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Thread: First fatality?

  1. #1
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    Default First fatality?

    How did you deal with your first fatality? I am planning on being a firefighter / PAramedic eventually and was wondering how people here dealt with their first fatality? I have not yet expereinced this and have a pit in my stomach when I think about it. Any advice, ect?
    It is better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.


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    My advice is to do your best to save the person. If you have done that, that's all you can do. If they are already gone, there was nothing you could do. You must remember that.

    If you happen to know the person, remove yourself from the picture if you can't handle it. If you break down, you are doing no one any good. Working in a small town, I have ran calls on many people I knew and it is hard. No one can say it isn't. But you are there to do a job. Not to add any pressure, but these people called you for help and help is what they are expecting from you. Seperating your job from personal feelings will be the hardest part. How to do that is something you will have to work out for yourself.

    I know it sounds cold hearted, but you can't show any emotions on scene. Families or friends can't see you all teery-eyed and sobbing. They need to see you doing everything you can to help the person.

    In my experience, running calls on kids is the hardest. I had to back away to regain composure the first time I was in this situation. Then I thought about why I was there, to help them. If I can help one person, it was all worth it.

    This job, for me, is an emotional roller coaster. I have to constantly remind myself why I do it. No one can ever tell you how to prepare yourself for this. It is inevitable that you will have a call with a casualty if you are in the business for any amount of time. How you deal with a call at the scene and AFTER the scene is cleared, is really up to you. We all deal in different ways.

    With a signature like "It is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven", you probably will deal with things differently than I do, so I wont even go into further advice.

    It is a rewarding job, but it is tough sometimes.

  3. #3
    Forum Member SpartanGuy's Avatar
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    I've seen people handle things in polar opposites. Some break down and quit, some tighten up and get really quiet for a while, some may fall off the face of the planet for a while, some may not even seem to care.

    And on what Rob was talking about, working on friends and family is the hardest. I've seen people act totally weird here. A member of my crew realized midway through that we were cutting a family member of his out of a car. He didn't realize it initially because the car was so mangled, but as soon as he saw him he literally fell over right beside me. I was like "......" because one of my firefighter's just fell over without warning, and I had no clue who we were extricating either.

    On the exact opposite, I've walked into a cardiac arrest call for the cousin of one of our firefighters who works as a paramedic on the ambulance. We all knew it was his family's house we were responding to, and thought we'd have problems when we heard him on the radio. Alas, we walked in and there he was, laying on his stomach, intubating. He never even flinched, despite the fact that it was his family.

    It's all in experience levels, really. As a probie, I would never hand you a coal shovel and ask you to help me shovel somebody into a body bag(Any of the crusties ever seen that? That was one of MY first fatalities, actually). To risk sounding sick, you kinda need to be 'weened' into it..
    "Captain 1 to control, retone this as a structure and notify the fire chief...."

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    Thanks for the responses. I will keep hoping that it is not as bad as I think it is.
    It is better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.

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    Forum Member SFD13's Avatar
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    The best advice I can give is donít internalize it. If you keep to yourself it can and will eat you up. (Been there) Make sure you have a good support network, can be another firefighter(s), paramedic(s), or even a good friend. Might not be your first fatality that gets to you but sooner or later something will bite you in the butt. Thatís when a good post incident stress team will be needed.
    "My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea." - Tommy Douglas 1961.

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    I at least try to distance myself from the job at hand,if I know the person however slightly.
    Like I said,I try.
    I recently had a body recovery and while I tried handling the person like it wasn't anything to be worried about,I kept thinking about how long his family was going to be missing him.
    Like others have said,there are critical incident stress debriefers available if you need them.A lot of departments will require that you go through a debriefing even if you aren't visibly bothered by what happened.
    You might be and don't even know it so it is a benefit to take advantage of.It doesn't hurt and can definitely help keep you able to better deal with what you see.

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    Firehouse.com HOSER303's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by S1l3n7Gh0s7
    Thanks for the responses. I will keep hoping that it is not as bad as I think it is.
    To me my first fatality was not bad. I will never forget it. People deal with things like this in different ways. I will tell you that as firemen we deal with things like this/others amongst ourselves in ways that only firemen understand.
    Ryan
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    I look at it a few ways, I still do everything I can for the patient and don't give up, unless they were already dead. But basically this is how I look at it from a responders perspective...

    Deal with it, as it's part of the job, or give it up, if you can't hack it.

