It’s the end of the week and you have a few days off. You sit down and have a chance to review the week of work behind you. It wasn’t much different from the other weeks. The hours and days passed without notice. You had some wins and some losses. You got in and out of your gear more times than you can remember. You got in and out of the ambulance more times than you could count. You reflect on what you have done and said to your friends, coworkers, patients and families. That funny thing that someone said at the perfect time makes you laugh out loud again as you sink into the couch for some much needed rest. It was a good week. You put it in the win column.
As you sit and your mind starts to rest, it starts to look back like it always does. What about the losses? What have you done for the ones that didn’t make it? What about the lose column? You can’t help where your mind goes. It’s human nature to not have closure on some things. In life. In love. In work. It’s what happens when you have been exposed. Exposed to the deep and the dark. Exposed to the toxins that don’t leave your brain. Exposed to the negative energy that you wade into like a lake of oil that is hard to wash off when you step out of it. You walk into a scene and don’t feel the energy but you can feel it when you leave. It’s the stench that we all recognize on each other. The pheromones that only we can sense.
So the images start to filter in. The upside down car. The big guy with back pain that took an hour to get up and out of the house. The old lady that just wanted you to let her die but the paperwork wasn’t signed so you pulverized her ribs all the way to the ED. The images come in like they are shot from a cannon. They fly in from all directions. They have different sizes. Some 3×5, some 8×10 and some are wall size murals of failure that plaster themselves to the inside walls of your mind to hang there until the adhesive breaks down or they are replaced by something worse. They are all on the pages of your mental photo album too. The one you keep filling your entire career. The one gift you give yourself when you retire. It’s yours and yours alone.
You try to force some pictures to be changed. You don’t want them to stay. They are just to dark. They didn’t develop well because your mind can’t even comprehend what it saw so it smears the ink, it blends the colors and it ruins the picture. It’s a safety mechanism so you don’t go mad. It doesn’t let you destroy it. Your mind in self-preservation mode. You appreciate the safety measure because you know that you don’t have a parachute. If the darkness in the picture starts to develop and you see what your mind is trying to hide, you will never be the same functioning person in society. Your name will be in the paper under the headline “Tragedy”, ” Active Shooter” or “A Sad End To A Brave Persons Life”. You know that would be the end or at least fear that it could be.
And then, as you sit there, images shoot in from the back. It’s a reel of pictures from the same scene. The first, your Supervisor throwing the back doors of the medic open with a baby in his arms. The second, him jumping in and laying the lifeless child on the cot. The third, you putting the OPA in and bagging the baby. The fourth, the look on your young partners face that he can’t even believe this is happening. The other images on the reel are flashes of drilling the IO into the tiny leg, compressions on the babies chest, supplies strewn all over the medic and the shifting supplies in the cabinet as the guy who jumped off of the fire engine to help drives like it’s Grand Theft Auto to get you to the ED. The last image is the pale baby wrapped in a blanket on the ED bed after the Doctor says there is nothing else we can do. The final answer to the question of how this will end. You are glad it’s not you making the decision this time but it hurts just the same.
The reel doesn’t end with that. The other pictures are the faces of your friends and coworkers in the wake of that disaster. The look on your partners face when he sits down to collect his thoughts to do the report. The look of the ED staff that know their work has just started because this is going to be a long day of hearing people cry and scream and asking why. The look of the back of the medic in the aftermath of a tragedy. The images go in your album. Pinned in with the sadness and dread that you will flip to that page someday when you don’t expect it.
You sit and review the pictures in your mind. You distract yourself for a second with a cat video on the internet but you get back to picture editing. You tell yourself that the pictures are in the album so you can close the book whenever you want. You attempt it but it doesn’t close yet.
An hour passes and you finally get some relief. You focus on resting your mind and drift off into a daze, staring at the ceiling. The album closes and you think about other things. You have to be ready for when everyone gets home. You have to be awake and alert to their day. You have to engage. They don’t get to leaf through the pages of your album. That’s all yours. And you are happy for them that it is.
Thanks for stopping by and as always, watch each others six. It’s getting crazy out there.