Anger

I'm writing this when I should be in bed, but I can't sleep. I can't sleep because you made me angry.

You could have been anything, you could have been a doctor, a teacher, a father. Your family didn't seem poor, you lived with them and now you are dead.

Twenty three years old, a heroin addict.

We tried everything we could, two ambulances were sent. You had the best treatment you can get outside of a hospital, but I guessed that you would stay dead when I saw you laying on your bedroom floor. I was pounding on your chest and all I could hear was your mother crying. I tuned out that crying because we were so busy. There was a little girl, perhaps four years old, they were crying as well. Was it your little sister? I could only ignore her as well, for we were carrying you out of the house.

I didn't have time to register the crying, we were too busy trying to start your heart.

But what did register with me? Sitting outside the hospital while my crewmate was doing his paperwork I saw your grandparents being led away in tears. They were broken. Twenty three years ago they probably thanked their God that you were born safely. Their dreams probably had you as a doctor, a teacher, a father.

Now you are dead, and why? Because you sought heroin, because you wanted that pleasure above everything else.

I don't care about you.

I care about your grandparents, your parents, your brothers and sisters. I want to go back in time and, like the ghost of Christmas present, show you where your path will lead. I want to slap you awake and show you what you have done to your family.

Was it worth that pleasure?

Yes. This job did piss me off. Sorry. And it did cause a sleepless night. I was told by someone much smarter than I that I wasn't a cynic, but that I was often disappointed by the failure of others to live up to their potential. I guess that this job hit all those buttons. The original post had more swearing in it.

33 thoughts on “Anger”

  1. At the end of the day it's about a driving and uncontrollable desire. No matter what their background. No matter how much money they have. No matter how much of a role model they are to others. No matter what anyone says about them they will carry on. No matter how many others in their family are affected they will die eventually. No even wealth and fame can deter them.To the doubters I say two words.Pete Doherty.

  2. Maybe seeking the death penalty for convicted drug dealers ? It's futile to lock up addicts because they would come out of the system worse than they went in. It's an unfortunate part of the human condition that we're weak and selfish. But it makes us human – just like the compassion that allows us to do our jobs and care for others. It's two sides of the same coin.

  3. Awww, mate. Speechless (which makes the posting of a comment a bit pointless, I suppose- but I wanted you to know that you (and your feelings) are being thought of today).

  4. Like the post before me, i have read your blog for many months, and i am in the middle of your book, but the last two posts have touched me so much that am posting here for the first time. Todays blog should be handed to addicts to show them the devastation that they leave behind.My thoughts are with you today.

  5. A well written and moving piece.In addition to the usual media, I look at you, PC Copperfield, Inspector Gadget and Dr Crippen because you guys are able to describe the front line, the real issues and sometimes highlight some of the “things that should be done” in a way that our political goons and masters never will.

    In the case of addiction, though, what on earth should be done? I don't think criminalisation of drugs is sensible, but how do you stop people from taking them in the first place? Or drinking too much? Or behaving in an anti-social manner?

    You probably see far more of the consequences than most of us. Do you have any ideas?

  6. Hi Tom – what a well-written piece, along with the other one about the poor guy who'd died from lung cancer (I really admired both the description of what you all did there as well as what you did).Just one thing – please try not to say “sorry” for writing stuff like this – please understand that it's what you write and how you write it which has won you respect and admiration from near and far.I don't think you're a cynic either – wasn't it said that a cynic is someone who knows the cost of everything but the true value of nothing? It can hardly be said that you don't know the true value of a life………..for you see the consequences of wasted lives and the benefits of saved ones (or at least of saved dignity in the lung cancer case).Keep being you.All the best/j

  7. my sympathies to the family, and to you. It's rare that I take jobs home with me now but will always remembre th 18 year old OD I attended.What made me really angry was his “friends” denying that drugs were involved and/or running away. They should be done fror manslaughter – looking after their own backs while their mate died on the couch.

    Thinking of it now I want to start swearing aloud again.

  8. It's too late for the addicts. Hand it to every school kid and maybe it'll stick in their mind enough to make them say no when they first have the choice.

