I have been a dispatcher/communications specialist for 20 years. I have been in the air medical field now for 12 years. I had been with the company 6 months when I had my first crash. I sent a helicopter on a scene flight. A couple minutes later I had the agency calling me on the phone asking me how to shut the helicopter off because my crew was crushed in it and it was till running. We lost a medic that day.
2 years later I had a helicopter decline a flight for weather. Then 4 minutes later I had the nurse yelling at me on the radio telling me they crashed and that the pilot was unconscious. Several times I tried calling her back but no one answered. Apparently on the tapes I dropped the “F” bomb a few times. VERY VERY serious injuries but luckily no one died.
2 years after that I was watching my helicopter on the tracker and noticed his GPS quit moving for about 2 minutes. I called the pilots cell phone and he said his name and base number like it was no big deal. Then he heard my voice and started to freak out. He had had a brown out, rolled his helicopter 200 yards and was trying to get his crew away from the helicopter. Several time over the next half hour he called me back on the phone because I was his calm.
6 months ago, I received a call from the competitor to help search for their helicopter that had gone overdue in the mountains. My crew did an amazing job out there and found the only survivor of a horrible crash.
I think about these all the time. Even years later. I have nightmares. I even have daydreams about things going wrong when I’m not at work. I run scenarios over in my head about the what if’s. And those things get stuck in my head. Have been stuck for years. People think that only EMTs/firefighters/police can have issues. But what about the dispatcher. We hear the screaming on the phones, the radios, the silence when they won’t answer us. Left to feel alone and wondering.
I was a police dispatcher for 6 years and now… I’m leaving my air medical job for police dispatching once again. I guess this will tell me if I need out all together and to find a different path. I am very negative about a lot of aspects of my life but dispatching is not one of them. I know I do great in that field, but don’t now how much more I can take before I have to leave what I love.
– Story written by anonymous, 20 years in EMS.