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KyleKIR

How do you deal with death?

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I've dealt fairly well with it. At the time I've been able to tuck it away and do my job, not an EMT yet, but have been exposed to death quite a bit. I've had buddies bleeding next to me, I've had the bodies infront of me, and I've sat on a helicopter landing zone for almost 20 minutes doing CPR on a kid and controlling aircraft, just to have him die the minute we put him on the bird. You need to focus on your tasks at hand, but you're also human and need to deal with it at some point. Dealing with it in a healthy manner is the important part, Dont try to get to the bottom of a thousand bottles of booze. I've seen a few buddies ruin marriages like that. Me I've used multiple techniques. Working out like a mad man, being the 240 pound guy with a beard crying in the back of an armored truck, and did an MMA work out until I was so exhausted I had to sleep.

I was dealing with it poorly until my wife threatened to leave me. She pushed me to go and get help. I had lots of issues. Once I started getting help I realized how many outlets I had at my disposal.

In short, everybody deals with it differently. Some people will appear to be an emotional stone, some will wear it on their sleeve. I'm generally a sleeve kind of guy but I deal well.

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In my six years in EMS, I've only had one code that I've worked on. I live in a very rural area. There have been other codes but I've just not worked them (I think between five and 8 in my call area total). It was one of my first runs. A gun shot wound (self inflicted in the chest) in a man that was one of my husband's best friends. He'd held my children and eaten at my table many times. Even now, five years later, I tear up about it. I was involved in the code (pushing the AED button). How I managed to hold it together the 15 miles to the hospital I'll never know, but I did. I walked passed his family that was waiting, out the ED doors and around to the other side of the ambulance and lost it. I did it out of view of his family, which was my only goal.

How death affects a person is a deeply personal issue. In the last five years, my family has lost a best friend, another friend (both to suicide), an aunt to a motorcycle accident, another aunt to lung disease (both under the age of 43), two grandmothers, my husbands stepfather, my dad, my husbands dad (all between 46 and 52) and a cousin. That's enough for a life time. Add that to the fact that I used to work at a long time care facility, while I'm not "immune" to death, it just doesn't bother me as much anymore, unless it's a close family member.

I'm terrified, however, of running a call that involves a child, especially one around my own children's ages. You'll never forget your first code. I still have moments (few and far between) where I see my husband's best friend and think of the what ifs.

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John, excellent post Brother...really useful.

Grief is really strange, and the reasons that we cry over it varied I think. I grew up 'redneck proud' and would cry over nothing, ever. Now I cry every time I leave Babs and Dylan at the airport to go back to work. And I think that I'm stronger now that those emotions have more power over me...however that works.

Like John said, dealing with it in a healthy maner is what's important. And "hardening up" is almost certainly never going to be that 'manner.'

What an awesome thread this has become...

KSEMS, running on that suicide...that's just bullshit bad luck there..a close friend, too early, unnatural, traumatic, no tools to deal with it, and almost certainly his fate was sealed before you arrived...Yeah..that just sucks. Good on your for your perspective...

And someday, when you run on 'that kid' that's like your kid? You'll do awesome, you'll cry for them too, put them in perspective, move on and friggin' rock on the next call...You'll see. I've now had all of the calls that scared me when I was newer, and with less experience, but you know what? With one exception, my first nasal intubation, I didn't recognize them as the calls that I was always afraid of until after...

Thanks to you all for participating..that's cool as hell. Now take all of this brain power to some other threads!! It's time to wind this place up a bit, and that requires everyone helping to keep the threads active by posting new topics...

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I know I am probably going to sound like a right cock but death is just part of reality.

I have seen people die in road crashes that were just absolutely fucking horrendous and looked like somebody had been put throuogh a sausage machine and I mean you sort of stop for a second when it is all done and dusted and think "ew that was quite gross" but ironically the one death I found that got me the most was not nasty road traffic crash victim but the little old lady who died alone on the loo in her tiny miserable granny flat with no friends or family around when it was fairly obvious that she had no real form of human contact for weeks on end and died all on her own.

Really I think anybodies death is unfortunate, even moreso if it is premature, even moreso if its premature and violent or traumatic

Suicide never really bothered me to be honest, its horrendously unfortunate especially if it was over something seemingly trivial (to the outsider) but I dno I've tried to commit suicdie twice so who knows, I certianly wouldn't have thought it unfortunate if I'd succeeded, for me anyway.

