The Cocktail of Emotions

I am feeling a lot of mixed emotions right now.  All of them are competing against each other and seem to be short circuiting my brain.  I’m feeling euphoric with a dash of nostalgia, then suddenly there comes a spike of sadness, then a tinge of excitement and uncertainty.  If anything, it seems like I’ve been given a cocktail of emotional confusion.

And no, I’m not on drugs.

My in-class portion of the PCP (Primary Care Paramedic) program has officially ended today.  Over the last four months I had really bonded with my classmates and teachers.  We faced each other on an average of nine hours, at least five times a week, sometimes more.  We’ve grown to know each other’s quirks and unique personalities, the things we like about each other and the things we could live without.  There were times where we were so sick of each other we couldn’t bear to be in the same room, and other times where we had so much fun, we just wished the day would never end.  We’ve experienced laughter, tears, frustration, and euphoria together.  You feel safe to know that when at times you feel like you’re drowning and just barely able to keep your head above the water, that someone will always be there to toss you a line and drag you to shore, wrap a blanket around you, give you a mocha and say it’s going to be okay.  I don’t ever remember going through a program where by the end of it, you come out as a family, not just with your classmates, but also with your instructors.  Needless to say, I’ve had an amazing experience.  

Cervantes once said:  “The journey is better than the end.”  

I believe that it is the struggles along the way that make the end feels so gratifying.  Yet it is also when we near the end that we feel the tinge of sadness and nostalgia because we don’t want to let go of the wonderful times we’ve had together and we don’t want to forget the struggles we’ve overcome and we want to continue feeling those feelings and experiencing those challenges together.  However, all journeys eventually come to an end, but the end is also the start of a new journey with new challenges, new experiences, and new friendships.

Despite this emotional cocktail I’m feeling right now, I’m looking forward to the next milestone which involves precepting.  I want to thank all my classmates for all the fun times we’ve shared, and all the struggles we each overcame, and the many more yet to come.  I must also give a big thank you to our instructors.  My experience would not have been half as good if it weren’t for your enthusiasm, dedication, and your love for your profession. Thank you for always going the extra mile for us 🙂


Photo Courtesy of A.Brothwell

We were car three on scene for a shooting at a high school.  We pulled our vehicle up behind the other two ambulances just outside the gymnasium, as we got out and looked for the IC (Incident Commander) amongst the triage tarps that have been laid out.  My partner was given the position Transport Officer while I was assigned to help with the Triage Officer.  As I approached triage, I noticed four cops with guns aiming down towards the ends of the long dark hallway.  I can hear screaming from inside the school.

Me:  “Hi, I’m here to help with triage.”

Triage Officer:  “Great, you can help me tag the patients as they come in.”

She ripped me several rolls of tape with the colours red, yellow, green and black as well as triage cards.  The colours indicate the urgency for patient treatment and transport.  Red = Immediate, Yellow = Delayed, Green = Minor, and Black = Morgue or dead.

It wasn’t long before we heard commotion near where we were stationed.  I peered down the dark hall as group of shadows moved towards us, one was being carried by two police officers.  Police escorted a teacher out along with two hysterical students, while another two officers carried an unconscious student with blood all over her shirt.  The teacher was complaining of angina, while the other two students were in shock from the incident.  I quickly tagged the patients and calmed them the best I could in the seconds I had with them before I passed them to the Treatment Officer.  While I was assisting with getting the pt with the GSW (gun shot wound) onto a clamshell I was told that the IC wanted to see me.  

I was reassigned to assist in the treatment area.

I was told to start on the green tarp.  There I was once again met by the teacher and the two students that I tagged earlier.  There was another patient there I had not met, he had a bloodied arm.

Pt:  “My arm hurts!  Ughhh…my arm….”

Me:  “What happened?”

Pt:  “I’ve been shot on the arm..”

I quickly assessed his ABCs then did a quick RBS (rapid body survey).  I exposed his upper left arm and found a hole that was leaking blood with no exit wound.  I quickly dressed and bandaged it, placed the patient supine and got him to elevate his arm.  I didn’t get to do much more than that when I was pulled by the Treatment Officer to assist at the red tarp.

Police:  “It’s okay, it’s okay, take deep breaths, slow breaths, watch me…”

As I approached I noticed the officer was almost cradling this patient 3/4 prone.  The student had streaks of tears on her face, her hair snaked around her shoulders in a mess as she shook uncontrollably.  She had blood all over the front of her shirt, she was sweating, pale, and breathing very rapidly.

Police:  “Look at me, look at me!  That’s it…”

It was clear that the police did not want to leave the patient.  She held onto the patient like she was her lifeline.  There was only one jumpkit to share on the red tarp and there were already three patients there.

Me:  “Hello, can you hear me?”

My patient mumbles.  I give her a pain stimulus and she opens her eyes.  She was breathing but had no radial pulse.  Her carotid was weak.  I looked around for an oxygen tank, but all of them were in use in my treatment area.  As I scanned the area, I glimpsed an unused O2 tank on the green tarp.  I quickly walk over there and grabbed the tank to use for my patient.  As I did my RBS, I cut off my patient’s bloodied shirt and found that a bullet had penetrated her upper abdomen.

