Friday, April 9, 2010


Death has always been a subject that interests me a great deal. It always seems so personal, when and how we die. I've pondered about it frequently and even imagined myself in some of my patients shoes. Wondered about the pain involved, the time frames involved, the people left behind, what's on the other side for each person and so on. Maybe I'm macabre, maybe crazy, maybe a little odd, or maybe we all think about these things and just don't talk about it much. When I examine someone that I have been called to that has died I feel very interested by what I see. The pictures on the wall, the reason for their death, the position they are in, the books on the shelf, the uneaten food cooling on the table, the color scheme of the drapes and furniture, how big their TV is, etc. These things all paint a picture of the person they used to be and may even be involved directly or indirectly in their passing. Sometimes people make a statement with their deaths, other times they go unnoticed for weeks, sometimes family witnesses their demise or sometimes come home to find it.

The family's responses very greatly as well. I've had family ask me to stop CPR to preserve the dignity of the deceased. I've had them beg me to do CPR even though an untrained bystander can see the obviousness of it. I've watched people collapse in their grief, run screaming off into the woods, be totally unable to articulate any words that make sense. I've also seen sad resignation, joy that their family member is no longer in pain, and many times anger.

One facet of this job that I have studied to excel in is the handling of grief situations. It is possibly the hardest, toughest part of our job. To allow ourselves to become jaded, our hearts hardened, is not the answer. Those people left behind need us now and to deal with them effectively and to help them along in their grieving is not easy for anyone. It's the part of the job no one wants.

It's things like this, the things we don't want to do, the things we don't do often, that we need to train on the most and can have the biggest impact on people's lives. Positively or negatively. It may not be a day we remember as a responder, but I guarantee the family will remember that day for the rest of their lives.

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