  9. Tom – I'm relatively new to your blog, having found and bought your book off Amazon, mainly because I've worked with a number of ambulance services over the years (not LAS though) and have some good mates who're paramedics/ECPs in S Yorks..Your most recent blogs really moved me – I've seen the stupid loss of life as a result of chasing the 'pleasure' of heroin, and have felt the emotions you expressed so well, but also agree that addiction is so complex. And having lost a friend to lung cancer earlier this, although not in such a tragic situation, it's truly comforting to know that people such as you are prepared to step outside the so-called boundaries of their jobs to provide the dignity and compassion that death often takes away.

    Take care

  10. I still haven't “recovered” from yesterdays post. I just can't get that mental image that you paint out of my head.I don't know how you cope. I really don't.

  11. Tom,I want to thank you for portraying not only such a moving post, but a heartfelt and brutally honest one. Having been unfortunate enough to be the little sister under similar circumstances it is sometimes forgotten that alongside grief rides a whole heap of anger.

    Never change or be ashamed to blog how you feel and never apologise for being honest and saying what's in your heart. This is what makes your posts unique and your words worth so much to so many.

    Vikki.

  12. 18 years ago, when I was just 15, my family and I suffered the loss of my 24 year old Uncle after he took a fatal dose of herion. He wasn't the first in our family to die as a result of herion addiction, and nor was he the last, but he was certainly the most shocking. Like you, we had to journey through the different stages of grief – not least of which was anger. We were angry at him that he threw away his life; angry at each other that none of us had been able to intervene and stop him; angry at the dealer; angry at the government for not providing him with enough chances in life; and angry at the world for making us feel as though somehow all this was either our fault as a family, or his as just another bloody junkie.I think it is all too easy to blame the victim in this kind of situation, but in the 18 years since his death I have come to realise that the reasons people take heroin are complex. Its easy to sit back and judge – but in my experience, most of the junkies I've met and known got into it through a sense of sheer desperation: desperation to escape their lives; desperation to numb their pain; desperation to just not have to be themselves for a while.

    I don't know what it was that made this young man so desperate that he thought heroin was the answer, but I know that all the anger in the world is never going to bring him back – and nor is it going to provide solace to those who are left behind.

    I can understand the frustration and anger that you are feeling, having to deal with such an awful situation – and lord knows, I don't think I could do your job. But blaming the victim is never the answer.

  13. Dear God, what an awful situation. And happening everywhere, every day.I keep thinking that we've tried the punitive route, the “goddammit, just say no, or we'll lock you up” method. The death penalty (as another commenter suggested in desperation, I guess) seems like more of the same. If a little bit didn't work, I'm not sure why a lot would. After all, in the 1600s, or whenever it was, when stealing turnips was a hanging offence, it didn't stop people from stealing turnips.

    I thought Mia's comments were right on target. Add to that the pretty big mountain of scientific evidence that addiction is correlated with specific brain chemistries, and the thought that comes to me is that maybe we're going about it in exactly the wrong way. Instead of punishing, we should decriminalize everything. (I'm not saying legalize, because then they could start advertising the stuff. Doesn't bear thinking about.) Hard drugs would be available on prescription, or some sort of controlled setting, which would make it easier to control dose and purity, and would make it easier to provide education, treatment, or any kind of help if the addict wanted it. (As far as I'm concerned, distilled alcohol belongs in the hard drug group.) Legality would also make the drugs a lot cheaper, which by itself would reduce a lot of the criminal side effects, locally and internationally.

    The fear is that without the horrors that go with criminal drugs, “everybody” will become an addict. I doubt that, since not everyone is currently an alcoholic or nicotine addict. And I really wonder if the social costs of addicts who take a trip to their corner pharmacy every week, who don't overdose, whose health can be monitored, would really be that much greater than our current situation.

  14. Well said, Here in canada we have the same issues around serious drug usage. After a while it doesn't seem to bother, other than the odd one who pop's past our cover to agitate us beyond the norm. “H” is a terrible drug that has left a legacy of disaster for many years.

    In my town we have seen the same od'd pt's sometimes twice a day, isn't the first resusc. good enough??? very well said indeed…..

  15. My husband lost his best friend to a heroin overdose.. and was the one to find him, after spending the night sharing a room with him. I doubt I could ever forgive him for what he has done to my husband. But, I have supported friends through heroin and crack addiction.. and been their friend. But, with one friend, who does not want to help himself, the final straw came when he started stealing from us. We have had to walk away. But I am still terrified of the day we will get that call. It will break my husbands heart again, and for that, I already hate him.

