My pager went of at 21:25, unconscious older male. I threw on my basic black class C's and jacket, and flew out the door. Despite the fog I made good time getting to the station and was given the driver's seat in the Rescue Rig. It is no secret, I love driving Code 3. Just a minute into the drive dispatch said the family had started CPR, I knew what we were heading into. This was going to be my first CPR case. "They're doing CPR, so we grab the O2 bag, med bag, and start compressions as soon as we get on scene?" I asked Cap'n Eddie over my shoulder. He grunted affirmation and asked me what size gloves I needed. As I drove up the steep, winding road I did a quick mental/spiritual check: Everything okay? Yeah, I was calm and focused. There was a family member waiting for us at the end of the driveway with a flashlight, a great boon on a foggy night. I pulled up to the house, stomped the emergency break, and actually remembered to chock the tire before I opened the compartment and grabbed the O2 bag, Joe grabbed the med kit, and Eddie had the AED defibrillator. I was first in, calling out to the people in the house, quickly seeing a woman kneeling next to a very still man. "Let me take over," I said gently, dropping my bag and kneeling next to the man, my CPR training very clear in my mind. I started nice, solid, deep compressions while Joe and Eddie started getting out the rest of the gear. During class we were told that when you start compressions you will feel and hear the sternum and ribs pop and crack. I did. It was a little unnerving, but not unexpected. I know it is better to do continual compressions at 100 beats a minute with no break for oxygen if there is only one person with hands on the patient. I did it by the book, with the Bee Gees song "Staying Alive" playing in my head as the perfect speed and rhythm for compressions. I stopped briefly to feel for a pulse, there was nothing. I got right back to it. Our duty officer arrived just as Joe got oxygen on the patient, I heard his voice, registered that he was there, but my focus was narrowed down to the man under my hands, and the feel of his chest under my palms. 20 compressions then "Okay Joe, two quick breaths." 20 compressions, "Okay Joe." The paramedics arrived, speaking quietly to me, reaffirming my feeling that what I was doing was not going to make any difference to the patient, but was what the family was needing to see. "You're doing perfect," I heard several times. Then our other Rescue unit arrived, and I was relieved by one of my former classmates. Now I got to step back and be the observer. The paramedics ran an EKG strip, there was no pulse. He stepped over to talk quietly with the family. The decision to end resuscitation efforts was made and time of death was called. We quietly gathered our things and got out from under foot.
Stepping out into the brisk night air, my mind was still clear and focused. I looked inward to see how I was feeling. I knew I was okay. A small, nervous Blue Heeler came up to me, her eyes worried, her body language showing her concern. The dogs always find me. I kneeled down and gave her scratches, murmuring my condolences, telling her it would be okay. Oddly, it is her worried, furry face that overshadows the ashen, slack face I had kneeled over for a few eternal moments. The dogs always find me and work their way into my heart.
We finished packing up our gear, I backed out of the driveway, and drove back to the station. We talked about the case. Eddie showing his gruff concern for me. I knew I was all right with the incident, it was a good first call of this nature. I know there will be more, many more, over the years. I also know there will be some that will effect me deeply. This was a good opportunity to see just how I would react. All of this is new, and no one knows how they will react until they are already elbow deep into something. So far I have faced each situation calmly, with good focus, steady nerves, and no unnecessary adrenaline screwing with my mind. I really love this.
Next month I get my first class in Fire Investigation, a whole new adventure. A fabulous way to start the New Year. I am excited.