I went on my first two calls and they terrified me

Sandiistaken123

Forum Probie
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So I’m 16 years old and nearly done with training, but for the final part I had to do two ride alongs, which was fine by me. Tho within those two ride alongs I witnessed three corpses; the first was a cardiac arrest call for an old man in diapers who threw up then croaked. I was assigned to do BVMs, but I knew he was gone already. The second was an obese 18 year old who did not resuscitate, and the third was a medical alert to an old man’s condo. His neighbor came out and told us that it was a false alarm, that his dog pulled the alert, and that he was sound asleep in bed. He was right about the bed part, but he wasn’t sleeping. Given the rigor mortis and vomit it looked like he had been dead for at least three hours. The paramedics had a meeting with me after because they wanted to make sure I was ok, being a 16 year old girl and seeing so many deaths so quickly. I told them I was, but I can’t stop imagining the smell of the corpse and imagining my parents in their place, with the LUKAS strapped onto them and adjuncts stuffed in their mouths. Is this normal? How do I get over it? I really like the concept of being an EMT, I just wish I had time to get used to the deaths first…
 

mgr22

Forum Deputy Chief
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It's unusual that you'd see so many dead people on only two shifts. Most EMS patients are alive and relatively stable. Maybe you just need more time to process what happened. Talking about it with friends and family might help.

Remember, you always have an option to step aside. Feel free to test your limits while gaining education and experience.
 

ffemtrb

Forum Probie
20
16
3
I have been an EMT since 1976 and have scene my share of deceased patients. To have 3 in such a short time is
in my opinion unusually high. My heart goes out to you. I commend you for being on your way to becoming an EMT,
please continue and complete your training.

One thing to remember is we do not create the circumstances we we respond to.
You can't(shouldn't) beat yourself up if there is a run of bad calls. We are
there to assist and render care within our scope of practice and training.
We are normal people(wait are EMTs realy normal? - Hi - Hi) in abnormal situations.
It is good to talk with your peers and crew after calls like the ones you were on.
We all have more in common than our differences. You will probably find that
everyone has similar feelings. Be ready for dark humor. It is a coping and defense
measure many emergency responders use.

If you have a mentor, preceptor and another responder that you trust, please
reach out and talk about your feelings. You sound like a caring and compassionate
person. Talking with another responder will probably get you to the conclusion
that you are normal.

A lot of EMS is like the Charlie Brown cartoon about urinating on yourself in a dark colored suit - only you will know.
I find a lot of EMS calls give inner satisfaction when you help someone or make a difference. Every call is an opportunity to
make a difference in someone's life. EMS calls I find are also like potato chips, you can't have just one.
A lot of the satisfaction is internal and comes from you knowing you have completed a job well done.

Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people, and then we are called to assist.
As long as you follow your training, protocols and scope of practice, you should always keep your head held high,
even if the outcome for the patient is not a good one. We do need to develop a hard shell
and maintain a professional attitude at the scene. We do our job, we provide the assessment and care
needed as the clinicians that we are. Maybe we shed a tear in private. And then move on. We can't
beat ourselves up for circumstances beyond our control.

I hope this is a start in a long career in EMS for you and that when you receive your EMT
certification you will be a caring clinician. I wish you all the best and again, my heart goes out
to you for the run of bad calls that you were on. Hoping for a good 2024 for you.
 
OP
OP
S

Sandiistaken123

Forum Probie
26
1
3
It's unusual that you'd see so many dead people on only two shifts. Most EMS patients are alive and relatively stable. Maybe you just need more time to process what happened. Talking about it with friends and family might help.

Remember, you always have an option to step aside. Feel free to test your limits while gaining education and experience.
That’s what the paramedics told me, they had a meeting with me and my mother since I’m a minor. I appreciated it but it still scared me
 
OP
OP
S

Sandiistaken123

Forum Probie
26
1
3
I have been an EMT since 1976 and have scene my share of deceased patients. To have 3 in such a short time is
in my opinion unusually high. My heart goes out to you. I commend you for being on your way to becoming an EMT,
please continue and complete your training.

One thing to remember is we do not create the circumstances we we respond to.
You can't(shouldn't) beat yourself up if there is a run of bad calls. We are
there to assist and render care within our scope of practice and training.
We are normal people(wait are EMTs realy normal? - Hi - Hi) in abnormal situations.
It is good to talk with your peers and crew after calls like the ones you were on.
We all have more in common than our differences. You will probably find that
everyone has similar feelings. Be ready for dark humor. It is a coping and defense
measure many emergency responders use.

If you have a mentor, preceptor and another responder that you trust, please
reach out and talk about your feelings. You sound like a caring and compassionate
person. Talking with another responder will probably get you to the conclusion
that you are normal.