Police:  “It’s okay, it’s okay, look at me, breath with me.”

There was a sense of urgency and pain in the officer’s voice.  I kept a wall between all the emotions that were going on between the police officer and the injured student.  It’s not the time to get caught up in emotions, I needed to stay focused and calm so I can do my job well.  I dug into the jumpkit but couldn’t locate an occlusive dressing.  I dug around some more in the messy kit.  Oh this is just wonderful, I wished we had the pelican cased jumpkits.  Frustrated, I grabbed a trauma dressing and placed it on her belly to stop the bleeding.

Me:  “I’m just going to put a dressing on your belly, okay.”

The patient didn’t respond.

Me:  “Hi, what’s your name?  (Directed at the police officer)”

Police:  “Her name’s Lana.  It’s okay, it’s okay…”

Me:  “Sorry, what’s your name?”

Police:  “Huh?  Oh!  My name… Janice.”

Me:  “Janice, you’re doing a great job, could you apply some pressure for me here? (I nodded at the trauma dressing).”

Janice placed her hand on the dressing as she tried again to calm the shuddering patient.  I quickly checked the rest of the patient’s body for injuries but found none as another paramedic came to help me.  We managed to treat the abdomen injury but our patient suddenly stops shuddering.  She goes limp onto the Police Officer’s arms.  I laid her supine, she was unresponsive and barely breathing.

Dammit!  I looked in the jump bag beside me as I fished for an adult BVM.  No luck.  Are you kidding me?  I looked around and noticed the patient just behind us was being bagged.  I sigh.  Since we were sharing a jumpkit (the extra equipment had not yet arrived) on the red tarp that meant we had only one BVM.

Partner:  “Where’s the BVM?”

Me:  “There isn’t one.”

I fished out the pocket mask instead, and just as I was about to hand it to my partner who’s holding the patient’s airway open, someone tossed us a BVM.  Perfect!

In the midst of everything, it wasn’t until we had our patient’s ABCs taken care of and wrapped in a blanket
that I noticed the police officer had left.  I wondered if she was okay…but there’s no time to think of that as another patient gets placed on our tarp.  This patient was shot in the upper left arm and also in the left thigh.  He was shuddering uncontrollably as well, and his skin was cold to the touch.  All the blankets were in use, and there were no blankets left for him.

Me:  “I just gotta cut some of your clothes off to take a look at your injuries.”

Pt:  “Don’t cut too much off, I’m cold…”

Me:  “I know, I’ll  make sure to wrap you back up to keep you warm.”

Cutting through clothing wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated, especially since I didn’t want to cut his jacket.  I worked my way around his arm and dressed the gunshot wound.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the patient we were bagging earlier had coded.  She’s now a black.  I grabbed the blanket that was on her and placed it on my patient.

I could hear someone nearby comment that I took Lana’s (the patient’s) blanket.

Me:  “Yeah… but she’s dead, my patient’s still alive and cold.”

I didn’t realize how blunt and horrible that sounded until it came out of my mouth.  Ooops! =/

It was busy working on the red tarp as I hopped from patient to patient, trying to control the airways and bleeds, and trying to get the patients on the stretchers and cots quickly so they can be transported to the hospital.  There was no time to think about the patients that had died and moved over to the morgue.  It felt like the bodies just kept on coming, and I just kept on changing from one bloodied set of gloves into another, and another, and another.  I found I got into the rhythm of things, was able to keep a calm demeanor yet work quickly.  That’s something I don’t think I could have done when I first started the PCP program.


6 thoughts on “The Cocktail of Emotions

  1. Sounds I’ll be in your boots soon, can’t wait! Maybe I’ll see you out there!

    1. Yay! You’re almost done 🙂 Have fun with the last stretch! Yeah maybe I’ll run into you on the streets 🙂

  2. I tried searching for a recent story about a high school shooting in BC but found nothing. Why is that? Congrats on finishing the course!

    1. That’s good that you can’t find it, because there wasn’t one. It was a practice scenario we ran with the police academy. If there was a real HS shooting that I attended, I will not be writing about it because that’ll break patient confidentiality. I only write calls and write it in ways in which people can’t trace the patient/person to. For example, sometimes I don’t differentiate between school calls and real life calls, or I would randomize the gender, change the locations, write in non-specific ways/generalize, change the age of the patient, place calls out of sequence to the actual date, or change the times, etc.

      And thanks! I’ve only finished one portion, got another portion (practicals) left to go 🙂

  3. Hey there! I am in the current (May 2011) PCP class @ the JI. That active shooter day sounds like it was cool! Lots to see and do and LEARN!! I am only 2 weeks in and already I fell 10 X smarter, medically than I did before I started the course! Good luck with the future.

    1. Yeah it is really cool. Hopefully you guys get to do it too (depends on the police schedule). Sounds like you’re having a good time 🙂 Good luck with the rest of the course!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s