It seemed like the end of her world, and yet, so bizarre and surreal because she had just been taking care of newborn babies.You see, this is the story of my father’s death. I wasn’t there when he died, but I am eternally grateful for the Paramedics, EMT’s and police officers, as well as hospital personnel who took care of my dad and my mom during this time. Thank you. I wish I could say more, but I don’t know what words can express anything more than THANK YOU.

  • Kiki B.

    June 19, 1990…The day after Father’s Day. Twenty minutes outside of St. Louis, MO. A husband and wife both 48 years old on a trip to MI and then OH. The husband is driving a van pulling a 29 ft. travel trailer for them to stay in on their trip. They hit construction traffic in this area outside of St. Louis. The husband says, “Aren’t you glad I’m…”, and then gasped. The wife thinks they just had a blow out, especially as the husband isn’t steering. In the process, he takes out one of the extremely large digital construction signs that hits the front of the van, and flies over the trailer. The wife realizes something is seriously wrong with her husband when the van and trailer scrape the underside of an overpass. She can’t get to the steering wheel because it’s one of those nice vans with the Captain’s seats, and the armrest is down. She finally gets her seatbelt off, and goes for the steering wheel. She can’t reach the brake because his foot is blocking it, but she throws the car into park, and it stops at the edge of the road, as though they pulled over to the side of the road to park. There are construction workers all around who come to help. All they see is the accident, so they won’t help move the husband or do anything, but call the police and ambulance on their radios. By the grace of God, there just happens to be an ALS ambulance 2 minutes away that diverts from their call and comes to the scene. They take the husband out. He’s in V-Fib. on the side of the road. They work him for 20 minutes into the hospital, and 10 minutes more there before calling the code. A kind police officer at the scene has called his home and asked his wife if this man’s wife could stay with them until their family in Houston could come pick her up, and she said that she could. As it turned out, the family had some friends in the area who came and got the wife, and took them to their home to stay until the oldest son could pick her up.The youngest daughter, who was in nursing school at the time, wasn’t home, so the wife got ahold of her oldest daughter who remembered that the husband had written out everything he wanted done with his body before he left on that trip. He had never done that before.A few hours later, youngest daughter is at work at Houston NW Medical Center. She sees a pastor friend of the family and her younger brother coming through the glass that surrounds the Newborn Nursery where she is working that day. They take her into the nurse’s lounge where she is told that her father just died of a heart attack that day. It seemed like the end of her world, and yet, so bizarre and surreal because she had just been taking care of newborn babies.You see, this is the story of my father’s death. I wasn’t there when he died, but I am eternally grateful for the Paramedics, EMT’s and police officers, as well as hospital personnel who took care of my dad and my mom during this time. Thank you. I wish I could say more, but I don’t know what words can express anything more than THANK YOU.

  • Kiki B.

    If you don’t know exactly what to say to a grieving family member, wrap your two loving, gentle arms around them, and say, “I’m sorry”. That’s generally all that’s needed at the time, because what they usually want is for someone to acknowledge their loved one’s death, as they are in shock, and a shoulder to cry on.

  • Kiki B.

    If you don’t know exactly what to say to a grieving family member, wrap your two loving, gentle arms around them, and say, “I’m sorry”. That’s generally all that’s needed at the time, because what they usually want is for someone to acknowledge their loved one’s death, as they are in shock, and a shoulder to cry on.

  • cardiogirl

    As everyone has said, wonderful post. I don’t know how you can deal with this on a daily basis and not fall apart.Having said that, do you think it’s your audience or the fact that you are writing about strangers that evokes comments? I find when I write about my mother and brother’s failing health (Mom is Stage 6 Alzheimer’s and brother has progressive MS, bedridden, essentially paralyzed) I receive no comments. Just crickets chirping in the night.I actually wrote about that recently, saying I think people in general do not know how to deal with sadness and vulnerability. They shy away from it, but any other emotion is readily accepted. Maybe they just feel helpless and do not know what to say to comfort me. Regardless, I just find it curious.

