Monday, April 4, 2011

As Bad As It Gets

I've been in this business long enough to know that I will never have 'seen it all'. Kind of like when you say "Gee, it's awful quiet tonight!" and you get clobbered for the rest of the shift, saying that you've "seen it all" is a sure way to be certain that you will soon be greeted by a disturbing and bizarre job that could very well blow your mind. These are things a fool utters to make sure everyone is clear that he or she is a confirmed ass.
 However, I have been known to use the term "as bad as it gets" to describe a few jobs that were especially difficult. I have now put this one up with the others as a fools words.
 We worry about both ourselves and our team when we work the really ugly jobs and we watch them afterward so we can be there for them if they need us. What doesn't affect us, may bring somebody else down hard and vice versa. We all have our weak spots, and those of us who know our own weaknesses also know how to deal with it in one way or another. I've have talked down more than a few of my Brothers and Sisters, as they have done for me when I needed it, and yes, I have indeed needed it a time or two.
 I am by no means a trained counselor, and have at times directed co-workers toward professional help when I thought that was the right way to go. However, I believe I have learned a fair amount about what makes us tick, particularly from picking my own thoughts apart. It is knowledge gleaned through the pain of others as well as myself.
 After a recent horrific job, the one that made me hang up the words 'as bad as it gets', I spent considerable time with one of my Brothers working through things. He is doing very well now, but something he said made it all click in my head.
 There is a saying in the Fire Business that goes something like "if you are dispatched to a fire, expect fire". Now this may seem stupid at first, but the fact of the matter is that we get complacent about our ability to handle things and sometimes get caught off guard. "Expect Fire" means that while enroute, you get dressed and step off the truck ready to work, geared up, air pack on, with a tool in your hand. It's when we assume that it will be another defective alarm sensor that we get into trouble and behind the curve. Bad beginnings make for bad endings.
 So the epiphany I had was this: Every time I get  'messed up' by a bad job I find that I was taken by surprise by what I found, or the direction the job went in while I was safely assuming it would go the way I wanted. I looked at the folks I have helped through a 'rough patch' and realize now that they too were caught off guard. They didn't 'expect fire' and stepped off the truck to see a full working 3 banger. There is no time to play catch up in that situation, you will be behind for the entire event. I am speaking metaphorically, of course.
 Arriving at the chest pain call and only expecting 'chest pains' is a pretty silly way to approach such a call. If you walk in and find a newly dead person, you are already behind the curve, as this will throw you off your game in a big way.
 So I guess what I am saying is that if you always go in expecting the worst and are prepared for that, you will never be caught off guard. I am betting this is going to limit your psychological exposure.
 Please, give this some thought. Review the calls that gave you a hard time and ask yourself if you walked into it fully prepared, or if perhaps, you were just a little behind the curve. For myself, I never feel bad when I lose a patient while I was doing everything that I could do and the way it should be done. But I beat the hell out of myself if there is even the slightest possibility that I could have done something better, faster, or different.
 Be safe, be sharp, be ready,
P.S. I will never be writing about the job that prompted this post. Some things are just not meant to be shared and some things are just so horrible that they defy belief or comprehension. The movie in my head will be a long time fading.

1 comment:

  1. I agree to go in expecting the worse. I prepare myself on the way to every call based on the supplemental, though sometimes dispatchers are given wrong/bad info and you still run in to a few surprises.