An Upsetting Job

Because of various reasons of confidentiality, I'm not going into deep detail for this post. Sorry
She was 31 years old and I was kneeling next to her forcing air into her lungs because she had stopped breathing.

I was sent the call as a “31 year old suspended” and to be honest I didn't think that the call was going to be as given. I was working solo on the FRU at the time, and I sped to the address, reaching the place at the same time as the ambulance. It was an ambulance with two trainees working it – while one of the trainees and myself went to the patient the other trainee and their supervisor turned the vehicle around so that they could leave the scene quickly if needed.

I rang the entry bell to the block of flats – whoever answered the entryphone seemed to be a bit disorientated, but we soon gained entry.

“Probably a psychiatric patient”, I said to the trainee as we stood in the lift.

“I hope so”, replied the trainee, “I've not done a suspended before”.

“Don't worry about it”, I said, “Just remember that you just need to try and keep calm, I'm there to run it until your supervisor gets there”.

The doors to the lift opened and we made our way to the flat. I walked in through the door and all hopes of the call not being a suspended were dashed.

The patient was lying flat on the floor a deep shade of blue – over her was a man I took to be her partner, he had one ear on the phone, listening to instruction from one of our calltakers. With his free hand he was pushing on the woman's chest in an effort of CPR. He wasn't doing a bad job of it either considering that tears were running down his face.

On the sofa was the daughter of the patient – she was around five or six years old. She was also crying. I realised that it was this little child who had opened the flat door for us.

The trainee and myself fell into our roles – I managed the patient's airway and breathing while the trainee connected the defibrilator. The patient had a pulse, but had suddenly stopped breathing. There was nothing in the patient's history to suggest what had caused this sudden stopping of breathing. The mother had overcome a serious illness a few years earlier – but that illness wouldn't account for what was happening today.

The job itself went pretty well – while the patient didn't start breathing again on her own, we did manage to 'pink her up' a lot. The transport to hospital went well and we handed the patient over to the hospital staff with a real hope that she would make a recovery.

I went back to the hospital a while later.

The patient had suffered a sudden huge and unrecoverable bleed into the brain. She would never wake up.

For some reason this really upset me. I don't normally get upset at people dying, but for some reason this one really upset me.

I don't know if it is because she has left a small child behind – a small child who saw her mother die in front of her. I don't know if it was because the mother overcame a serious illness six years ago for the sake of her child. I don't know what will happen to the child, as the mother's current partner isn't the biological father.

I don't know if it was because the mother had overcome serious adversity and yet she was dead at such a young age.

I suspect that it was because, for once, we thought that in giving the patient the best chance possible, she may have survived. I'm guessing that we were all disappointed that the patient was going to die despite doing our best work.

Whatever the reason, I was at my most upset over a dead patient since the dead thirteen year old I attended.

If there is a slight upside to the story – it's that because we kept her organs protected by breathing for her, those same organs were used to give a new lease of life for a number of other very sick patients. I only hope that this fact will gve some comfort to here family.

Yes – I'm a registered organ donor.

9 thoughts on “An Upsetting Job”

  1. Big Hugs for trying to save her life even though it was futile.Her organs will have one to help people such as my ex-hubby who's awaiting a kidney transplant. There's a strong possibility that 30 or so years from now (if she doesn't look after herself properly, and I let her live that long!!) my daughter will be in the same position as her dad.

    Death is always upsetting, but from one death so many lives can be transformed back into something worth living.

    Been reading the blog for a while, have learned from it.. looking forward to buying the book when it's released

    Keep up the good work, all of it


  2. Perhaps the most moving post I've ever read.There is no appropriate comment to something like this. I hope you and your colleagues are ok. Hope the little girl is cared for.

    Nothing anyone can say will help.

    We all know that there's nothing anyone could have done to save the lady – but that's no comfort.

    We know you and your colleagues did your best – but that won't help.

    In the end it's the job we chose and the job we love.

    Sometimes it's just shit!

    That' life.

    My thoughts are with you today.

  3. Tom, as a newbie in the fire service, I attended my first “fatal” recently. My colleague, who's been in 25 years, was destraught afterwards.It seems that you never reach a point when those jobs can't touch you.

    Be thinking of you, and of all those affected….

  4. at least the woman's family can be certain that absolutely everything possible was done to help her. And so can you. And, as you say, there's organ donation…It's an awful thing that's happened but it couldn't be helped, and the blow has been softened as much as possible.

  5. NHS Funds… Well spent.There's no answer for something like this. I, for one, am eternally grateful those like you are there for those like her. It didn't help this time, but nothing would have. Next time, it most likely will.

    Thank you.

  6. That happened to a friend of mine from university. He lost his wife to a sudden aneurysm, he came home to find her dead on the floor and their six month old boy sitting in his carry cot waiting to be changed.I don't know how he coped, but he did.

  7. I wouldn't call that a “slight upside,” Tom, I'd call it several lives saved due to good work on everyone's part – sometimes you've lost before you even get in the door, in which case, not giving up, keeping your wits about you and salvaging what you can is what matters.A lot of work would also support the conclusion that you did the husband and daughter a lot of good as well by being seen to calmly do your best for her.

    Though I know it feels no less shitty for it on the inside, from the outside, I'll give you a “good job.”

  8. Tom, More thought provoking and intensly moving writing from you. As everybody else has said – Sure it feels really shitty – you didn't succeed this time (but next time you might) but also you have made such a huge difference in so many ways. This particular story (like some of the others) has relevance to me as this is what killed my Father in Law. His last words to my (now ex-)wife were “My head really hurts – I don't want to die” six hours later he was gone.I've said it before and, like many of your other regular readers, I'm sure I'll say it again – I'm really grateful that after such a demoralising outcome, you dust yourself off and go and do it again – and again! Thank you!

  9. You feel like crap, because she did nothing to bring this on. Her family did everything right, and you still couldn't save her. And the next job was probably to an addict or drunk whose 'friend' hung up on the dispatcher and gave the wrong address, and you found him anyway, and he lived depite what might have been mortal stupidity.But being smart and good is no protection from death, at any age, in any circumstance. We grieve the loss of those who still had so much life to give, and who will be grieved by those they love. You have every right to feel awful.

    I'm sorry.

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