  • cardiogirl

    As everyone has said, wonderful post. I don’t know how you can deal with this on a daily basis and not fall apart.Having said that, do you think it’s your audience or the fact that you are writing about strangers that evokes comments? I find when I write about my mother and brother’s failing health (Mom is Stage 6 Alzheimer’s and brother has progressive MS, bedridden, essentially paralyzed) I receive no comments. Just crickets chirping in the night.I actually wrote about that recently, saying I think people in general do not know how to deal with sadness and vulnerability. They shy away from it, but any other emotion is readily accepted. Maybe they just feel helpless and do not know what to say to comfort me. Regardless, I just find it curious.

  • Guilty Secret

    Wow, what sad, sad stories so beautifully written. It is clear how much you care from the level of detail you remember from such a long time ago. Thanks for sharing.

  • Guilty Secret

    Wow, what sad, sad stories so beautifully written. It is clear how much you care from the level of detail you remember from such a long time ago. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kyle J.

    As a green EMT and a Paramedic Student i haven’t yet had to inform someone that their family member is gone. I am dreading the day, not because i can’t handle the upset family, that is part of my job and i will just have to do it. It’s just that i don’t know how to word it. This post is something that Brady 5th edition just can’t teach. Thank you AD.

  • Kyle J.

    As a green EMT and a Paramedic Student i haven’t yet had to inform someone that their family member is gone. I am dreading the day, not because i can’t handle the upset family, that is part of my job and i will just have to do it. It’s just that i don’t know how to word it. This post is something that Brady 5th edition just can’t teach. Thank you AD.

  • PunkRockHillbilly

    This is the first time I have read your blog and I was truly touched. You have compassion and understanding that some of us will never get. Reading your words constricted my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

  • PunkRockHillbilly

    This is the first time I have read your blog and I was truly touched. You have compassion and understanding that some of us will never get. Reading your words constricted my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

  • Ambulance Driver

    “Having said that, do you think it’s your audience or the fact that you are writing about strangers that evokes comments?”Cardiogirl, if I knew why people leave comments, I’d be famous like Glenn Reynolds.Mostly, I just write and people like it. It my be that enough people haven’t discovered your blog yet, and the ones that have may already know the story.

  • Ambulance Driver

    “Having said that, do you think it’s your audience or the fact that you are writing about strangers that evokes comments?”Cardiogirl, if I knew why people leave comments, I’d be famous like Glenn Reynolds.Mostly, I just write and people like it. It my be that enough people haven’t discovered your blog yet, and the ones that have may already know the story.

  • Jeff

    Most people expect that people who take care of their health will all be like you.The problem is, there aren’t nearly enough people like you to fill all those jobs. And even people like you, with the best will in the world make goofs, sometimes bloomers.It can’t be helped! People are people. And we are not all compassionate geniuses 100% of the time. If you have the balls to take on a job with such high stakes, you have to have the balls to live with the fact that your bloomers will have outsize repercussions.Hard to understand for most of us. But I think one thing I take away from your blog is that I hope if I am ever in a medical disaster, I will have compassion for the people treating and transporting me, KNOWING that they cannot completely make me other than a part of their work routine. Even with the best will in the world.And to be really GRATEFUL for those who heroically manage to do so much more. Like yourself.Goodness benefits everyone in the world. So I believe. That’s part of the Spiritual Economy. So, thank you, too, from me. God bless.

  • Jeff

    Most people expect that people who take care of their health will all be like you.The problem is, there aren’t nearly enough people like you to fill all those jobs. And even people like you, with the best will in the world make goofs, sometimes bloomers.It can’t be helped! People are people. And we are not all compassionate geniuses 100% of the time. If you have the balls to take on a job with such high stakes, you have to have the balls to live with the fact that your bloomers will have outsize repercussions.Hard to understand for most of us. But I think one thing I take away from your blog is that I hope if I am ever in a medical disaster, I will have compassion for the people treating and transporting me, KNOWING that they cannot completely make me other than a part of their work routine. Even with the best will in the world.And to be really GRATEFUL for those who heroically manage to do so much more. Like yourself.Goodness benefits everyone in the world. So I believe. That’s part of the Spiritual Economy. So, thank you, too, from me. God bless.

