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  1. #1
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    Lightbulb First cardiac arrest.. Cold one.

    Hey guys, new kid on the block here. My first cardiac arrest was this morning around 0555, he was pretty cold and stiff.. Wife and daughter was crying and stuff and I about puked. Found out the fire service was not all fun and games. Anyone else had the wake up call?
    Last edited by MaynardJohn; 12-05-2011 at 11:03 AM.


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    MembersZone Subscriber dmleblanc's Avatar
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    If anyone told you the fire service was all fun and games, you were severely misled. You're going to get calls like this from time to time. In fact, in my experience if you get an "Unresponsive" or "Not breathing" call that time of morning, 3/4 of the time that's what you'll find.

    Don't know if you're paid or volly, but in the volunteer fire service it's probably one of my major retention problems...young vollies who soon discover it's not all driving fast with red lights and charging into house fires, sometimes it's nasty and disheartening and hard work and calls like you had this morning. Paid guys have probably had a long time to consider if this is really something they want to do, before they make the commitment to a career. It may have taken them years to land a paid FF gig. They KNOW this is what they want to do. Vollies more often than not join on a whim and find out later what it's really all about.
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
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    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    — C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

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    Thank you very much to the insight. I was a volly for about three months then caught a full time position, so this is a new experience for me however I feel like I will just grow from it and try to forget as much as I can. My partner said the same thing as well, that if its early mornings most of the time they died early on. The things that bothered me the most was just the fact that the family was tore up and leaning on us and that type of thing. Thanks for listening and responding it helps to talk about it .

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    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    Don't let this get you down, but use it as a learning experience.


    Not all EMS calls turn out well.


    Some are tragic and as you found out, folks pass away and there is nothing that you can do for them.


    Try to keep your composure and wits about yourself. Yes the family will be sad and crying but you have to be strong and try to give them some comfort the best you can. Offer to call some other family members or a neighbor to come over. If they are church goers, find out the clergy's name and make a call to them.

    If you are married get your wife and sit down and talk about this. If your aren't go see a member of the clergy and talk to them.

    If you stay in the business long enough you will see much worst and yes, you will lose your cookies several times.


    Hang in there guy, this is the profession we have chosen.
    Last edited by CaptOldTimer; 12-05-2011 at 04:48 PM.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

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    Thank you very much, I am not married however. Most people would be surprised by this but I am 18, turning 19 actually. Young for the service I know, thank you for your advice I will take it to heart.

  6. #6
    Let's talk fire trucks! BoxAlarm187's Avatar
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    Most of us likely remember our first cardiac arrest call, and it certainly can be a tough one. After a while, it becomes easier to accept death as an inevitable part of the job and you'll know what to expect emotionally: not only from yourself, but the patient's family as well.

    I still feel very bad for family members that find their spouse/mother/father/child dead, as it makes me think about how I would react if I was in that same situation. However, you'll learn what to say (and more appropriately, what not to say) and how to grieve as time goes on.

    Remember that talking to your peers will help you learn about your own normal reaction to incidents like this.
    Career Fire Captain
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    Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

  7. #7
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    The best thing I could advise you is to learn how to use your psychological snooze button.

    Just like on an alarm clock, this snooze button doesn't cancel the inevitable, it just delays it until a better time. Rely on your training, take care of business, and when you clear the call, you may fall apart as needed.

    You probably won't master this by tomorrow, but in time you can do it. The key thing is to remember that you MUST deal with your emotions at the earliest possible time. Just delay them until the work is done.

    Hang in there.
    "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
    --General James Mattis, USMC


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    Forum Member Miller337's Avatar
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    What the others have said is all true. One thing I would add is, concentrate on your task and remember your training. Don't just sit there and let it overwhelm you. People call becouse they need help, not another victim. Some days it is very very hard to remember and get back on task but you have to. That you are able to talk about this is a good sign, don't bottle it up and let it fester.

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    Pay attention to the above, a lot of good info.

    First, about these calls, I hope you’re not disillusioned about the effectiveness/survivability rates of CPR. For an unwitnessed, out-of-hospital arrest, the survival rate for CPR is something like 2%.

    You will come to know the right things to do and say, and perhaps more important what NOT to do or say. We jokingly refer to these calls as “They woke up dead.” It is something that we have had families say to us on several occasions, but obviously that is something we would only repeat to each other in the station or on the truck. The Golden Rule comes into play here. If that were your Grandma, Dad, or Sister – how would you want you want the EMS crew to act and treat you or your family?

