One of Our Own

We care for many lives every shift. We provide emotional support, life sustaining, and life saving treatment. We learn to leave our patients at work and not let the stress follow us home. But when it's one of your own that you have to care for, everything changes. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

One of Our Own

In the fire and EMS department we become a family. We work 24 hour shifts several times per week with the same people. We work hard and play hard. We share holidays, meals and sleep in the same room. We know their families, attend their kids ball games and birthday parties. We support them during the rough times and share their enjoyment of the good times. On calls we work as a tight-knit team. We anticipate each other's moves and can talk without speaking. We enter scenes that are less than safe and drive fast with citizens who don't appreciate the driving laws. Our safety is in each other's hands.

I am trained to care for others both as an ICU RN and Paramedic. I have the alphabet soup after my name. I have held people as they die and pulled many back from the brink of death. I have seen things that nobody should ever have to see, but I'm trained to talk it out and move on. During my 13 years in EMS and 6 years as a nurse, this has worked for me.

Not this time.

It was like any other shift. My partner and I had finished our daily chores, had run a few calls, and were goofing off like usual. Suddenly he sat down, put his head in his hands, and stared at the floor. I jokingly said "come on, what's wrong you old smoker?" and quickly realized that my goofball partner was not goofing around. He picked his head up and looked at me with terror in his eyes, grabbed at his chest, and said his chest was on fire. I ordered this stubborn man to get out to the ambulance and my heart sank when I received no contest.

He collapsed onto the stretcher and pulled off his shirt. I turned on the cardiac monitor and pulled out the leads. They wouldn't stick. His breathing was becoming heavier, his color more grey. I didn't need an EKG to tell me that my partner was quickly slipping from my grasp. I called on the radio for additional help. Gauze pad after gauze pad, sticker after sticker, I finally was able to confirm my worst fear. STEMI. My face couldn't lie. My shaking hands gave it away. I looked at him and said "it's real." He closed his eyes.

It felt like hours, but help arrived. I ordered them to drive priority 1 (most critical) to the hospital that was two miles away. I gave aspirin, applied oxygen, and further sank when I realized that his vital signs were too low for me to administer nitro. I sent the EKG to the ER and called them on the radio to give a heads up. "It's one of ours." The four words that EMS never wants to say, and the ER never wants to hear.

A second BP pops up on the monitor and it's significantly lower. His color is greyer, muscle tone weak, and he's staring off into space. The voice in my head says a cuss word I can't repeat as I shake him to make sure he is still alive. He turns his head slowly and makes eye contact-they are begging, pleading "help me, I'm going to die." I crouched down beside him and started an IV. At that very moment, I felt the telltale bump in the road that signified that we had arrived at the hospital. How in the world could a 4 minute drive take hours?

We rushed inside with him barely awake, vitals even lower. I was shaking, breathless, and scared out of my mind. There wasn't time for report. We lifted him to the ER stretcher and I lost sight of him as a sea of doctors and nurses surrounded him. The familiar monitor alarms were going off, yelling for drugs. I was pushed out into the hallway unsure if I would ever see him alive again.

I collapsed on the floor and the tears started flowing. My partner, my friend, my family member. What little staff wasn't in the room was with me, providing hugs, tissues, and water. Several minutes later he was rushed past me to the cath lab. I followed. I sat alone in the cath lab waiting room and started making phone calls. His father was on his way. My boss put our ambulance out of service and was on his way. The minutes took hours to pass. His family arrived and we anxiously waited for news.

Finally. The nurse appeared with a smile on her face! A 99% blockage was stented, his vitals had returned to normal, and he was pain free!

He spent a few days in the hospital and is back to his normal self.

Not me.

His pleading and terrified eyes, grey color, and tombstones on the EKG keep flashing through my mind. My hands shake. My chest hurts. I have palpitations. Nausea. Dammit, I did what I was trained to do, and it worked! But why do I still hurt? I should be happy that I made a difference! Instead, my stomach twists into knots when people tell me I "saved his life." Each day gets slightly better. A concerned boss, supportive co-workers and ER nurses have lessened the pain.

