And how does that make you feel?…

And how does that make you feel…

It’s something generic my counsellor always used to say, I got so used to waiting for it at the end of every speech she made. Now I’m thinking, I should be more disappointed, I should feel trapped, I should be gasping by now, I’m pretty sure I ran out of air a while back, but here I am, inhaling, exhaling, breathing, in rhythm, without strain, I’m asked how I feel and I sit here, in my ease, I breath, and remember him, 27, pale and blue lipped. 45 minutes of resuscitation, the look of hopelessness in his mother’s eyes, the ache in my chest as I stood there finding words that were floating somewhere above the head of his father asking me if we could transfer the body.

Just like that, he was dead, just like that, they began removing the defibrillator pads, the drips, the blood bags..I watched the blood drain onto the white sheet beneath him as I heard his accompanying doctor say he was thrown out of the vehicle as it rolled. Wear a seatbelt always my operator said as we sat in the vehicle waiting for the accompanying paramedic. Wear a seatbelt, I hated those incessant things. I remembered, we were informed he was bleeding profusely, but there wasn’t an open wound on him apart from the now draining blood from the injection site and blood bag. I turned to his mother, she had been crying for a while now, she said he was getting married in July, I didn’t know what to say, was there anything to say to begin with? I’m sorry for your loss. There is nothing I can do, and it isn’t my fault, I can’t fix this, but I apologise.

My colleagues began asking for payment for the ambulance services. Part of me was embarrassed, here we were amidst a grieving family, and immediately after issuing apologies, yes issuing because for them it seemed somewhat routine, it didn’t seem to phase them, I was confused, it didn’t seem to phase me, apart form the ache, which would pass. The other part of me realised this was business, the helicopter trip, was business, the hearse to transfer him, because we couldn’t, was business, the services of 45 minutes of resuscitation, epinephrine shots, normal saline, all business, even death wasn’t free anymore. I knew my colleagues were only doing as told. I began to wish we didn’t carry him, to avoid this entire mess.

Before you believe me heartless, let me take you back, to the moment we evacuated him from the helicopter. It was to land at 1600hrs. By 1539hrs, my colleagues and I had arrived at the field. One by one, members of the security team began informing us of the patients, there were 2, no wait, someone else said 3, wait, one died, now there were 2? or was it 1? I was confused, I’m sure they were too. There was another ambulance on site, that means they have to be 3 right? with one dead, because one ambulance can’t carry two critical patients. The second ambulance was for the body of the dead patient, we were told. but he was to be brought by road? This game of broken telephone was getting old, it was already 1600hrs and still no helicopter on site. Is everything ready? Yes. We were prepped. Neck collar, check, spine board, check, cannulas, check, giving set, check, gloves, check, gloves for everyone on site apparently, check, normal saline, prepped and flushed, check, what else, oh yes, constant check ins with false information from the security on site, as broken as can possibly be, gauze, lots of gauze, check. ETA…12 mins. A minute later, that’s them, we heard one guy from the security say, I echoed that it was the car engine he was hearing, and it was. Are we really relying on them… 11 minutes later, they arrived.

I’d never been so close to a helicopter, it literally mowed the lawn, pulling grass off the field and into the ambulance. We offloaded the stretcher, they signalled us to approach, ducking to avoid the spinning propellers. We loaded him on the spine board. He had no pulse, his accompanying doctor began to inform me about the skull fracture and possible haemothorax the patient suffered, in short, his head, was pretty banged up, he had clots everywhere, his lips were turning blue, he had no pulse. In the ambulance, drip, still, no pulse, in the hospital, he had no pulse. See why we shouldn’t have loaded him? He was dead long before, how long ago, is what I couldn’t figure out, and why the doctor on board didn’t attempt chest compressions…

My mind quickly switched, this is my last day on shift, my first day began with a death as the first call and today, my last day, ended with a death as the last call. I left the accident and emergency area, sat in the car, I could see his family, as more and more calls were made, more of them arrived, crying, being strong, calling more loved ones, I didn’t cause his death, but somehow I couldn’t look them in the eye, like we couldn’t save him even though a part of me was sure he was already dead. I kept thinking, what if his doctor was better, his seatbelt was on, the hospital reacted faster, the compressions were done sooner, what if he could be saved by a minute’s difference in reaction, I kept seeing his mother as I loaded the stretcher onto the ambulance, I cleaned his blood off it, and sat in front. I put music on, but his family members kept walking past, it felt disrespectful to be enjoying something on the worst possible day of their lives, I reduced the volume.

So here I am, breathing and living, wondering why things not working the way I wanted for me, in my life, doesn’t phase me, I’m asking myself why when people say, “that sucks” or “you must be bummed” I keep seeing that boy, 27 years old, the girl who was shaking him awake, I keep seeing the man I saw on day 1, his daughter begging him not to go, when he was dead before we arrived, I keep seeing that 8 year old refugee boy, who’s face was swollen and whose body was featherweight, or that man on the wheelbarrow, 32 but he looked 60, whose right side was paralysed from being hit by cars more than once or twice, I keep seeing these people, so when I’m asked how I feel, the one thing that comes to mind is, alive.

By m_Y Broken Mind.


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