“GSW/HEAD POSS DOA/NOT BREATHING” read the notes on the screen of the MDT.
I can literally see the adrenelin coursing through my partner’s veins, and I can literally hear his heart rate increase to a sinus tachycardia with frequent PACs. He has obviously never run a shooting before, and I think I can smell the wet ink on his EMT card.
“YES!!!!” he yells in a voice that is all too loud for the front seat of a small ambulance, as he slams the gear shift into drive.
Somehow we manage to make it to the front of the neighborhood in one piece, minus a little bit of rubber from the rear tires. Now we are staging.
10 minutes after we begin staging, the county dispatcher contacts the engine crew. “Engine 22, PD hasn’t advised the scene is clear, but they advise obvious DOA, and have requested a crime scene investigator. Will advise when scene is safe to enter.”
“Medic 7, County” I call. “Medic Seven.” “County, cancel 22, I believe we can handle.”
Engine 22 pulls away from the scene, into the rising sun.
After being cleared for entry by the county dispatcher, we make our way into the house.
“Upstairs, third door on the left, make sure not to mess anything up, CCC.” says the PD Lieutenant who has known me for years.
“I never do, Lou.”
If it weren’t for gravity, I swear this kid next to me would be bouncing off the walls and the ceiling.
A cursory glance at the patient from the doorway confirms what everyone else already knows, the voice of EMS simply being a required formality in this jurisdiction.
Partner’s eyes are big enough to eat dinner from. I have a feeling mine reveal different emotions. We make our way back to the front of the well kept, middle-class home, my partner heading towards the ambulance, not to be seen for a few minutes. I gravitate towards the gathered police and family members down stairs.
I learn the man upstairs is a husband of 30 years, and a father of 4. He was to become a grandfather in several months. He worked as an architect for a firm building high rise buildings in the big city, and has battled depression for most of his adult life.
His wife is remarkably stoic, but appears empty inside. As if the weight of the situation has not fully set in. His high-school aged son, now the man of the house, is remarkably composed, as I hear him talking on his phone in the kitchen, canceling some events that were previously planned for this evening. “I can’t make it, bro. I’ll call you later, okay?”
I learn a lot about my patient in just a few short moments. I look into the eyes of his wife, and express my condolences. I ask if she is sure that she is okay, and make sure there is nothing else I can do for her before I leave. She assures me there isn’t, and thanks me with genuine emotion.
Lou obtains the necessary information from me as I leave the house, assuring me that this is a pretty clear suicide, and no foul play is suspected.
I climb back into the ambulance, and can no sooner reach for the radio to return to service, when partner, still in sinus tachycardia, looks at me with a big grin.
“Dude, that was awesome!”
Now a part of me is mad, and I can’t help it.
“No, it wasn’t ‘awesome.’ It is terrible. There are three children inside that home who just lost their father. There is a wife in that home who came home from running errands to find her husband of 30 years dead in their bed. And not just dead, but a traumatic dead. There is a pregnant lady somewhere near by who lost her dad, and who’s baby will never have him as a grandfather. There is a company that no longer has a coworker, and friends who will never get to see him again. There won’t be an open casket, and that image you saw in that bedroom is the last vision his children, and his wife, will ever have of him. It’s not fucking awesome, and it’s not cool. Grow up.”
Later, I wanted to apologize to him. But I didn’t. The kid is going to have to learn some how.
Our patients are more than just patients. They are someone’s family.