    Obviously that's not how everyone is going to see it, just the way I see it. That doesn't mean I don't care, or have compassion, but I'll get chewed up if I let my emotions take over.
    FF/NREMT-B

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    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    My first one was spooky because the pt got his head gently crushed by a wood processor. There was no apparent physical damage except that his head was a bit narrower than it should have been. The spooky part came when I was asked to stay back at the site, while our truck went back to lead the RCMP and coroner in. There were only two of us on the truck and we needed someone to stay back and secure the site. It gets aweful darn quiet for some reason. Even the birds were quiet. Then the cell phone in his truck went off. I think my heart is still in orbit somewhere.

    But like most everyone has said here, and this is what I find most important:

    Do a good stn debrief afterwards, and do a critical stress debrief (been to a few myself)

    Find yourself a good circle of friends to talk with after the event.
    Dont hold it in. If something is bothering you about a particular call, talk about it.

    If during the call (and the situation allows it) you start to go off a bit, let your officer know, at least then he will know. And this does happen sometimes, especially on children or family related calls.

    And mostly, just remember, what happened to the pt(s) is not your fault - you didnt put them in the situation. Just do what you can to help them out.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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    MembersZone Subscriber rualfire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doughesson
    \
    I recently had a body recovery and while I tried handling the person like it wasn't anything to be worried about,I kept thinking about how long his family was going to be missing him.
    .
    This is the kicker for me.

    The blood, guts, whatever isn't the hard part. It all washes off.

    I find theaftermath hard sometimes. After a fatality, and the newspaper has a 3 line blurb about the incident. Somehow it seems like no one cares.

    As for decompressing after a bad call, I'll wake my wife up at 03:00 am or whatever and talk it through with her, and the guys on the department are all good resources to talk with too.

    You'll find that when you get started, the senior guys, your officers, etc will somewhat shield you from it until you until they get a sense that you'll handle it ok, and you won't be wrecked.
    SRFD905 - Serving since 1998

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    In 1972 a young man joined our combined engine and ladder company in upstate NY. Shortly after completeing his initial training we a had a major working fire at a resort hotel. The Captain ordered him to climb the ladder and enter the building through a third floor window to assist in overhaul.
    Stepping through the window into the burned out bedroom, he came face to face with the charred body of the room's occupent, and immediately threw up into his mask ... what a mess.
    The kid took a good deal of ribbing for quite a while. The piont of my story ... 5 years ago this same kid retired after 6 years as chief of that large department.
    As much as it bothered him when he first started in the department, he learned to overcome it and do his job well enough to take him all the way to the top.
    It's our job ... it's part of what we do and you will have to learn to lean on the brothers and work through it whenever it happens

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    The way I look at it is, If I did all I can then I have nothing to feel bad about. I know that I was there when someone needed help, and I did what I could. Some people find it harder to deal with the family at a scene.
    The department can provide a good network of people to talk with, and work through problems. No one knows how they are going to react to a fatality, until they actual experience it. All I can say is, if it bothers you find someone to talk to, a family member someone in your church or department, don't internalize things.

  13. #13
    GFDSlappyRob
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    I delt with it by talking about it with guys that were there and CISD!!!

  14. #14
    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    Default Everyone is different

    It's good that you're seeking advice on this subject before jumping shoulder-deep into the profession. However, I've learned that this is a tricky situation. Just as everyone has a different personality... Everyone that I know seems to handle death just a bit different, too.

    I handled my first fire death with absolutely no problem. The fact that it didn't bother me ended up bothering me a lot. I wondered if there was something wrong if I could take such a sight in stride. As it turns out, it just means that everyone takes things differently.

    Follow your gut. If you're cool with what you see on the job, then you're cool. But if your gut tells you that you should talk to someone or seek some sort of counseling... go with it.

  15. #15
    MembersZone Subscriber rualfire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cozmosis


    The fact that it didn't bother me ended up bothering me a lot.
    The sentiment is not uncommon. It struck me as odd the first time I heard someone say that in a CSID. But, with time i've grown to understand the sentiment.

    And as some old Firefighter once told me that it may not be the first one that sticks with you. It adds up over time. Things stick with you. The smell of desiel on a cold night, a stranger in the mall that looks like a patient, driving past an intersection. You've got to find a away to let it go. Exersize, talking it out, not boozing, and recognizing that its all normal.