A lot of EMS is like the Charlie Brown cartoon about urinating on yourself in a dark colored suit - only you will know.
I find a lot of EMS calls give inner satisfaction when you help someone or make a difference. Every call is an opportunity to
make a difference in someone's life. EMS calls I find are also like potato chips, you can't have just one.
A lot of the satisfaction is internal and comes from you knowing you have completed a job well done.

Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people, and then we are called to assist.
As long as you follow your training, protocols and scope of practice, you should always keep your head held high,
even if the outcome for the patient is not a good one. We do need to develop a hard shell
and maintain a professional attitude at the scene. We do our job, we provide the assessment and care
needed as the clinicians that we are. Maybe we shed a tear in private. And then move on. We can't
beat ourselves up for circumstances beyond our control.

I hope this is a start in a long career in EMS for you and that when you receive your EMT
certification you will be a caring clinician. I wish you all the best and again, my heart goes out
to you for the run of bad calls that you were on. Hoping for a good 2024 for you.
That means a lot for you to say that, thank you. I do consider myself to be very caring and compassionate, I hope this will do me well in future EMS calls. Even the paramedics were confused on why three people died in two days; I guess it was just bad luck
 

CCCSD

Forum Deputy Chief
1,813
1,122
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That’s what the paramedics told me, they had a meeting with me and my mother since I’m a minor. I appreciated it but it still scared me
A Minor should not be placed in this situation, nor be part of an EMS crew. This is a PTSD moment that will dominate forever.
 

ffemtrb

Forum Probie
20
16
3
On the previous comment on minors not being on an EMS, I have a few comments on the positive side.

I am a volunteer firefighter and EMT in New York State. My son started running fire calls with me since he was
a boy, he joined the fire dept. when he turned 16(members need to be at least 16) and became an EMT at 17.
New York State lets people 16 years or older be certified as a Certified First Responder (CFR/EMR)
and 17 or older to become an Emergency Medical Technician(EMT).

I think that if someone has the desire to serve their community and is old enough to become
a member of a fire department or EMS Squad - go for it. We need more people with that desire
to serve their community. Way to go! Pay it forward!

An example was on the national news in January 2022 about a group of high school students
that got their town's ambulance running again.
It is posted on Youtube:
I think it is to the credit of these young people that their town has an ambulance.
 

E tank

Caution: Paralyzing Agent
1,593
1,446
113
On the previous comment on minors not being on an EMS, I have a few comments on the positive side.

I am a volunteer firefighter and EMT in New York State. My son started running fire calls with me since he was
a boy, he joined the fire dept. when he turned 16(members need to be at least 16) and became an EMT at 17.
New York State lets people 16 years or older be certified as a Certified First Responder (CFR/EMR)
and 17 or older to become an Emergency Medical Technician(EMT).

I think that if someone has the desire to serve their community and is old enough to become
a member of a fire department or EMS Squad - go for it. We need more people with that desire
to serve their community. Way to go! Pay it forward!

An example was on the national news in January 2022 about a group of high school students
that got their town's ambulance running again.
It is posted on Youtube:
I think it is to the credit of these young people that their town has an ambulance.
I don't disagree, but the psychological effect of exposure to traumatic scenes in the young cannot be dismissed. It will absolutely accelerate the cumulative traumatic stress injury over the course of even a short career. If youngsters are going to be escorted into this field, the adults have a moral obligation and duty to mitigate the emotional, spiritual and psychologic distress that will come sooner or later.

I started at about her age and that didn't happen for me and the consequences were not good. The young lady that OP'd should be referred for EMDR therapy as soon as possible IMO. Would she do OK without it? Probably, but if she stays in the business for any meaningful period of time, it could interrupt a very unhealthy trajectory going forward in her life and career. It would also raise her consciousness and put her in the position assisting others that need help.
 

mgr22

Forum Deputy Chief
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According to the OP, the medics engaged with her and her family after those calls, which sounds like a good after-action starting point at least. Perhaps further intervention would be helpful. Based on my own experiences, I'd say that depends largely on the skills of the third party. An inflexible, script-driven debriefing done just to check that box might hurt more than it helps.

Then there's the opportunity to build confidence by facing and overcoming fear, even as a minor.
 

CCCSD

Forum Deputy Chief
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So your 16 year old examples are completely developed in maturity, cognitive development, ability to run their own lives, etc.

Nope. They can’t even get off SMS…
 

PotatoMedic

Has no idea what I'm doing.
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I don't disagree, but the psychological effect of exposure to traumatic scenes in the young cannot be dismissed. It will absolutely accelerate the cumulative traumatic stress injury over the course of even a short career. If youngsters are going to be escorted into this field, the adults have a moral obligation and duty to mitigate the emotional, spiritual and psychologic distress that will come sooner or later.

