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Lost Wisdom

2003

The call came in around supper time. It was for a man having chest pain. On arrival, the man was pale, cool, and he just didn’t LOOK well. He was complaining that he was short of breath, having chest pain which radiated down his right arm, and also said he felt “weak.”

A 12 lead EKG revealed that he was having an anterior wall MI, which is the medical term for a heart attack in the front portion of his heart. I started an IV, and gave the standard medications: nitrates, aspirin, oxygen, and morphine.

Once stoned on the morphine, he was an extremely funny man. We all had some big laughs when we got to the hospital. The cardiac alert I had issued while we were on the way to the hospital had worked just as intended- the man was taken to the cath lab, and he was operated on and the clogged artery repaired in less than hour.

2005

Two years later and 400 miles away, the same man walked into an emergency room and collapsed in cardiac arrest. The ER team was able to restart his heart after only a few minutes of effort, but due to a 4 minute delay in beginning CPR while they moved him from the lobby to the ER, he had permanent brain damage. He never regained consciousness, and died ten days later.

This man had a family, he was important to them. This man taught me the value of money, taught me to fish, taught me to play baseball. He taught me how to live my life. He wasn’t always there, but then again, I wasn’t always there for him, especially when he needed me the most, the day he died.

That man was my father.

I don’t blame anyone for his passing, but I use this case to illustrate that we are responsible for the things that others take for granted.

I tell my students that becoming the best practitioner that you possibly can is more than just pride in your job. Those skills are not just for your patients. They can be for your family. Ask yourself a question: “If my father or mother had a heart attack, would I be comfortable knowing that I was the one working to save them?”

If the answer is no, then why are you here? Every patient you see is SOMEONE’S mother, father, brother, or sister.

It has been more than sixteen years since the day he left. I still miss him every day. It still makes me sad twice a year: the anniversary of his birth, and the anniversary of his death. My dad would be in his eighties now. Even as I approach the age that he was when he passed away, I still sometimes long for his wisdom, his guidance, and the steady knowledge that he passed along. There are so many times that I wish I could seek your guidance.

Dad, I still remember that day when I was 12 years old, and we were standing in the back yard burying my pet. You put your arm around me as we dug the grave together, and you said to me, “I know it’s hard, but he knew you loved him.”

That pet is long gone and largely forgotten. However, I still mourn your passing.

7 replies on “Lost Wisdom”

I am touched to here a good father story. Sometimes I wish sperm donor had not been a worthless pos. Men need role models when they are young. Otherwise some paths you start down are next to impossible to get off of

There’s nothing better than having a medic partner that can see as fast as you can that someone is sick.
That grey, diaphoretic, short of breath guy doesn’t look that way because he hit the Pilates hard…he’s gonna die unless we do some shit like 2 minutes ago!
I have worked on friends. A guy I relieved 20 minutes ago got t-boned by a LARGE construction truck.
That one sucked.
Thankfully I never had to treat family for anything serious.
My Dad died of cancer and there just isn’t any Paramedic treatment for that.
The ONLY saving grace was the whole family being there, telling him we loved him as he stepped into another realm…*telling* us what he was seeing the whole time. Unreal.

“I still miss him every day.”

You always will, if you’re any kind of a son at all. My dad died back in ’96, and to this day I still catch myself now and then halfway through dialing the old home number to tell him about some stupid or funny thing I ran across and thought he’d get a laugh out of too. Some losses we never really get over; we aren’t supposed to, and shouldn’t waste any time or effort trying. Or so I believe, anyway.

My Dad died in 2011. At first, everything I did I thought of him and the knife in my heart twisted. Then it got so that it twisted less and less as time passed. But 10 years later, usually when I don’t expect it, there’s that knife again. I have to agree with Mike-some things you don’t get over. You get past them as well as you can.

One of my closest friends went and became an EMT when the rest of us went to go be fishermen or merchant seamen, or in the trades.

He resuscitated his mom 3 months later in her kitchen. She lived another 3 years before cancer got her. He ended up becoming a successful ironwork contractor, and recently at age 47 has hired a GM for his company and gone back to be a paramedic. Helping his mom stayed with him.

An electrical short stopped my father’s heart when he was in his 30’s, in the days before lock-out/tag-out in the navy. He started having recurring heart-related issues at 50. Our local hospital saved his life during his first two heart attacks. About once every 18 months he’d have to go to the ER for congestive heart failure, and always at 2-3am. 3rd or 4th time this happened, the ER staff gave no fucks and mostly ignored him while he was turning blue. My sister, a disabled vet and perhaps THE most quiet and non-violent person on earth, on the 3rd ignored call for help, went over the counter and grabbed the nurse who was chatting with her coworkers, dragged her across the counter and onto the floor, and frog-marched her to my father. She, my brothers and I all got arrested that night, but my father got the help he needed, and no charges were ever filed. I never forgot that nurse, though. I’d love to see her fall down a flight of stairs, even today, 20 years later.

There are many who don’t care about their job, they only care about making money.
I have always believed that, if you are good at what you do, the money will follow.

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