    Even this site... you'll find a good place to vent. mostly people are supportive and will help you out.
    SRFD905 - Serving since 1998

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    Forum Member phillipmc's Avatar
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    My first 1 was a little imported car vs a log truck head on needless to say the guy in the car was killed on impact and it became a recovery, I did what i had to do and the guys in my dept knowing it was my first time offered to talk to me if i was bothered but i knew it was part of the job accepted it when i joined so it stuck with me but didn't bother me. Now a few years later i had already been to a few more simular, and figured i could handle just about anything thrown at me until we got dispatched to a MVA not to far down the road from where i live i arrive on scene to find out it was a friend of mine which i had basicaly grown up with. It took me completly suprise i guess at the time i sorta felt insulted about it cause here i was helping all these other people then the 1 time its someone that really close to me i could do nothing for. I really concidered leaving the fire service and actually stayed away from anything fire service related for a few months until i got to thinking 1 day of how selfish i was acting, remembering that when i joined i took a oath in my own eyes to do what i could to serv my community in a desprite time of need and im not doing anyone anygood by not facing it and moving on, so i quickly jumped back into the line of things and haven't looked back since.

    Key thing to remember is its going to happen so best thing is to deal with it the best you can and keep getting back on that truck, cause your doing no one anygood by hiding from it. Its a very demanding job both physically and mentally.

    Just my .02 cents

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by MalahatTwo7
    But like most everyone has said here, and this is what I find most important:

    Do a good stn debrief afterwards, and do a critical stress debrief (been to a few myself)

    Find yourself a good circle of friends to talk with after the event.
    Dont hold it in. If something is bothering you about a particular call, talk about it.

    If during the call (and the situation allows it) you start to go off a bit, let your officer know, at least then he will know. And this does happen sometimes, especially on children or family related calls.

    And mostly, just remember, what happened to the pt(s) is not your fault - you didnt put them in the situation. Just do what you can to help them out.
    Excellent post, my transplanted friend!

    Mal brings up something very important - you need to find someone that you can talk to. The frustrating part is that oftentimes the people we find to talk to just don't understand. Think about it... have you ever had someone tell you how much fun a ride on a roller-coaster was? They go in to great detail explaining the thrill of climbing the first monster hill and then the funny feeling in the pit of your stomach as you drop down the other side. No matter how clear they communicate, is it the same as riding it yourself? Not even close.

    Sitting down with your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/parents/friend can bring more frustration to you because they will never understand all of the emotion that comes with doing all you can and yet still losing the pt. They will never understand what it's like to run to the rig with an unresponsive child in your arms while the mother is chasing you screaming "SAVE MY BABY! DO SOMETHING! DON'T LET MY BABY DIE!!"

    Find someone who understands. Maybe it's someone on your department. Maybe your department is fortunate enough to have a Chaplain or CISD team. It may even be someone from a neighboring department, or someone that you met through these forums. Take advantage of the relationships that you make through networking here. There is a wealth of knowledge, and a boatload of caring people who understand.

    We also need to be mindful that it isn't just the fatal runs that can haunt us. You will see some ugly scenes with survivors as well.
    Resident Chaplain of the IACOJ

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    Just this past week we had another fatality. Ford Taurus vs. Semi, MOI was a head on collision. THis would have been easy to deal with...here is the kicker though. The PT that suffered the fatal injury was also the mother of the child in the back of the vehicle, even worse the child was over the age, and will remember her motehrs death, and how it happened. That incident was rough..still bugs me a bit..only because the child lost her mother. I think the other tough part of accidents, is when you have a patient who seems fairly A/O, then goes downhill.....that feeling sucks, becuase you second guess yourself for hours afterwards..even worse when you allow family to ride with...I vowed to never do that again with a critcal, or one who may become critcal PT, after that run.
    FF/NREMT-B

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    I think I was lucky that I have had a gradual experience with death through my education. My first dead body was when I worked in a nursing home, it was a DNR patient who just died the night before. (It was actually my very first day working as a tech in the nursing home. It was an Ice Storm and the funeral home could not come and pick the body up, so they put it in a single room and opened up the windows to keep it close to freezing in there, my supervisor actually told me "This is your first day, I got a dead body for you to look at, come with me.") I didn't have my first Code until 3 years into nursing. My first trauma code was when I worked as an EMT on a patient who shot herself in the head. It didn't bother me too much, I ran a near code on a 4 year old girl, and that call still sticks with me. Think about it a lot. I have found the best resource is just finding people you can talk to. For me talking about it is the best therapy avaliable.

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    my first one didnt bother me as much as i thought.it was the ones with the children and the one with a friend of mine that got to me.talking with other firemen and people who have been in that situation before really helped.i think the debriefing was probably the best help

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