I began attending EMT school while working part time at a retail store. The course was very challenging academically. It was much faster than the average course. Most EMT programs are taught over span of a half a year. Mine however, was 8 weeks of condensed lecture and almost daily testing. Despite my best efforts I did not pass the program and failed to become an Emergency medical technician. I was hesitant about returning to the program for the fear of failing again, but it was something I was still contemplating. Then, on the morning of March 30th, 2016 a man came into my store, whose actions changed my life forever.
I was doing my daily routine of merchandise protection just an aisle over when a customer shouted, “HELP, HELP SOMEBODY!”. I quickly ran around the corner to the next aisle to find a shopper pleading for help. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, an older gentleman was on the floor face down in a pool of his own blood. I shouted over my radio to alert the store to the emergency unfolding. Near death and quickly bleeding out, the gentleman was struggling to breathe. I wanted to help but I couldn’t get my body to do what mind was telling me. A Nurse who was in passing heard the commotion and demanded something be done. I had two choices, be still or do what I had learned so far and try to help save him. I decided that this man deserved my best efforts. This good Samaritan and I began doing everything we could despite the limitations we had in the moment. “We have to secure his airway “she yelled. The two of us jump to one side of the man who appeared to be a shade of grey I have never seen on a person. We rolled him onto his back. Immediately it was apparent where the blood was coming from. The man had a long, deep knife wound directly above his heart. The nurse directed me to stop his bleeding while she was trying to get the man to respond to her. I pressed down on his chest so hard my arms wanted to give out. As I watched the nurse further assess the man I was perplexed by what she was doing. She asked me if I could perform CPR. Without moving my hands, I began pressing on this mans chest. Up to this point I had only done CPR on plastic dummies, I felt as if I was going to break this man’s ribs. By this time the fire department had arrived on scene and began attempting more advanced techniques to save his life. I stepped back to let the professionals take over and to take a moment to compose myself. It was after walking away from the scene and seeing my bloodied watch, boots and pants that I realized I made the right decision.
As I replayed the graphic moments in my mind over and over again, I asked myself if this poor man dying had been my fault. What could I have done better? Did I do the CPR right? What was the nurse looking for while doing her assessment? There were so many questions I had that I needed answers to. That’s when I knew I had no other choice but to return to the EMT program and become better suited for these types of situations. I wanted to know that I truly did everything I could to save him and if not what I could have done differently. If that had been one of my own family members that needed medical attention I would have wanted nothing but the best care possible, and I was going to give exactly that to my patients.
The morning after the incident, I signed up for the next immediate class. Without the help of my instructor Brian I question whether I would have been as successful the second time around. I had explained to Brian as to what drove me to return to the school. So Brian took it upon himself to help me and achieve my goal. Brian spent extra time with me during lunches and sometimes after school helping me further understand things like medical conditions, patient assessments, and helping to educate me on medicines and their purpose. During one of my practice assessments, Brian gave me a scenario to practice on a dummy which was very similar to the one I found myself in before coming back to the school. I went through my assessment checklist. Checking my “patient’s” eyes, looking for responsiveness, getting and exposing their injuries to determine if this patient was trauma criteria. As I went through my list I realized those very things that I didn’t understand and questioned just months ago I actually knew and I was breezing through them. The extra time and effort my instructor put into me paid off. I became the “captain“ of our class and was eventually setting up groups to help others who found themselves struggling. Aside from the didactic aspect, Brian taught a lot based off his personal experiences as well. “Treat every patient with same respect you’d give your grandmother” was one phrase that he really liked. In this field it can be easy to get desensitized to people and their problems. My instructor really wanted me to recognize that we are being called to someone’s emergency whether it be a stubbed toe or a heart attack and everyone deserves care and compassion.
Becoming an EMT was a defining moment for me, and looking back i’m grateful for every step I had to take. My failing the school, the first patient I lost, and all those sleepless nights of studying. Not all situations we face will be triumphs. The cold fact is the bad often outweighs the good in this field. These moments have shaped and will continue to shape me into the best first responder I can be and will no doubt allow me to make the impact in people’s lives I had hoped for.