  • Matt G

    I’ve found that the smallest comments are heard. Things that sounded trite to my own ears were recalled months later with thanks by widows and daughters. If your thing is to into a shell (it is, for many, and that’s okay), it’s acceptable to say without really feeling anything “I’m so sorry for your loss.” You would be, if your emotions weren’t putting on a suit of armor much thicker than those Nytrol rubber gloves. Also, if your thing is to feel too much, don’t find yourself getting into a shouting match with an angry, unreasoned family member. I’ve seen that, too. No, they don’t realize that it’s hurting you, too. But this was somebody’s fault, by-Gawd, and they’re gonna pay. And there you are.

  • Matt G

    fault, by-Gawd, and they’re gonna pay. And there you are.

  • Amy

    I took my first ACLS class about a year after I finished nursing school. It was a 2-day event at the time, and was taught by several different people, one of whom was a paramedic from my hometown. His topic was airways, and he told a gut-wrenching story about a 16 year-old kid who had lost control of his car while crossing a drawbridge in a torrential downpour. His car had crashed partway through the guardrail and was hanging about 200 feet above the water. The passenger in the car had been fully ejected and was clearly DOA. So, they got to work on the driver, who had been partially ejected. He had multiple facial fractures, but was still alive when they got to him. The medic talked about the challenge of trying to intubate a kid in a downpour, in the dark, in a precarious location. He said he knew right away that the kid was a goner, but he and his partner worked for 20 minutes to try to establish an airway, but in the process they lost his pulse and discovered a massive skull fracture. The medic said something about that particular kid on that particular night in that particular situation had affected him more than any of the other horrors he had seen over his career, and that even after 12 years he still thought about that kid and felt like a failure for not being able to do more for him. I just sat and listened, brushed away my tears, and said a silent prayer of thanks that this man had tried so hard to save my little brother’s life.

  • Amy

    I took my first ACLS class about a year after I finished nursing school. It was a 2-day event at the time, and was taught by several different people, one of whom was a paramedic from my hometown. His topic was airways, and he told a gut-wrenching story about a 16 year-old kid who had lost control of his car while crossing a drawbridge in a torrential downpour. His car had crashed partway through the guardrail and was hanging about 200 feet above the water. The passenger in the car had been fully ejected and was clearly DOA. So, they got to work on the driver, who had been partially ejected. He had multiple facial fractures, but was still alive when they got to him. The medic talked about the challenge of trying to intubate a kid in a downpour, in the dark, in a precarious location. He said he knew right away that the kid was a goner, but he and his partner worked for 20 minutes to try to establish an airway, but in the process they lost his pulse and discovered a massive skull fracture. The medic said something about that particular kid on that particular night in that particular situation had affected him more than any of the other horrors he had seen over his career, and that even after 12 years he still thought about that kid and felt like a failure for not being able to do more for him. I just sat and listened, brushed away my tears, and said a silent prayer of thanks that this man had tried so hard to save my little brother’s life.

  • TC

    Well, at least no one’s around this early in the morning to see me cry. I’m going to save this one.

  • TC

    Well, at least no one’s around this early in the morning to see me cry. I’m going to save this one.

  • Pangloss

    This is what I wrote about this site at my site.This blog is a remarkably clear-eyed, gracious, and courageous look at the very end of ordinary human lives from the viewpoint of the men who come to pick up the pieces.When I read an extract from this blog on The Belmont Club, my eyes grew misty and I thought intellectually about the end of life and what it means. When I clicked through and read the whole entry I teared up, then wept, then sobbed. And then I laughed, but not in relief. It didn’t let up. The cycle continued. What I did may be cliched, but it is not false. That is what amazingly talented storytellers and writers do with their words when they tell the right story. The characters in these autobiographical short-short-stories have first names, or they have titles like Pardner, Part-Time Temporary Partner, Trooper, and the girl with the prom dress. But they are no less real, no less true, for that. The writer, who calls himself Ambulance Driver, is so technically proficient, his style so natural and unaffected, and he is so sure of his subject matter that the reader is immediately drawn into the stories, even the short ones. He is ready to be widely published in hardback and I expect his books to be best-sellers.Read the comments. The Ambulance Driver’s stories are so good, so powerful, that the comments draw personal stories out of readers of his site of the ends of other lives, their relatives, friends, some strangers. Some of the comments are as powerful and affecting as the stories they respond to.I added him to my blogroll under Moral Clarity. I expect many others will add him to theirs as well.

