I have been to countless emergency responses over my twelve years in public safety. I have dealt with children in crisis in my career as an elementary teacher before that. I know how to handle myself on scenes, big, small, difficult”¦ At least I thought I did; until the call to 9-1-1 was initiated from my own home, and it involved my eight year old son.
My husband and I are both first responders, we both hold our EMT certifications and respond to emergency medical calls as part of our daily routine. Others say it’s lucky, that two people couldn’t be more prepared than we were. I would like to think that is the truth, but other than the oxygen we happened to have on hand, because it was in the back of my squad, there wasn’t much more we could do.
What it really meant was that we knew how bad things were getting, and also knew there was nothing we could do about it. We had to choose who went in the ambulance, which is never a good choice in this situation. The one who rides in knows how and why they are doing everything, and how bad that means things are. The other one knows that things are going downhill, fast ”“ but there’s nothing you can do about it as the ambulance pulls away with lights and sirens.
In the emergency room, we watched an unresponsive, intubated, little body and counted the seconds between each bag squeeze. Critiquing how much pressure the ER nurse uses to squeeze the bag, and silently scold when the count is off. We watched the staff struggling to get things done with too few hands and had to pull ours back from automatically pitching in. We knew the names of the drugs that they pumped into him, and what it meant when they were calling for them.
The ER nurse recognized me from when I was there for another call, and gave me a silent nod. Except in the back of our minds we both know this isn’t just any call ”“ for me. The ER staffÂ don’t hide concerns or conversations, which is both a blessing and a curse. We appreciate the work that is being done because we’ve been on the other side.
The problem is, I have different eyes now. I am looking through the tear-filled eyes, terrified that my last conversation with my little boy was really my last conversation, and now he’s slipping away. Having more knowledge about what is happening only leads to more questions. When questions can’t be answered, I start answering them myself. Filling in blanks I’m not trained to fill in.
My son, thankfully, is doing better. He doesn’t even remember what happened. He is dealing with our restrictions on being a normal, everyday, wiggly kid ”“ having to sit still and stop doing flips until we can pinpoint exactly what caused the loss of consciousness and breathing difficulties. I struggle with the lack of clear answers, but at the same time, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the quick police and paramedic response and I’m grateful for the new perspective, so that I can be a better responder to the patients, and families, in crisis.