  16. Thank you for taking the time to share so perfectly how your life is touched by those your job brings you into contact with. I wouldn't know such a site existed except for watching a tv programme which you were on the other night. My daughter wants to be a paramedic so all you write gives her a real insight into the heart renderingly sad but also the heart warmingly encouraging aspects of your job.Thank you again.

  17. Strange how the written word can sometimes reach each of us differently. I didn't get anything approaching 'blaming the victim' from this post. I felt that Tom was saying more about the waste of life (whatever the reason) and was writing a very honest piece about his own emotions and reaction to the total experience in that location ; i.e. not just his feelings about the patient, but about the whole social context of the patient.This sort of very direct access to one's own feelings, along with the ability to record those feelings so clearly and so soon afterwards is very rare. Great piece of writing Tom.

  18. Superbly written – this is this first time I have read this blogg (after seeing Imagine) – will definetly continue. How powerful and graphic – my heart goes out to u and your colleagues, what a pointless call.

  19. When I was working as an EMT a colleague had to be taken off the service.His only son, 18 years old died on a RTA.

    Twice we went to rescue overdoses (naloxone did its job in both times) in young persons, just to have him assaulting them shouting “My son is dead and you are killing yourself!”

    Very sad…

    Andrea (MD, formerly EMT)

  20. After reading this blog for a couple of months, the urge to say “thank you” has become too strong to resist.This post and the previous one about the dead smoker show just how much you guys deal with the fallout around an incident as much as the incident itself.

    No doubt, some middle manager is wondering if there is a tick box on the paperwork for this? If not, how come you “waste” our tax-pounds on this stuff?

    The rest of us just feel immensely grateful. Thank you for caring – please don't stop

  21. That boy was a selfish, self centred idiot – that is what heroin thrives on. His poor family.My friend had a son who was just the same – he was from a loving family, well educated, good looking, refined manners but complete with a personality flaw which led him to throw all that away for the sake of heroin. He died, a wreck, in a squat in the city, surrounded by the usual detritus of addiction.

    His mother was shattered. She never recovered.

  22. Well written. I had someone tell me that I must have ice in my veins when I was working this past weekend. I simply explained that with everything that we have going on a daily basis we have to maintain composure in order not to worry family members even more when they are already freaking out. But as your post states, we still have those feelings. We do care, we just have to do our best not to show it. Again an excellent post.

  23. oops I meant to say that we have to do our best not to show emotion, we are allowed to be compasionate and caring. Just not show emotion, especially with the cases where we have a patient who is showing classic tombstones on their 12 lead EKG. Can we say yikes. Hello helicopter. Goodbye patient off to the cath lab you go.

  24. Very visceral and so true. It's always the relatives and friends who suffer in these abject situations.Never knew anyone who did heroin when I lived in London. Crystal Meth is the scourge here in the US–they've even pulled common cold medications off our supermarket shelves because kids over here were buying huge quantities and cooking up the stuff; we now have to take a product tag to the pharmacist counter in order to buy it.

    A brilliant post and hope its ripples endure a long time and change someone's life for the better.

  25. Another blog that hits the nail on the head…again.It is harrowing to goto ODs like this, I can cope with the dealing with the patients, but the aftermath and the family are the things that choke me. Yes I get angry, but often I also feel a loss. Inspite of my experience and training I still feel a massive guilt that I couldn't do anymore for them…i know that often by the time we get called the people are beyond our help.

    I've read all the replies above and some of them are also very moving. Not in quite the same circumstances my cousin died when he was 15. He hung himself in a barn. I watched my family get torn apart by emotions that no-one knew how to deal with. Promises were made and not met, words were spoken that I hoped were just in the heat of the moment, after 13 years the wounds still haven't been healed. I have a real problem at work when I go to jobs where hangings are involved. I can deal with the situation but I need time out in the aftermath. Unless you have been there, I don't think you can appreciate just how destructive it can be. It's taken me a long time to get over the hate i felt towards my cousin, some of it is directed towards the people i now attend. However some of that hate has turned to pity…but I'm not sure who i feel the pity for, the deceased or those that they leave behind…

  26. I tried to post this few nights ago, but had login problems. I showed this post to my 12 year old daughter. She said 'Wow, what a powerful Blog'. As far as I am concerned it showed her more about the perils of drug taking than any thing said by school or me, and it showed her more about the effective (modern) use of language than school seems be able to do. Kudos Tom, powerful writing and powerful relevant and useful message. I will be passing the link to other parents I know

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