Thursday, August 16, 2007


As I have mentioned a few times on this blog, one of the most difficult of all emergency medical situations is one that involves a friend, family member or colleague. The emotions that we experience in these situations are similar to those involving children; they are heart-wrenching and emotionally draining, for everyone involved.

When my friend Rick's mother-in-law was found in an extremely urgent state of insulin shock, his children were recruited to assist in her care. Mary-Jeanne, 12, held open her grandma's airway, while Scotty, 10, took her pulse. She was rushed to the hospital, and last I heard, was still recovering from her ordeal.

I remember this feeling. A few years ago, when I was new on the ERT, and long before I was a trained EMT, a coworker and friend approached me with a pained, anxious look on her face. She was having chest pains, difficulty breathing, and needed immediate assistance. I activated the Emergency Response Team, assessed her, comforted her, and did all I could to help her until the ambulance arrived. Throughout the incident, I was fine - professional and composed - but afterwards, I broke down.

I felt so helpless. Here was someone I cared about, my friend, and there was nothing I could do to make her situation any better. I asked her questions, I kept her calm... but I couldn't fix her. She was scared, anxious and hurting, and I couldn't make her pain go away. I know that my outward calmness and reassurance helped her, but inside, I was panicking. She was sick, really sick, and there was nothing I could do but to evaluate her before the paramedics arrived.

I know that I did all I could do at the time, but nonetheless, I was panicking inside. The only thing that comforted me was the fact that she was eventually going to be alright.

And when Rick mentioned on the phone that Scotty was having some difficulty after helping his grandma in her time of need, all those old feelings came back to me. I remembered the helplessness, the fear, the anxiety, the "oh shit !" reaction after seeing someone close to me in pain. Scotty, awesome whiz-kid as he is, expressed the same emotions.

"I'm not sure why I feel this way," he said to me, "but I feel really bad."

"Of course you feel bad. It was your grandma. It's ok to feel scared and upset."

"Yeah. I just feel like I didn't do anything to help."

"Well Scotty, sometimes there is not much we can do. Sometimes all we can do is check them out until the doctors can take a look."

"I wish I could have done more."

"Sweetie, what you did was awesome. You helped take care of her when she couldn't take care of herself. None of us could fix anything with her. She needed to go to the doctor, and you helped her do that."

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

"And you want to know something else Scotty ? There's a name that we here at the ERT have for people who come across medical stuff like this all the time. But you have to promise not to tell your dad, because it's a bad word. Ok ?"

(chuckling) "Ok."

"We call it the Shit Magnet Club. And you, Scotty, are the newest member. Congratulations !"

(dissolving into a fit of giggles) "COOL !"

His father was very suspicious as to why his son was bent over in hysterics, but like the well-trained man that he is, didn't ask what I'd said.

Pat on the shoulder to his wife, for training him well.


Blogger Rakesh said...

Do we get a sticker or something for being part of the club?

August 16, 2007 at 12:14:00 PM PDT  

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