I had a very rough call this past week at work and I find I’m having trouble shaking it. I rarely take work personal but there are times when certain calls find their way past my shields and really get under my skin. Most days, work is forgotten the moment I leave the building. Hell, its forgotten before I get my bike started. lol 

Sadly in my line of work, even when everything is done 100% right, people still suffer and I realize that. Without getting overly detailed, a person died while they were talking to me on the phone. I did everything I could possibly do (and then some) to no avail. I don’t have any angst or guilt over my performance. Its just been a long time since I had such a raw nerve-racking call.

Most people assume working in my agency, we handle emergencies non-stop, call after call, day after day. That simply isn’t true. Many calls can be urgent and even stressful, but the ratio of truly emergent calls is very low. And while many of our calls are emergencies in one sense or another, there are emergencies and then there are emergencies. That’s the best way I can explain it. I can handle bloody vehicle accidents, shootings, stabbing, fights, assaults, etc w/o blinking an eye. And while I am not belittling the realness of these calls, after years of repeating’em over and over, it just becomes sort of routine. Granted they are still stressful but you don’t really get excited. You handle it as best you can and move on to the next call.

This last call was just so raw and out of the norm, it got to me. Hearing someone slowly [1]in the scope of a call it seems slow but the reality here is within a few minutes pass away while pleading for help and comfort is hard, to say the least. To know you are helpless to prevent the inevitable is just gut-wrenching. I was obviously upset afterwards and took some time to compose myself and refocus my mind. I was texting Apple guy and he managed to make me laugh, which is exactly what I needed. He knocked me out of my funk enough for me to move on. I finished my shift and went on about my life. For whatever reason, this particular call wasn’t so easy to forget. 

The upside to this is I recognized the hard edge within me hasn’t taken over yet. [2]For you newer readers, I’ve discussed on occasion a very dark cold part of my id that scares the holy shit out of me.  I’ll be honest, if I ever lose myself to the dark parts of my id, I would consider my life (and my struggles) an utter failure. It has been and continues to be on of the single most important guiding principles in my life. Thankfully, I don’t see myself going down that path. So while this particular call really got to me, it has also helped to remind me that I am still the man I strive to be. I can’t save everyone but I can take strength and comfort in knowing I do the best I can every time I can, no matter the scenario.


1 in the scope of a call it seems slow but the reality here is within a few minutes
2 For you newer readers, I’ve discussed on occasion a very dark cold part of my id that scares the holy shit out of me.

5 thoughts on “Hard”

  1. Wow! That's got to be rough. I'd be curious to know what the average length of time most 911 operators stay in their jobs. I toured ours here in Long Beach several years ago as part of our involvement with the Chief's LBGT Advisory Group. It was a slow night when we went through, but I always wondered if I had what it takes to do your job. I don't know if I could. So much memorizing for one thing, and then to have to handle calls like you did today, I just don't know how you do it. Hope you release it completely soon!

    @Cigar Dad LB ~ They say only 3% of the population has the right mix of traits to make a career out of it. I'm not sure how true that is. We often keep less than half of all trainees that apply. That said, we have some employees who've been at it almost as long as I've been alive.

  2. Sorry to hear that you had such a rough call. I don't know that I could handle it day after day.

    Everything you said makes SO much sense. At least you haven't reached the 'Oh well, I lost another one!' point in your career. Unfortunately, I'm sure there are lots of people like that out there.

    I realize I don't 'know' you know you, but as you said…if you keep doing the best you can every time you can, I'm fairly certain you'll be more than fine.


  3. Isn't there a saying in your field something about "when it stops affecting you, it's time to quit?"

    You're not there.

    And thank the gods there are people like you around to be there for people like that caller.

  4. It just proves that you still have a soft good heart! We need more people like you in the medical fields!

  5. I echo the overall sentiments of AjohnP, palochi, and icejohn2!

    Even though it's been some time since my days in EMS, I still have episodes of haunting calls, both on the scene and on the phone. It's great that your man is there for you and he help you feel better and I'm glad you can get on your bike and turn your focus to something else.

    Funny I should see this today as I've been having dreams about those days of late.

    I only wish I could twist the throttle on the open roads with you sometime! Keep the shiny side up cuz Apple guy is a lucky man!

    Peace bro!

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