It's a cold, fall day at a football game and a light, misty rain has been falling, it's just wet enough to add that extra chill to the air. John and I are partnered up and hiding under the bleachers in the concourse, biding time until we can switch positions and get back to the nice, warm truck. Suddenly the radio blares a heart-stopping message; "Sierra Eight, Control. Man down in section 22, suspected heart attack." John and I exchange adrenaline-infused glances as we grab our gear and sprint up the stairs towards the unknown.
A middle-aged white male is sprawled across the bleachers as frantic family members and bystanders scream desperately for help. His face is blue, he has no pulse. John barks at me to start CPR, and I do, terrified beyond belief. He radios for help and pulls out the BVM and O2. As I reach 30 compressions, he throws in an airway and gives two breaths. Roy and NDP skid to a halt beside us, they have brought the stretcher and stair chair. The rain soaks us all as we rush him down the bleachers into the shelter of the concourse. I continue CPR and feel his ribs break under my hands with an audible snap. I look up, horrified, and Roy commands "Keep going!", the intensity in his eyes just daring me to defy him. I keep going as they hook up the AED, with John taking over ventilations. EMS is on the way, I hear the sirens descending on us. "Clear! Everyone get back!" I step back as Roy presses the button, the man twitches and jolts. No change. "Clear!".............
........I wake with a cry, jolt out of my daydream with a start.
In my dreams, the man wakes up and the incoming paramedics congratulate us on our save.
In my nightmares, he dies, and the desperate wailings of his loved ones echo in my ears for years. I can't stop feeling his breaking ribs under my hands, can't stop seeing the dead look in his eyes.
This scenario repeated in my mind with frightening regularity a year ago. When I first started going out on duty, I was terrified that this would happen, that something would happen that I could not handle. As I gain experience and training however, I have become less and less worried about it, to the point I am at now, where I know I could run that call. I have seen people not breathing, I have helped save a life. I know how I react in tense situations, with a calm head and busy hands. I also know that most calls are not life-threatening. Most of what we do, most of what anybody in EMS does, does not consist of saving lives.
When I am tired or doubting myself, this scene may replay itself in my head, but now I catch it, I think my way through it, and I turn it into what I know I would do. I no longer envision myself falling apart or freezing, and I no longer put the guys in charge. With increasing confidence and skills, I am able to do this on my own, and in another month, I will have the official certification that enables me to do so. I am looking forward to it. John has taught me well, he has taught me a lot, and I am ready to jump out on my own. That's not to say that I know everything, or that I'll never fall, but I know I can do this. I want to do this.