  • Pangloss

    This blog is a remarkably clear-eyed, gracious, and courageous look at the very end of ordinary human lives from the viewpoint of the men who come to pick up the pieces.When I read an extract from this blog on The Belmont Club, my eyes grew misty and I thought intellectually about the end of life and what it means. When I clicked through and read the whole entry I teared up, then wept, then sobbed. And then I laughed, but not in relief. It didn’t let up. The cycle continued. What I did may be cliched, but it is not false. That is what amazingly talented storytellers and writers do with their words when they tell the right story. The characters in these autobiographical short-short-stories have first names, or they have titles like Pardner, Part-Time Temporary Partner, Trooper, and the girl with the prom dress. But they are no less real, no less true, for that. The writer, who calls himself Ambulance Driver, is so technically proficient, his style so natural and unaffected, and he is so sure of his subject matter that the reader is immediately drawn into the stories, even the short ones. He is ready to be widely published in hardback and I expect his books to be best-sellers.Read the comments. The Ambulance Driver’s stories are so good, so powerful, that the comments draw personal stories out of readers of his site of the ends of other lives, their relatives, friends, some strangers. Some of the comments are as powerful and affecting as the stories they respond to.I added him to my blogroll under Moral Clarity. I expect many others will add him to theirs as well.

  • Aunt Murry

    Wow. First time reader. I have always believed that I would always know the right thing to say and or do in any of those situations, guided by the hand of God. But more often than not, I just dumbfounded and end up with a cliche. Thanks for the lesson.

  • Aunt Murry

    Wow. First time reader. I have always believed that I would always know the right thing to say and or do in any of those situations, guided by the hand of God. But more often than not, I just dumbfounded and end up with a cliche. Thanks for the lesson.

  • CountyRat

    Thank you, AD. You said more then most could in so few words, which is why there are over fifty responses to this post.For those who missed AD’s point, and want or need some more formal information, here is what I offer. The answer to the question, “what are you supposed to say,” is simple: nothing. There is nothing to say. Don’t try to be smart. You aren’t smart enough, so don’t try. Don’t try to be compassionate. Its in you or it isn’t. Don’t try to work it up. And don’t offer any answers, because you don’t have any.What you do, what matters, all the answers to the “what do you do or say questions,” is this: you don’t DO anything, you just stay there. If they’re standing, you stand next to them. if there sitting, you sit next to them. If they’re crying, you can do that too, if you are cool with that (if you’re not, then don’t. It doesn’t matter).You are a bit player in the story of the worst moment of someone’s life. That’s all you are. All your “what do I say” questions arrise from an erroneous belief that you matter. You do not matter. So stop trying to figure out how to matter.What matters, the thing they will remember (if they remember you at all, which also does not matter) is that when they where suffering, someone stayed with them and let them suffer without adding words to their grief.Rav, all that matters is that you stay. And while you stay, that you suffer with them. Do that, and you have done it all. Do anything else, and you have done nothing.Then, give yourself three minutes to clear your mind, wipe your eyes, and move on to the next patient.

