Friday, March 4, 2011

Life and death.

A blogger recently wrote about encountering sadness working in the field of EMS and firefighting. I have encountered it during my stint as an EMT and also at times at the hospital. A lot of people that are not in the field do not understand how we are able to do the job and not let it affect us. Well we do it because the job needs to be done and also because over time we are able to compartmentalize it and go on to the next call or job. If not we would all go nuts.

The people that work in this field learn on the job how to deal with their emotions and lock them away while doing their job. The ones that can't don't last for long. Later on we may think about it and wonder if we could have done anything differently. And once in a while there is a call that stays with us and the memories about it pop up from time to time.

Most of the ones that are successful in doing this survive by finding ways to deal with their emotions and are able to lead normal lives. Some of the ways that we are able to do that is by dark humor, drinking, blogging, or talking with our buddies. A firefighter friend of mine is a close friend and we would talk about these things. He is able to talk about his feelings honestly, not feel judged by me, and knows that I understand where he is coming from. He is a typical male firefighter with a huge ego and feels that to verbalize his feelings would make him look weak in front of his crew members. With me he is able to let his guard down and open up and some may look at it as cheap therapy.

Once a non EMS person remarked to me how she thought we were emotionless robots and that was the only reason we are able to do the job. I told her that we all have feelings and have had to learn to deal with the stuff we see. If we don't then we burn out or go batty. I told her about the calls that have stayed with me and how I dealt with it. She had a glimmer about what we deal with but still didn't understand it totally. I guess you have to live the life to be able to understand it.

The most haunting thing that I know every EMS person has dealt with is what my fellow blogger calls "The Howl". He hit it on the nail with that. It is the cry from family members when they are told the patient didn't make it. It hits you deep in your core and it echos in your mind. I may not remember details about those cases but I will forever remember "The Howl".

So while we all may be successful in hiding our emotions and feelings we are still human. We all need someone to bare our souls to once in a while.


  1. It takes a special person to do those jobs, I'm always grateful for people like you..........

  2. You are needed.

    In my small universe (our family) I am the one who has to handle emergencies. I've had to take several pets to the vet and see them put down, have had to be calm when my husband cut his leg with a chain saw, and quick when the kids were bumped or bruised.

    Now I know none of this is a comparison to what you need to do as am EMT, but I think I can understand how you can be calm when you are working. Someone has to.

  3. :( I know that sound too well. I'll never forget my dad watching my mom take her last breath, and what erupted out of him after.

    I think anyone who cares for people when they are sick are angels. You are one of them, my friend!