    There’s a good number of ways to deal with the stress of these calls. But it is important that you DO deal with it. Divorce, alcoholism, depression and other outcomes run at increased rates among firefighters. My department has had 2 suicides in the last year, and a few more in recent years past. I won’t ever know why, so maybe these types of calls had nothing to do with it. But on my first fatal call, one of the guys who committed suicide was with me. The conversations I had with him that day, and especially about that call, now come back to haunt me in his absence.


    See if your department has an Employee Assistance Program, peer counseling, etc.
    Opinions expressed are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Philadelphia Fire Department and/or IAFF Local 22.

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    To everyone that has replied to my post thank you very much, yes one of my crew members made the "woke up dead" joke and it about made me sick. As the days proceed on it has been much better and I too now can laugh a little at this joke. As far as the what to say and what not to say goes I am going to just stay quite and watch what my AO does. Thank you all for the help and motivation it goes a long way.

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    I still remember my first code, and was my first time doing CPR. I had the man's hysterical daughter standing right over my shoulder the whole time, and unfortunately he did not make it. Seen a few more since then.

    Two things I was told during my rookie school always have helped me get past it.

    1. Whenever you meet someone on a call, that day is probably the worst day of their life (their family member is hurt or dead, their house is on fire, etc.)

    2. Don't take the job personally. You did not cause the problem, you are just there to try to make the outcome a little better.

    #2 has always come to mind after a fatality. You always do the best you can, you win some, you lose some. Don't let the first one scare you out of the service, you will have the opportunity to help many others.

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    i remember my first code. older guy and his wife and adult son and daughter watched us do cpr. Unfortunately he heart blew and he was gone before he hit the floor. Hard part is when the family asks if hell be alright. I still have the thank you card his famiyl sent me after the call. donr cpr once sense then and was unsuccessful

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    What has helped me deal with these events is understanding that its all part of the circle of life. When i first began my first two weeks i ran 3 doa, my dog died and my grandpa passed. I seriously considered quitting. I was thinking to myself I didnt sign up to be a damn coroner..

    I talked to my capt and he called down our local chaplain and talking to him really helped. we didn't cause the problem, we are just there to do what we can with the power that is given to us. It is nothing to be ashamed of your hurting on the inside brother. Hope this helps, you have a lot of support here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaynardJohn View Post
    To everyone that has replied to my post thank you very much, yes one of my crew members made the "woke up dead" joke and it about made me sick. As the days proceed on it has been much better and I too now can laugh a little at this joke. As far as the what to say and what not to say goes I am going to just stay quite and watch what my AO does. Thank you all for the help and motivation it goes a long way.
    A few things I have learned over the years...

    You can't save the world. The world is a banged up place and all we can do is our best; you can't change people.

    Do what you were trained to do and no matter the outcome you will have been successfull. You can't save everyone.

    Finally, this may sound idiodic but don't take things too seriously. You can't change the way things are and you can only do your best. Those horrific jokes will force you to talk about a nest call and help you deal with it. Each person must find their own way of dealing and utilize it.

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    Worldwide Menace DFurtman's Avatar
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    Don't let this eat you up inside.. Don't try to be tough around the guys.. it's your first dead guy.. people don't walk into the job being fine with people dropping dead. It's a tough undertaking.. I've been CPR certified for as long as I can remember and on the job since 06 and have yet to work a Heart Attack.. (Luck of the draw I suppose).. My first fatality was a head on car vs dump truck accident on a 55mph highway.. car slid under the bumper of the dump truck and took the poor guys head off.. that was a messy extrication.. The coroners report said the guy had a heart attack while driving down the highway..

    -Damien

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    Def good to talk with other guys about it, everyone has been there and had to experience that. If you are worried about family members etc... sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. They will grieve in their own way and most of the time you being there in their time of need is plenty and nothing you can say will change their emotions. Sometimes we win and sometimes we don't. The main thing is knowing nothing you could have done would have changed that situation.

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    Many times the first "eye opener" is the end of a career. I believe this job picks the person. I have seen a few pick the job and even though as devoted as they were, could not handle what they encountered. If you are one that has been picked then you will find a lesson in this experience and grow from it. However, keep this in mind (some has already been said):

    1) Regardless of how many times you respond to a cardiac arrest, or DOA, or fires, or whatever; it's probably the first time the caller has had to face it. SHOW COMPASSION!