I am not a hero. I am a nurse and paramedic. Most importantly, I am a family member.

This too shall pass and just be another story in my book.

Critical Care Transport Nurse and Paramedic

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Specializes in Med-Surg, Emergency, CEN.

I'm so sorry this happened to the two of you. That's a terrible thing to have happen. I'm so glad you were able to keep it together enough to help family. It's awful when your clinical detachment is compromised.


Oh my ! Can't imagine what that was like for you. Take care of your self . Maybe utilizing your employers EAP may help.

My initial thought when reading your post was that if you're unlucky enough to have a STEMI with a 99% blockage, having it in an ambulance with a trained partner right there and being four minutes away from a hospital with a cath lab, is one of the better scenarios.

I'm very glad that your co-worker is doing well. You did good! You've experienced a traumatic situation. Caring for someone you know and care for isn't at all the same as caring for patients when you have your "professional armor" on. You go to work mentally prepared to handle tough and emotionally demanding situations, but you weren't prepared for this. Don't hesitate to seek professional help, in my opinion it can really help you sort out some of the feelings you're experiencing. I don't want to post about my experiences, but been there, done that. It does get better.

Take care! Cyber hugs

Specializes in ICU and EMS.

Macawake, you are so right! Your words are some of the first that are comforting. So many "think" they know how I feel and offer kind words, but they don't bring comfort. I know they mean well, and I am very thankful for that.

My partner has expressed that he too is struggling with the emotional aspect. We got through this event together, and will heal together as well.

The process of writing this article was very therapeutic. I think I will continue to write as I move through this. I also have an amazing support system both at home and at work. I am so lucky for that!

Thank you all for allowing me to let off steam and for all of your kind words (both in comments and PMs). They are all very much appreciated!!

Specializes in CVOR, CVICU/CTICU, CCRN.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your strength in sharing this piece. I'm probably the second-youngest nurse in my hospital and the youngest medic in my squad. The older veterans of either workplace are well into their 60's with many compounding risk factors. The scenario you described has been on my mind for quite a while. I'm dreading the day that your story becomes my story.

On another note, I was impressed by your ability to capture the emotions as you recounted the experience. Artfully and masterfully done!

Dude, I can't even imagine what you went through. I'm glad you were able to come on here to talk about it.

I don't have any experiences as tough as yours to relate to, but I have had to take care of people that I know, and it makes a huge difference when you can't keep your detachment.

Suddenly, the trauma is yours as well as your patient's.

I think a lot of the emotional component is about losing your power as a provider and becoming a "victim." Suddenly, you feel helpless, or at least I have.

I think you and your partner will be able to work through this together, although your relationship will most likely never be the same. You have saved this person's life, a person that you see and interact with instead of just save and move on, and that will create a tie between you that no one else will understand.

Good luck to you and your partner as you recover!

Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website.

Having a patient tank in front of you, while traumatic in its own right, doesn't come close to having a close friend, someone who's like family suddenly go south.

It sounds like you were able to keep your wits about you in spite of what happened, which was a terrible trauma...the mark of a true professional.

Great replies posted above (and likely below) this one; I echo their thoughts. I just needed to also compliment your marvelous ability to relate a gripping story. Real tears. I was absolutely there with you. If writing isn't one of your avocations, it should be.

Best of everything to you and your partner. Keep being awesome. :cool:

Wow, I'm so glad your partner is alright. Of course you are going to be feeling this way. An experience like that, no matter your training or strength, is traumatic and there will be after math--especially since we have to repress our feelings in a crisis situation. My heart goes out to you. Huge hugs!

Specializes in Emergency & Trauma/Adult ICU.

You did good. Wishing you, your partner, and your department well.

Specializes in ICU and EMS.

You guys crack me up! Writing is soooo not my thing!! I've been putting off getting my BSN only because I HATE writing papers! Stupid, I know. Personal topics are a little different, though.

Again, your kind words are very much appreciated! You all really know how to give a pep talk!