I just got out of jail yesterday. Criminal Domestic Violence 2nd Degree. I’m not allowed to see my wife or go to the home we built together. I’m not allowed back to work until charges are dropped or my trial is over, which is six months away. I can’t touch a single drop of alcohol and I’m not allowed to even text or call my wife.
I’ve been a medic for a little over three years now, with five years total service given so far. I have had my fair share of unfortunate outcomes and I’ve had quite a few “hero” moments as well. I’ve been told I’m really good at my job and have potential to go further into this field than simply being a truck monkey. I love what I do and I can’t see myself doing anything else now.
I’m 42 years old and finally found my calling after so many years of failed attempts to find a true passion in work. Paramedicine is ever-evolving and you never stop learning. That’s what I appreciate the most about what I do. I don’t ask for recognition when I do something right and I expect to be corrected when I do something wrong. This IS a JOB after all and I do my best to treat it as such.
This job, however, comes with baggage that is rarely seen in real life and grossly dramatized for ratings on TV. I am not much in the way of communicating my feelings verbally and despise the question of “how are you feeling?” And loathe the question of “what are you thinking” even more. My thoughts and feelings are MINE and I have never seen the use in sharing either of them very much as I was raised to think that “strong men stay quiet and suffer even quieter.” It is this thought process that has landed me with an appointment to see an attorney, as well as having to see my HR rep, along with my supervisors and director of my service tomorrow morning.
On December 26 of 2017 at 08:37 AM, I was dispatched, along with an EMT-B partner and a brand new basic graduate to a call for an unconscious and not breathing patient. I’ve run plenty of codes and I understand fully that the outcome is ALWAYS 50/50. I understand that everyone dies in due time. I understand that sometimes no matter how much effort, training, or education you put into these calls, sometimes when your ticket is punched, you have to take the train. I always prepare myself for what type of environment I may be walking into and the hysteria that family members will be experiencing when I walk into their home. I prepare for how I am going to lead my team and I prepare for coaching other responders that will undoubtedly be showing up. I prepare for treatment, I recall my algorithms, I prepare the family for potentially devastating news, and I prepare to write a lengthy and repetitive and monotonous report at the end of it.
What I never prepare for is how I will manage myself afterward. Mostly because I understand life and death are symbiotic and one simply cannot exist without the other. It is accepted and always placed on the back burner of my mind. 3 minutes prior to arriving on scene and still no short report. I radio our communications center for a report and I get dead air. I send a second request and once again, dead air. Fuck it, I’ve had enough codes in my short time doing this to prepare myself for whatever I get handed walking through the door. Except for this day.
We pull up and I advise my partner and student as to what their roles will be until extra hands show up. Partner will start compressions. Student will manage the BVM, and I will run the monitor and drugs. It was a simple plan for a simple call because, quite honestly, if they’re already dead we can’t make them any deader. We can only improve from what we are given.I walk into the front door of the home to find a man standing in the front living room of his home with his Christmas tree lights still shining behind him. Twinkles of green and blue and red with a dash of soft white in between. Presents that had not been opened yet, most likely for family members who had not made it home yet for the holidays.
There were toys strewn about with empty plates and glasses, most likely from the previous night’s festivities. Standing there amongst all of these signs of happiness and joy was a grown man, holding the limp and lifeless body of his 12-day old son in his hands. Squeezing his tiny chest and counting out loud as he held his phone between his shoulder and ear, still being instructed on how to do CPR. He sees me walk through his door and his only words are “help me, he isn’t breathing.”
Of all the days in all the weeks of all the months, today is the day this happens. Of all the people in all the world, today is the day this happens. Not to me, but to him. Why does this have to happen to him? Why does this have to happen to his wife, the mother of their child? Why do grandma and grandpa have to be there to see this happen to their first and only grandson? Why did I have to have a kid barely out of school seeing this today? Why did my partner, who I had never worked with before have to be here today? I was told by my mentor and former teacher that when we get calls like this, you don’t act like a lion. You don’t act all strong and fierce and indestructible.
You don’t act this way because it’s a lie. You’re lying to your patient, you’re lying to your partner, and you’re lying to yourself. You act like a duck swimming across a pond. When a duck lands on a pond, it’s flapping its wings all about, making splashes and disrupting the calmness and stillness of the water. But those ripples and splashes subside and you see that duck gliding effortlessly across the water. Not a single noticeable movement as he makes small little wakes in the water with every inch he glides. But what we don’t see is under the surface of the water. We don’t see that duck kicking his feet repetitively to propel himself across that still and calm body of water. We don’t see the work it takes to make his movement seem so elegant and effortless. But it’s honest. We try to stay calm and collected and appear to be in control on the outside, while on the inside we are kicking our way through every movement.
I chose to be a duck that day. I grabbed the baby and placed him on the floor. He was already cold, mottled, fixed and dilated, with no possible way of opening his mouth that wouldn’t have broken a bone. But am I going to be the one who tells this man his child is forever gone or do I give him SOME hope? Hope that will eventually and unavoidably be torn away by the fact his child has long been expired? Am I to be the one who rips his dreams of playing in the back yard with his son away from him. Am I to be the one who denies him the chance to teach his son how to tie his shoes, brush his teeth, drive a car, or to have the birds and bees talk? Do I do my job or do I give him hope?
