You Only Have One, And It’s Not A Rehearsal

One of those jobs we get a lot of – 'male collapsed in street, facial injury'.

So we arrived to find him face down.

I rolled him over, he didn't have a pulse, he wasn't breathing.

We did what we do – we tried to restart the heart, to bring him back to life.

The details are unimportant. What is important is that on that day someone's husband died, someone's father, someone's son.

There was no warning, he just dropped dead.

One moment alive, the next moment gone.

He was only a little older than me.

If this job has taught me one thing, it's that our time on this planet is precious, and that time can end at any moment.

So live life to the full. Make yourself happy. Try to make those that you care for happy. Your life is the only thing that you truly own and you only get one – so don't sweat the small stuff.

19 thoughts on “You Only Have One, And It’s Not A Rehearsal”

  1. These thoughts remind me of the following quote…”Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans.” John Lennon (in the song 'Sean')

    Thanks for the 'heads up', we are all so easily distracted by the spectacle of daily life. Cheers!

  2. So true. A friend of my father-in-law died suddenly this week, such a nice man. It's hard to talk about this kind of thing without sounding twee (stop and smell the flowers) but the more I hear about this kind of thing, the harder I try to search out moments of beauty.

  3. Happiness is a transient achievement. Life is a rollercoaster, more ups and downs than you can ever imagine and sometimes at a speed that is less than comfortable.You sometimes only know you were happy when you look back on events, and realise how much you can take for granted when it is suddenly taken away from you. Other times you are so blissfully wrapped up in happiness it is almost visibly glowing from you and can be infectious… look on both these times with joy and remember them; they will keep you sane in the darker less happy or sad times.

    Remember that this is a wonderful world, with miracles happening every day somewhere, a beautiful sunrise, or sunset; the sound of a bird singing in the early dawn heralding the spring and rebirth of warmth (well ok optimistic that's me sometime); the voice of the person you love saying good morning and I love you.

    Take nothing for granted, give happiness to others where you can it might only take 5 mins of your time but will mean a lifetime of memories to others.

    Above all, live for today for tomorrow we do not know where our paths may take us.

  4. I love cute little signs, and I have three of them hanging in front of my desk on the wall so I get to look at them most of every day. They say:-“Life isn't measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”

    “My favourite thing is to go where I'v never been”

    “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea”

    I often say to people who are dithering about making decisions that life isn't a rehearsal it IS the real thing, they may only get one go at making that decision they are dithering over.

    Sympathies to the family though of that poor man you went to.

  5. Well, Tom, I guess you're living proof of what the Hindus say: death is the greatest teacher. (Not that I'm all that eager to learn, of course….)

  6. Too right and well said!!I lost a very good friend 3 years ago to cancer…………he was 25 and one of the best people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

    My motto is take every opportunity your given and don't regret the choices you make as they were right for you at the time. Appreicate your friends and family and don't allow other peoples negativity to affect you.

    Happy Easter everyone!

  7. One of the choruses from Talk Talk'sLife's What You Make It

    Life's what you make it

    Celebrate it

    Anticipate it

    Yesterday's faded

    Nothing can change it

    Life's what you make it

    This job teaches you alot but sometimes we don't always listen. A chap goes out ona bike ride just to blow away a few cobwebs and bang! one small mistake is the biggest in his life leading to his subsequent death.

    My thoughts go to that chap's friends and family, Tom.

    We really have no idea what's around the corner.

  8. Thanks for this – things like this are stark reminders of what really is important, hope you don't mind I linked to you.. Katie

  9. I'm not sure how long you have been on the job, but you make a good point. Having responded to far too many situations almost identical to the one you have described, it was my experience that most EMT's and medics either became jaded, numb, or simply fold under the pressure of the onslaught of emotions that come with dealing with death on a regular basis.Introspection is a good thing, but, don't let it overpower you.

    I'll relate an experience that shows a counterpoint to the situation you described, and shows that what you do, and what I did for so long, has just as much an impact on those that are left behind as to the patients we treat.

