Archive for March, 2011

Time of death: 12:44 AM.

March 13th, 2011 1 comment

Watched a woman die tonight.

Not the first time I’ve seen a stranger “expire” ( the polite word that’s used instead of “croak”), and I will guarantee that this will not be the last – unfortunately, a fairly common event in my line of work.

EMTs are supposedly these callous, world-weary people, seen it all twice. I did not get that from any of my coworkers tonight. There were some very somber faces around that room, mine included. I was stricken-looking enough for one of the other EMTs to comment on it, ask if I was okay. The three EMTs who were involved with this patient discussed the matter over chocolate milk and cigarettes in the ambulance bay. We joked a little, got a little serious, separated along predictable ideological lines. The religious guy mentioned how he was somewhat more comfortable with it because of his faith. The agnostics both shrugged and wondered.

I didn’t mention this to them, but it does bother me, seeing a stranger die. Not a lot, but definitely enough to warrant exploration. Logically I know that it’s as natural a part of life as birth, but there’s still something…mystical about it. I suppose the difference comes in the timing – birth is a culmination of nine months worth of incubation, while death can easily come seemingly out of nowhere. It could just as easily be said that this death was the culmination of 77 years of incubation.

I guess I should take some comfort in the fact that I’ve been doing this for a while now, and it still gets to me. Still have a heart in there somewhere.

I passed the bereavement room on my way out of the locker room, headed home after my shift,  two hours after our docs called the code.  I saw and heard the tears. I wanted to go in and say hello, tell them a little about how it happened, how I’ve lost people close to me as well, how she’d lived a long and probably very happy life, how everything would be okay. I’ve been in that room, on their end of it. When I was there I was so numb the words wouldn’t have meant anything, didn’t mean anything when people said them to me. Maybe that’s why I kept walking out to my truck, didn’t even break stride. Maybe that heart is buried a little deeper than I’d like it to be these days. Maybe I didn’t look official enough in my leather jacket and jeans. Maybe I just wanted to go home after another long shift.

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