Additional responders arrived less than a minute after I did, and by this time we were already on our way to the truck. I declined any further riders because I already knew the outcome and there’s no need to tie up another truck for what would essentially be the final ride of this child’s short life. As I climbed in the back, along with my student, I advised the parents of which hospital to go to and I shut the doors. I told my student to stop what he was doing and grab my phone while I uploaded the rhythm strip to the hospital. I called the ER and conferred with the doctor on duty and explained our situation.
His only question was “why didn’t you pronounce on scene?” I had no answer. No answer that I could say out loud, but a thousand I could say in my head. I didn’t want the last place he saw his dead child to be on the living room floor surrounded by unopened presents. I didn’t want this house to become a mausoleum in memory of a child they hadn’t yet had the chance to get to know. I didn’t want that mother and father to have to walk into that living room every day for the rest of their lives and see the ghost of their 12-day old son lying there on the floor. I didn’t want to tell them their goddamn child was never coming back, you self-centered, god-complexed, egotistical cocksucker. THAT’S WHY!
Because for the first time I was afraid of someone would see me feel. I was afraid they would know what I was thinking. I was simply afraid. We pulled into the bay and brought the child into the furthest room available to avoid any other patients from hearing the inevitable commotion that would soon follow. Our patient was pronounced and disconnected from all monitoring. He was redressed and covered. Lifeless and cold. Bruised from his father compressing his tiny little chest. Eyes yellowed and cold. He was no longer my problem. I no longer had to worry about what I was going to say to those parents. I no longer had to worry about my student or my partner. I no longer had to worry about writing a long and boring and repetitive report or restocking the truck with all the supplies we would have normally used.
I spent a great many nights thinking about that kid and whether I did the right thing for him. Not by discontinuing efforts because I knew they were futile, but whether I should have taken him from the home. Whether I should have given the parents one last chance to hug and hold him before the coroner and law enforcement showed up. Was it right to take him from his home and away from all those people who loved him because I was afraid to tell someone the terrible news about their loved one?
I spent the other day working out in my yard as I do on IST days I’m not on shift. It clears my mind and brings me peace being outside. I enjoy the sweetness of cold southern air. I enjoy the rumble of my tractor as I pretend to be a farmer in my off time. I like seeing the fruits of my efforts at the end of the day. My wife called me and told me she was on the way home from work. I asked her to stop and grab me a bottle of my favorite Irish whiskey on the way home. She does on days where I don’t seem too stressed or down.
Today was one of those days. It was a good day. She came home. We ate turkey burgers. Our kids were home from college for the weekend. The whole family was here. We listened to 90’s hip hop and dance music, which may be odd for a white couple from the south that lives on a farm, but stranger things have been known to happen. We danced and flirted with each other. We played some card games with the kids. And I drank more. I felt good. For the first time in a very long time, I felt good. We played more games and I drank more. At some point during one of our card games (against humanity) a card was turned over with the phrase “a room full of dead babies.”
My wife says she saw the light in my eyes almost immediately go out. I went from happy, jovial, and flirtatious, to almost lifeless. She used the old term “the lights were on but no one was home.” I don’t remember anything past that moment. From what I am told, I walked into my bedroom closet and laid down on the floor and almost immediately began sobbing and crying. Physically producing tears, which at the age of 42, I can count on one hand how many times has happened since we have been together. She came in to attempt to console me and when she tried to lie down next to me, I began choking her. Asking her why she let me kill “that child.” I then began attempting to perform CPR on her and asking for medications and another unit. This went on for what I am told about 2 minutes before my oldest daughter walked into our room to see if we were coming back to the card game. At this point, my wife is bleeding from the mouth and I am crying uncontrollably, screaming at her about killing “that child.” My daughter had no clue as to what was happening and called 911.
Police arrived. Members from my service arrived as it was reported as an assault. I awoke to a sheriff’s deputy standing over me while I slept. I had no clue as to why he was there and could not provide any information as to the events that unfolded. I willingly put my hands out and told him to take me to jail, which he obliged. I was walked out of my front door with my supervisor and co-workers standing there to see the events unfold.My wife refuses to press charges as she feels that what happened is not a case of domestic violence. In all of the years we have been together I have never laid hands on her in a violent manner. It is not in my disposition to do such a thing and she feels this is the manifestation of me not talking about what happened that day and not seeking help. I chose to keep my thoughts and feelings inside and keep them down with alcohol and overtime. This has led to it rotting my insides and bringing harm to my family, my job, my coworkers, and my service.
The officer who arrested stated he does not see this as a domestic violence case either, but it must be charged as one due to her injuries and our states “no drop” law. I was booked and placed in a holding cell until my bind hearing and eventual release. I spent the last two nights staying at my mother-in-law’s house as I am not allowed back home at this time. I have a meeting scheduled tomorrow to find out if I still have a job. My wife and lifelong best friend, who also happens to be a pastor, are scheduled to meet with the county solicitor in the morning as well in an attempt to have charges dropped in lieu of counseling and alcohol treatment. I have a support system in my family and friends and a few coworkers. I’m not sure what will happen.
I do think that maybe if things go well, I will keep working where I am until I can find work elsewhere, or maybe I’ll just stick it out there and ride the “shame train” if it doesn’t go well. Then it is what it is and lesson learned. I’m not mad at anyone for what happened and I have no one to blame but myself for everything that has happened. I have learned that being quiet and staying quiet doesn’t work. So this was my first step in sharing. Maybe I’ll share more one day. Baby steps. Baby steps.
His name was Spencer.
– Story written by “138”. 42 year old paramedic from South Carolina. 5 years in EMS.