I started at about her age and that didn't happen for me and the consequences were not good. The young lady that OP'd should be referred for EMDR therapy as soon as possible IMO. Would she do OK without it? Probably, but if she stays in the business for any meaningful period of time, it could interrupt a very unhealthy trajectory going forward in her life and career. It would also raise her consciousness and put her in the position assisting others that need help.
I second the EMDR.
 

EMTnow

Forum Ride Along
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0
1
So I’m 16 years old and nearly done with training, but for the final part I had to do two ride alongs, which was fine by me. Tho within those two ride alongs I witnessed three corpses; the first was a cardiac arrest call for an old man in diapers who threw up then croaked. I was assigned to do BVMs, but I knew he was gone already. The second was an obese 18 year old who did not resuscitate, and the third was a medical alert to an old man’s condo. His neighbor came out and told us that it was a false alarm, that his dog pulled the alert, and that he was sound asleep in bed. He was right about the bed part, but he wasn’t sleeping. Given the rigor mortis and vomit it looked like he had been dead for at least three hours. The paramedics had a meeting with me after because they wanted to make sure I was ok, being a 16 year old girl and seeing so many deaths so quickly. I told them I was, but I can’t stop imagining the smell of the corpse and imagining my parents in their place, with the LUKAS strapped onto them and adjuncts stuffed in their mouths. Is this normal? How do I get over it? I really like the concept of being an EMT, I just wish I had time to get used to the deaths first…
Tough break kid, in some ways it's good you got to see how bad the job can get before you became a full-fledged medic. Take care of yourself, EMS is not an easy profession think hard about why you're joining this profession. This is coming from someone who joined for the wrong reasons then had to reevaluate and decide to push thru and be better. your wellbeing and health of mind is worth a seconds thought.
 

Akulahawk

EMT-P/ED RN
Community Leader
4,968
1,359
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OP: I would have to throw in my 2 bits. 1st, like some above have said, being exposed to what you did in that short period of time is actually pretty rare in EMS. Even in the ED it's not hugely common. It does happen though. Part of working in EMS, and more slowly in life in general, is coming to terms that death is a part of life. If you're going to be in this field for a while you WILL witness more death. Some will be traumatic/dramatic and some will be far less so. Hopefully you will also learn that often the family is your patient as much as the actual patient is.

Also like others have said, you're going to need some support to help you process what you have experienced. Without some prior preparation, what you are going through is completely normal. Often even with as much preparation as we can provide, what you're going through is normal for what you have experienced. Most of us have become somewhat desensitized to a lot of what we experience because we have become, sometimes, too familiar with it. Therefore most of us process death scenes differently than you do. My biggest advice for you is to find someone that can do the psychological/emotional care you need to help you process this. I guarantee you WILL remember this for the rest of your life. With appropriate care/therapy, it will not dominate your life. The longer you wait, the more likely it will develop into PTSD instead of simply being an unpleasant memory.

EMDR. Do it.
 

Phillyrube

Leading Chief
194
130
43
I've had that happen. You go to a call and fire guys call out "Here comes Dr. Death."
CISM, talk it out, keep doing what you do.
 

johnrsemt

Forum Deputy Chief
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It is hard, I have been in EMS for going on 26 years; and last week at my PT job we had 3 deaths in 22 hours. Got ROSC back 4 times on 1 of them, and transported him 135 miles to a hospital and he was alive when we got there.

It is hard, I remember most of my dead patients, but I remember a lot of the live ones too.

Should kids see death like this, no idea on that: I know the 1st dead person I saw was when I was 14, and hiking. Do I remember her? yes; do I have dreams about her? no.
I have nightmares about some of the stuff I see now though.


Keep up the the good and grow from it, and get help if neeed.
 

COVA2006

Forum Probie
13
6
3
So I’m 16 years old and nearly done with training, but for the final part I had to do two ride alongs, which was fine by me. Tho within those two ride alongs I witnessed three corpses; the first was a cardiac arrest call for an old man in diapers who threw up then croaked. I was assigned to do BVMs, but I knew he was gone already. The second was an obese 18 year old who did not resuscitate, and the third was a medical alert to an old man’s condo. His neighbor came out and told us that it was a false alarm, that his dog pulled the alert, and that he was sound asleep in bed. He was right about the bed part, but he wasn’t sleeping. Given the rigor mortis and vomit it looked like he had been dead for at least three hours. The paramedics had a meeting with me after because they wanted to make sure I was ok, being a 16 year old girl and seeing so many deaths so quickly. I told them I was, but I can’t stop imagining the smell of the corpse and imagining my parents in their place, with the LUKAS strapped onto them and adjuncts stuffed in their mouths. Is this normal? How do I get over it? I really like the concept of being an EMT, I just wish I had time to get used to the deaths first…
Is there a CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) team in your area? As an EMT-I and now an EMT-B/Firefighter, CISM teams are very helpful. Ask your EMS leadership, they should know. It will help you to process the hard calls.
 
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