    2) It's ok to get upset. Maintain your composure. Do what you have to do at the time you're called. When you get back in quarters, take a few minutes alone, talk to someone, whatever you need to do but realize it's ok to feel the way you do. Even the old guys have a heart and feel emotion. They've been there too.

    3) I was told this about a month after I joined the fire service and found it hold so much truth: no matter what the situation, find the humor in it. It could be somebody wearing funny shoes at the scene or even seeing you or your partner step in a pile of dog dung. Trust me it will be funny later even if it's you.

    4) I don't take work home with me, but when I've had a bad call and it bothers me my wife knows it. So if you have a wife or girlfriend, they know when somethings bothering you...DON'T PUSH HER AWAY. Let her know you're glad she's there. You don't have to give her every detail but tell a little so she understands whats up. My wife has been through the loss of three firefighters that were close to me. The first two were within a month of each other and the last just over a year ago. I was glad she was there for me.

    5) Sometimes the less you do helps you deal with it. For example: I once sat with a two little kids on a couch and watched spongebob while my partner treated their mother who had just been smacked around by her husband because they were both drunk. PD had the dad in cuffs and mom didn't want to press charges. The kids were scared to death but as we sat and watched Spongebob, I watched the kids calm down while things were taken care of.

    I hope I've said something here to help you. Good luck in your career.

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    Last edited by arharris83; 02-17-2012 at 11:28 PM.

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    Hi John-

    The first thing I tell younger people now whenever they're thinking about what they'd like to do with their lives is this: "When you're thinking about what you are going to do with your career, first, answer this question: What am I going to be paid to do all day?"

    Nowhere does someone need to ask themselves that question and then follow it up with "Do I want to do this for the next 20-30 years of my life?" than in our career.

    I won't tell you that things like this get easier. I'll try to help you if you decide to keep doing it.

    I'm a 16 year medic, 13 year firefighter. I've worked the busiest parts of SF and Las Vegas for a very large portion of that time. I've seen more horrible things than I care to remember, and there are a few that play like broken movies in my head...

    There is a price to pay for what we do. There are several prices actually. It simply is what it is.

    It's also the beauty in our mission. Think about it...No matter who you are, who you voted for, how much money you have (or don't), how you've led your life...We come to try and help you when you call us. We even help the people that say and write horrible and untrue things about our fire department family without hesitation. Sometimes we have to be more "strong", more "brave", and more "loving" than we feel like we can be, but we do it.

    Fall back on that mission. If you feel like its unappealing out to the long term...believe me, its OK.
    You've already been a firefighter. Even if you leave tomorrow, you'll have done some good in the universe.

    If you wanna stay, get back in the saddle, and do these things on your next one:

    1. Be a duck...You know how the ducks on the pond all look like they're just chillin' out...Well if you could see under the surface of the water, you'd see that they're legs are going a million miles an hour.
    People need you to be a duck...to look and act in control of the situation on the surface. It'll help them in the near term, and it'll help you in the long term.

    2. Airway, breathing, circulation, move forward. Get these things to a workable state, and then keep the call moving forward. I've had amazing success over the last couple of years with a "pit crew" style method of running codes. It's good to practice with your crew. PS here: Continuous, uninterrupted CPR is a Godsend for field "saves".

    3. Remember: YOU DIDN'T CAUSE IT, you're just there to try and make it better. Better for the patient, first. Then better for the people that love them, but you need to get very good at looking people in the eyes and quickly convincing them that you A. Care. B. Know what you're doing(being a duck REALLY helps) without saying "I know what i'm doing". C. are one of the few people on this Earth who are capable of making their worst day ever...not as bad as it has been up until the moment you arrived.

    I'm a tired old fire medic now( Hint: it has nothing to do with the age and everything to do with the mileage), but I still love what our profession stands for and what we actually do for people.

    Motivation and even enthusiasm can fade with all of the insanity, but the mission will keep you going when you aren't sure you've got an ounce of "give" left.

    Best to you, whatever your decision is going forward.

    Paul
    PaulC
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    City of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue
    gethiredbyfire.com & The Fire Jobs App

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    Worldwide Menace DFurtman's Avatar
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    And as a quick update..

    Bought a house, joined the local vollie department and within a week worked my first Cardiac Arrest. CPR started within a minute of the tones as it was my next door neighbor. Sadly she passed. I was shook up at first but we did our best.

    -Damien

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