Admin note: Trigger warning for graphic description of car fire/MVA.
I spent 10 years as an EMT and paramedic. 10 years had turned me into a numb and exhausted drunk. I escaped with my newly earned RN license to the relative peace and stability of a 24 bed cardiac ICU. A few years there and I migrated to the ER. 5 years there and apparently I had forgotten.
On to the helicopter I went. I loved it but eventually it hit me hard that if I stayed that eventually I would leave my daughters without a mother. CCT was next. It was good. My patients were challenging and I wasn’t trapped in a hospital. The best of both worlds. Other than a disproportionate number of really sick pediatric patients, life was good.
The call that I’m scared is finally going to take me down wasn’t even my call… Maybe it was, maybe all of them are back to haunt me. On our way to a code 3 CCT call we came up on an accident. I feel like vomiting typing this. I get out of the rig. The engine compartment is just starting to burn. A plain clothes officer says she is pinned in. I yell at one of my EMTs to grab our extinguisher. She’s definitely pinned in, badly pinned in. She’s conscious, she’s screaming. The fire is growing.
We knock it down with extinguishers but it’s not out. I dump our drinking water on her. I cut open all of IV bags and dump them on her. I use our metal scoop to try to pry the door. Any thing. I can hear sirens. They are too far away. She screams and she burns. She writhes around and eventually falls to the side.
The engine pulls up…2 minutes too late. What did I watch? Could this actually be real? Why didn’t more people help? I can’t breath, my chest hurts.. It’s not just smoke inhalation. The people I tell look at me like I’ve shot them and I haven’t even told the whole story. My first day as a solo medic I watched someone burn but she was already dead. She didn’t look me in the eye and scream “ooh my god” before she burned.
Tonight I will try not to drink. I will take my newly prescribed Xanax instead. I will cough and cough and cough. 37 hours until I go back to work.
– Story written by Chantell, 42 year old RN from California.