I don’t talk about work a lot here as I often feel it is just too much for people. It was never really the purpose of my blog either. The first thing a person often asks me when they discover my line of work, "What is the worst call you’ve ever taken?" Honestly, I’ve taken so many calls over the years, there really isn’t just one or two. I also like to think I don’t remember calls simply because of how awful they are. Actually, I know that is true. But yeah, there are always calls that stick with you for one reason or another. I can name on two hands the calls that have stuck with me. I guess that is good considering it has been 15 years! In no particular order:
1) Gay guy shoots himself on the phone with me.
2) Security guard finds an aborted baby in a trash can on the 15th floor of an office building.
3) Woman with psych issues throws her kids in the bay and drowns them because "the voices said so. ."
4) Little girl calls 911 and hangs up, on call back I had a suspicion she was being molested.
5) Woman calls because her boyfriend has stabbed her (6-9 times)1
6) Homeless guy pulls a dying man from a burning vehicle
7) The lion that got loose at the zoo and mauled a kid. (Yes that one)
8) The death of an officer in the line of duty. (Sadly, I’ve been present for two of these)
9) An unwitnessed arrest patient that woke up.2
10) The first baby I helped deliver.
#1 Was very personal to me. I was still very new at the time. He was determined to do it and he did. I felt bad but I knew I had done my absolute best and so never lost sleep over it. I still remember the conversation we had. It had a big impact on my decision to share my own near-suicide from my childhood on my blog.
#4 Is probably the only call where I felt like I failed the caller. The police made contact with the father but couldn’t prove anything. I did a lot of extra work, making calls to different agencies, hunting for any source of proof to push it further. Nothing came of it. It still gnaws at me to this day.
#7 Should be self-explanatory if you lived in SF at the time.
#8 Is still very painful to me and I still get very sad over it at times. I also had a co-worker that took her own life (not at work). She was a classmate and a friend. I still do a remembrance for her every year.
#10 Is by far the funniest because the father was constantly one-step away from losing it the whole time. It wasn’t until I tried to give him instructions on how to clip the cord that he really just lost it. "Oh man, you are asking too much!" was his reply! heehee Luckily, the crews arrived just then. I never got to meet the baby but I hope he is healthy and fabulous!
It shouldn’t come as a surprise I’m looking forward to my extended admin assignment. But don’t misunderstand, it isn’t to avoid these types of calls, just the opposite actually. The time away will allow me to renew the compassion and concern that pushed me into this job in the first place. The breadth of my call volume has definitely been building up on me, even I can see it. I find I’m more jaded and irritated at callers these days. I’m quick to frustration over people who abuse the system.
It used to be I’d take a nice vacation away and come back fully refreshed. Lately, it doesn’t seem to help. If anything, the extraordinarily stable home life as of late has been the biggest offset. Having Shawn and Cooper gives me peace and joy. Anyway, I’m hoping the break from day to day the drama will allow me to recover from years of abuse and raw emotion. I don’t want to end up bitter and angry at the public. I don’t want to not care or be indifferent to the suffering of others.
People often tell me, "you knew what you signed up for", or "you get paid a lot of money, so what if it’s hard." And it might be true on both counts to a degree, but I’m still a human being. I didn’t suddenly gain the ability to not be affected by the work I do. I can’t switch on/off my emotions. And I honestly think I’m better suited for this job than others. I rarely take work home with me and I handle stress pretty well. Even the best person wears down over time.
I’ll still work "the floor" from time to time to keep my skills up, but I’ll be out of daily call rotations for 3-5 years. (I can stay a full 5 or come back after 3) My assignment starts the first week in June. I’ll be in the same building just in a different section. Besides, the super early hours, I’m really looking forward to it.