The call location was an address in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in town. The patient was a middle-aged man that was depressed about some things and it just got to be too much. An overdose would end it all. And it did.
That was an emergency call that took place during my early career many years ago. Over three decades in emergency service hasn’t helped me understand many of the tragedies we face. But it has given me a unique perspective on how emergency responders deal with tragedy.
One of the toughest medics I ever worked with was a woman. Most thought she was a rough, tough broad that had a heart of steel. They were wrong. More than once I saw the tears she tried to hide. But, she was tough – tough enough to work a complete career.
Some believe medics are wired with a shortage of compassion. And, that might be true for a few, but it’s not the norm. Here’s what I think.
I believe most medics metaphorically put on a full set of body armor when they respond to emergencies. The incident – as we call it – is focused on the patient. If the patient happens to be deceased, then we transform the situation into a learning experience.
That explains the incident itself, but what about the large amount of time after the call? Does the body armor stay on indefinitely? I don’t believe it does. This is what I believe is the second piece to the puzzle.
It’s a concept called, “Just the Good Times.” An episode in the sitcom called “Everybody Loves Raymond” explains it well.
The lead character in the sitcom is named Raymond. As the best man in his brother’s wedding he gives a toast. About everything bad that could happen with family interference had just happened. But, Raymond’s message to the family and friends was that they weren’t going to focus on those times. They would only remember the good times.
That I believe is what medics do in their professional life. Unfortunately, I also believe they do it subconsciously. I say unfortunately, because medics typically aren’t any better than the average Joe at blocking out bad events in their everyday lives.
I challenge all medics to recognize what a great skill you have. But, take it a step further and practice it in your everyday life. And, help other non-medics do the same.
Just the good times… just the good times.
p.s. I met the Fort Leavenworth command officer when I worked in Leavenworth. When this officer was in the field he had a driver. His name was Elvis.