  • CountyRat

    Thank you, AD. You said more then most could in so few words, which is why there are over fifty responses to this post.For those who missed AD’s point, and want or need some more formal information, here is what I offer. The answer to the question, “what are you supposed to say,” is simple: nothing. There is nothing to say. Don’t try to be smart. You aren’t smart enough, so don’t try. Don’t try to be compassionate. Its in you or it isn’t. Don’t try to work it up. And don’t offer any answers, because you don’t have any.What you do, what matters, all the answers to the “what do you do or say questions,” is this: you don’t DO anything, you just stay there. If they’re standing, you stand next to them. if there sitting, you sit next to them. If they’re crying, you can do that too, if you are cool with that (if you’re not, then don’t. It doesn’t matter).You are a bit player in the story of the worst moment of someone’s life. That’s all you are. All your “what do I say” questions arrise from an erroneous belief that you matter. You do not matter. So stop trying to figure out how to matter.What matters, the thing they will remember (if they remember you at all, which also does not matter) is that when they where suffering, someone stayed with them and let them suffer without adding words to their grief.Rav, all that matters is that you stay. And while you stay, that you suffer with them. Do that, and you have done it all. Do anything else, and you have done nothing.Then, give yourself three minutes to clear your mind, wipe your eyes, and move on to the next patient.

  • CountyRat

    Thank you, AD. You said more then most could in so few words, which is why there are over fifty responses to this post.For those who missed AD’s point, and want or need some more formal information, here is what I offer. The answer to the question, “what are you supposed to say,” is simple: nothing. There is nothing to say. Don’t try to be smart. You aren’t smart enough, so don’t try. Don’t try to be compassionate. Its in you or it isn’t. Don’t try to work it up. And don’t offer any answers, because you don’t have any.What you do, what matters, all the answers to the “what do you do or say questions,” is this: you don’t DO anything, you just stay there. If they’re standing, you stand next to them. if there sitting, you sit next to them. If they’re crying, you can do that too, if you are cool with that (if you’re not, then don’t. It doesn’t matter).You are a bit player in the story of the worst moment of someone’s life. That’s all you are. All your “what do I say” questions arrise from an erroneous belief that you matter. You do not matter. So stop trying to figure out how to matter.What matters, the thing they will remember (if they remember you at all, which also does not matter) is that when they where suffering, someone stayed with them and let them suffer without adding words to their grief.Rav, all that matters is that you stay. And while you stay, that you suffer with them. Do that, and you have done it all. Do anything else, and you have done nothing.Then, give yourself three minutes to clear your mind, wipe your eyes, and move on to the next patient.

  • CountyRat

    Thank you, AD. You said more then most could in so few words, which is why there are over fifty responses to this post.For those who missed AD’s point, and want or need some more formal information, here is what I offer. The answer to the question, “what are you supposed to say,” is simple: nothing. There is nothing to say. Don’t try to be smart. You aren’t smart enough, so don’t try. Don’t try to be compassionate. Its in you or it isn’t. Don’t try to work it up. And don’t offer any answers, because you don’t have any.What you do, what matters, all the answers to the “what do you do or say questions,” is this: you don’t DO anything, you just stay there. If they’re standing, you stand next to them. if there sitting, you sit next to them. If they’re crying, you can do that too, if you are cool with that (if you’re not, then don’t. It doesn’t matter).You are a bit player in the story of the worst moment of someone’s life. That’s all you are. All your “what do I say” questions arrise from an erroneous belief that you matter. You do not matter. So stop trying to figure out how to matter.What matters, the thing they will remember (if they remember you at all, which also does not matter) is that when they where suffering, someone stayed with them and let them suffer without adding words to their grief.Rav, all that matters is that you stay. And while you stay, that you suffer with them. Do that, and you have done it all. Do anything else, and you have done nothing.Then, give yourself three minutes to clear your mind, wipe your eyes, and move on to the next patient.

  • Alexander

    Speaking both as a student Funeral Director and a man who has recently lost his father we could all use the compashion that you have shown AD and one day I hope I can show it as well as you do

  • Alexander

    Speaking both as a student Funeral Director and a man who has recently lost his father we could all use the compashion that you have shown AD and one day I hope I can show it as well as you do

  • tbair

    “Do you believe people can go to Heaven if they've never accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior? Bible says about Salvation through Acceptance & Confession of Jesus—(I know that to be true) I too believe it! Compassion, Love and Unconditional Acceptance!! You gave her exactly what she needed.

  • tbair

    “Do you believe people can go to Heaven if they've never accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior? Bible says about Salvation through Acceptance & Confession of Jesus—(I know that to be true) I too believe it! Compassion, Love and Unconditional Acceptance!! You gave her exactly what she needed.