    In 1994 or 1995, (I'm a little fuzzy as to when it exactly happened.) my partner and I got a call for a subway job. Cardiac arrest at the Atlantic Ave./Flatbush Ave subway station in Brooklyn. We got on the scene, FDNY first responders were already doing CPR, so we started up our usual routine. I tubed the patient, a man in his 60's, my partner got the line, and we started running the usual arrest protocol and drug cocktail.

    We both knew this guy was not going to make it. He was decorticate when we found him, but, we also knew we weren't going to pronounce him in the middle of a subway train either. Then, a funny thing happened: He went from asystole, to v-fib….we shocked him twice, got back a borderline sinus rhythm, hung lidocaine and dopamine drips, and got him out of there.

    Fast forward 24 hours. We happened to take another patient to the same hospital we took the arrest to, and found out he made it up to ICU. I went upstairs, and went into the ICU room he was in. To this day I don't know what made me go there. Most times, I just would have nodded my head when I found out a patient made it, and that would have been that.

    As I entered the room, I saw that there were 3-4 men and women surrounding myself, probably his family. Their faces were seamed with obvious grief, and as they saw me, I quickly excused myself, not wanting to burden them with my presence. A man, that turned out to be the patients son, stopped me, and asked if I was the paramedic that treated his father. I responded with a weak yes, and then apologized that my partner and I could not do more. He smiled a weak smile and said, “No, please, we can't thank you enough. It would have been worse if we had to claim his body from the morgue. At least we get to say goodbye to him.”

    I shook his hand, left the room, and almost broke down.

    For all the days that I wondered why I was doing the job, it took this one day to make me realize why I did it.

    Rule #1: People die.

    Rule #2: Paramedics and EMT's can't change Rule #1, but, we can still have an impact on those that are left behind.

  10. Years ago I worked on an acquired brain injury unit, we had a patient a man in his early 30's found collapsed asystole; he had been out running , passers by tried CPR he was “brought round” weeks later he was transferred to our unit he had very little memory. When his wife and young child visited all he knew was that he knew them and that they were close to him in some way but if they left the room he would have forgotten that they were there minutes earlier. I always wondered what I would do if I came across someone in a similar situation. Should he have been resuscitated/?

  11. Liz,Yeah, that would be a tough. It begs the question; “What is better: Quantity of life or quality of life?” Personally, from my POV, quality is always a better choice.

    The great scholar of mythology Joseph Campbell once remarked, “i don't think what we are looking for is the meaning of life. I think that what we are looking for is an experience of being alive.”

    Being a paramedic drove that home to me in spades. It drove itself home to me even further 10 years ago while waiting for a liver transplant……..

  12. “Don't sweat the petty stuff; don't pet the sweaty stuff.”(Not sure if that translates into British.)


  13. Oddly, that was just EXACTLY what I needed to read at the mo – coz I was having an internal groan and moan about it being the first day I have to do some serious (and DULL) work, after the holiday.So, I've decided the work can wait until later, I'm going to finish doing the stuff that's more important to me right now! :o)

    Perhaps not an attitude to live by ( comes right to mind!) but one that's very relevant to my current circs, anyway….

  14. That brought tears to my eyes, I am an Oncology Nurse and my husband died in similar circumstances almost 2 years ago leaving me a widow at the age of 37. He had been found by the police and paramedics called as he was still alive, unfortunately he died before they arrived and despite their best attempts to resusitate him it was no good. I would love to have met the guys that tried to save him and one day i propose to do just that as they are based in the hospital I work in.I guess what I am trying to say is that ur motto is right, none of us knows what is round the corner and we should live life to the full and the best that we can.

  15. Hi, long time reader, first time commenter here!Funny how some deaths seem to affect us more than others – I lost a 90 year old gentleman the other night. He was “Red Formed” so no heroics required. I only knew this gentleman and his devastated family for about 9 hours, but I was emotionally drained by the end of the shift. Even now I'm filling up thinking about them. Yet this was a peaceful end to a long life. I guess I'm glad that after 22 long hard years in the NHS I can still cry with a bereaved family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *