Friday, October 15, 2010

My birthday, sorting through death and destruction

I lied there, motionless in the dark staring at the ceiling, 8000 miles from home. God, what I would have gave for just a couple hours of sleep. I had been working 2 day shifts followed by 2 night shifts back to back and my insomnia was terrible. I had been awake for over 24 hours and my brain would just not shut off.  It was my birthday and I had just turned 28 years old. I was deep in thought that night. A lot of things where racing through my mind about my own life, but I would have to put those thoughts on hold for later.
     Silence was once again broken by the squelch of the radio, followed by shouts for the en famous Medic-12. Medic 12 was not only my work alias but now also served as my sleep deprived alter ego. I dawned my trusty steed (aka our Toyota camery) My blood shot eyes staired off into the night as I watched the red and blue reflections all around us from our light bar whilst we speed down the highway. Having had no sleep in over 24 hours, they where almost hypnotic. We get an update on the way to the scene that this is a large vehicle accident with multiple patients. The BLS(Basic Life Support) Ambulance on scene is calling for ALS(Advanced Life Support) back up and additional resources.
We finally reach our objective, but I see no vehicles, then I look down the 20 foot embankment to my right and see the body's and vehicles strung out all over the ground. I start making my way down the steep embankment. The first body I come up to is motionless, I quickly confirms he is dead and move on to the next person several feet away. They are also dead, I continuing moving along searching for every patient I can find in the dark, listening for screams of help. I come across 3 more body's a short distance away. 2 of them appear to be stable and are talking to me, but next to them I find someone motionless. Expecting another dead body I check and the person takes a spontaneous breathe. I open his airway and assign some of the BLS crew to start packaging him while I continue to search for more patients. I only find 1 other person and they to are dead. I return to the unconscious man who took the breath. We strap him to a backboard and load him into the ambulance quickly.
En route to the hospital I begin to suction all the blood from his airway and we assist his ventilations. The EMT's work on getting an IV while I continue to work on the airway. His Oxygen saturation levels are to low and he needs a secure airway. I attempt to intubate him (place a breathing tube into his trachea) But his jaw is clinched. unfortunately my station does not yet have paralytics which I desperately need to give him to unclench his jaw and facilitate passage of the breathing tube. I start to consider alternatives interventions to resolve the problem but we arrive at the hospital quickly. As we wheel him from the ambulance to the ER he go's into cardiac arrest . I say a vulgar word out of frustration and walk away. The ER team decides to work him sense it just happened, but I know you never really successfully resuscitate a traumatic arrests. After several minutes of interventions and 2 rounds of drugs, they discontinue all efforts and call time of death.
I wash up, grab all our gear, have the ED doctor sign our report and head back to the station. I managed to get a little bit of sleep but it did not last long. I would go on multiple calls like this the next 2 nights. Finally I got home and collapsed. I was mentally and physically exhausted and sleep for 15 hours strait.