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I can relate to your perspective kiwi. I think in the end personal philosophy/religious beliefs play more of a roll in how we view and deal with death than any outside factors (including the circumstances of a particular death). I don't have religious convictions of any kind. If some "greater power" exists so be it. If it doesn't exist, I'm not losing any sleep over it. As a result most of the time I'm relatively neutral when it comes to death. Neither good nor bad, it just is.

That's not to say I don't have calls that bothered me locked away in the vault. I'd be lying of I said I didn't. The difference for me, between just another call and bothersome, is if I feel there was something out there that could have given that patient a better chance. Sometimes those things are completely out of my hands such as a service or equipment issue. Other times it hits me because it's something like "If I'd gone to school just one year sooner I could do more for you right now!"

The one call that always comes to mind for me is one where if I'd been an ALS provider at the time I could have given the patient a better shot at survival. I think it hit as hard as it did because it happened the summer before heading back to school. I knew what needed to be done and I had neither the equipment or the SOP at my disposal. This patient had a low probability of survival regardless of the treatment rendered but I couldn't render all of the appropriate treatments.

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The older I get and the more clarity I gain about our relationship with the universe, the more death bothers me. There will likely never be another me. All my experiences are unique and when I die, that's it. I will never again exist in the physical world. Additionally, most of the known universe is so exceptionally hostile that life as we know it is impossible. This makes my existence and the existence of humanity all that much more precious.

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Like Chris said above: the older you get and watch folks your age start to go to meet their maker, then it becomes more personal.

I never used to think about it much and have always managed to work through the bad calls. In the past year have lost several friends my age or younger and it makes ya wonder!

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John, excellent post Brother...really useful.

KSEMS, running on that suicide...that's just bullshit bad luck there..a close friend, too early, unnatural, traumatic, no tools to deal with it, and almost certainly his fate was sealed before you arrived...Yeah..that just sucks. Good on your for your perspective...

And someday, when you run on 'that kid' that's like your kid? You'll do awesome, you'll cry for them too, put them in perspective, move on and friggin' rock on the next call...You'll see. I've now had all of the calls that scared me when I was newer, and with less experience, but you know what? With one exception, my first nasal intubation, I didn't recognize them as the calls that I was always afraid of until after...

Thanks to you all for participating..that's cool as hell. Now take all of this brain power to some other threads!! It's time to wind this place up a bit, and that requires everyone helping to keep the threads active by posting new topics...

Yup, it sucked. And yup, he was agonal when we got to the scene. He put a 22 at an upward angle in his chest and hit everything he could. We tried but we all knew he was gone before we got there. Could have happened in the middle of an OR and still would have turned out the same.

I guess I'm just worried about having a SIDS pt that's been gone awhile but you still feel like you have to do something because it's a baby and the parents are right there. I was scared when we had a prolapsed cord pt in the back of the ambulance. Knowing that if the baby died inutero, we couldn't do a damn thing about it. Proud to say, however, that that baby is now a thriving five year old.

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The way each of us deal with death is defined inevitably by our country, culture, experiences, raising and spiritual bent. For most of us the realities of death are shielded from our lives as we grow up. In the United States when grandpaw passes away the funeral home takes care of everything, by the time we get to see the open casket, many times days have passed and the body looks better than the last of their living days. In a lot of ways this shielding of the harshness of death makes the the people we see die more dramatic and traumatizing.

The Aztec people have a very calm acceptance of death. When a person dies in the village the family cares for the corpse. Family members cram cotton balls in their loved ones orifices, bathe and dress the body and lay them either on a bed or often times the only table in the one room hut while the diseased is measured and the pine box casket is made. Often times the body will lay on the table for hours until the casket arrives. In the sub-tropical heat of the area, and due to the absence of embalming, bodies must be buried within 24 hours or fluids will begin to leak from the slits in the rudimentary casket. A rooster will be tied under the casket. As friends and family arrive for the wake the other families of the village will show up with a chicken, coffee, wood for the fire or tortillas so that everyone that arrives gets to eat in the yard right outside.

From the time of death till interment, the family sits with, cares for and pray over their diseased loved on. The new generation, that have spent time away in the city, will break into wailing and tears as the casket is carried from the home to the village graveyard. The old timers are sad but composed. As they leave the house someone will kill the rooster. Nobody really knows why but a very old man told me many years ago that they kill the rooster so he can crow at the gates of heaven to announce the arrival of their friend. The casket is lowered by the men of the village into a grave that they all dug together. Everyone walks by and tosses at least a hand full of dirt into the hole.

When you have seen death in this light for a lifetime, it takes on a different light.

Death doesn't bother me. Suffering breaks my heart.

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...while the diseased is measured...

What does this mean?

...Death doesn't bother me. Suffering breaks my heart.

Ditto

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