Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Bad Thing.

[For several obvious reasons, there can't be details here.]

A Bad Thing happened at work. Which is no surprise; my work by definition is knee-deep in bad things, but this Thing was worse. It was really quite bad. Not to me, I was fine, but to some stranger.

I didn't cry afterwards, which was strange. I don't cry at work, of course, but when something really shakes me up I usually get in a few sniffles on the drive home or before I go to sleep. This time I did not. All I could think was "it's somebody else's problem," and I felt blank. Not "I'm in shock, everything is in slow motion and far away and much too quiet" blank, just okay. Like I'd just been handling luggage or whatever. Like I was intellectually aware that bad things happen in the world, but my day was fine except I have this annoying cut on my knuckle that catches every time I take off my gloves.

I actually tried to make myself cry when I woke up. I watched sad videos about animals until I successfully got tears, but I think I was only crying for the animals. I mean, awww, little girl lost her doggy, sniffle. That's something I can cry about.

I think the answer is that I'm really okay. I don't think I'm suppressing some horrible gush of emotion, I think I've just dealt with the Bad Thing faster and more effectively than I expected myself to. It's not my first Bad Thing and it was in no way personal for me. And this not-caring is expected and good, right? You can't cry every time a bad thing happens to a stranger, and it shouldn't make that much difference that you merely witnessed it. I'm not fucked-up, I'm adapting--for my own protection, for my usefulness to others. And everyone does. The old cliche ER doctor going "It. Never. Gets. Any. Easier!"? Not only does it get easier, it's supposed to. Does anyone want to be attended by a crying EMT?

Maybe next time I won't even care about not caring.


  1. I envy your calmness and detachment. For some reason I constantly seem to put myself in others' place and imagine what it's like to be them; some days it's like I'm feeling everyone's feelings for them. I can't watch the news or read newspapers because I get vicariously freaked out over things and want to go foetal under a stack of eighty fluffy blankets.

    I increasingly believe that it's only possible to be helpful to others if you have a fairly thick skin.

  2. Do you want to care? To cry every time you see something bad happen?

    Or do you want to be the person who cares?

    Or to just remain the way you are - or were, perhaps - you as you know you to be?

    Or to have that innocence back?

    Or would you rather not be asked personal questions by people you don't particularly like?

  3. Adirian - They're good questions and I don't want to hear them from you.

  4. Having been somewhat of a reading lurker of this blog for a while, your EMT experience is one of the most interesting things. It's something that , for me, is impressive and interesting, as I could never do it (for a lot o' reasons). So, um, I guess that this is supposed to be supportive. I don't know, it's the toughness that I find fascinating and, in a good way, an kick-ass human element (droning on, should stop).

  5. Um, okay, I'm a bit drunk, but I don't want to seem that other elements of your life are not kick ass. But you don't talk much, comparatively, about your EMT experiences, so, um droning. Going to stop now.

  6. Thanks Anonymous. Part of the reason I don't talk about my EMT experiences is legal--if I violate patient confidentiality and get caught, I would get fired and possibly create legal repercussions for my employer and in some cases disrupt other legal proceedings. So I don't even want to say what the Bad Thing was because even hints could potentially create a situation where a patient was identifiable.

    And the other part is that this is nominally a sex-kink-n-feminism blog, and although it certainly has plenty of "or whatever I feel like writing about" content, it's not an EMS blog and that's not really my focus here. I've sometimes wanted to have an EMS blog, but... see previous paragraph.

  7. Holly,
    I find myself being jealous of your job-- which you'll probably think is ridiculous, the same way I feel when people are jealous of ME for being a theatre rigger. (just fyi, I work for jerks, I supervise meatheads, there is no glamor, and though I get to do some climbing and some cool hoists, there is an awful lot of filth and drudgery).

    On the one hand, the not taking it home with you is part of the job description- and you know that. On the other hand, you're still human, and you're going to take some stuff home with you. I don't think you really get to choose which stuff. I recently talked to a nurse who had to quit the pediatric oncology ward after 10 years -'I was going to too many funerals'- I really can't imagine.

    Hey, when you have kinky sex, do you want the whole scene to be deadly serious, or can it all be a little tongue-in-cheek?

  8. You can't care about everyone, and lord knows I've run a code for 15-minutes on-scene waiting for the doctor in the mobile ICU so someone can pronounce my victim, but I have also been the family member present with the paramedic giving the "Old man down 5 min Do I have to keep bagging, really?" vibe and it sucks. And yes, I knew damn well he was dying, having tried the home defibrillator myself, but the sight of Someone Whose Job It Is Visibly Not Giving A Shit is mortifying. I've managed not to inflict it on anyone, and I think (since you are not running a whole code on your own) you won't either, logistically or humanistically speaking.

  9. Hey, Holly, are you a B, I, or P?

    I'm in B school right now, and was just sort of curious. :)

  10. Eurosabra - There's different kinds of giving a shit. We don't get emotional during resuscitations, there's no running (you'll trip!) or screaming (so stressful!)--but we do keep bagging, and that's what matters.

    Perlhaqr - I'm a B.

  11. So, having been working a a B for a while, do you find that "enough", in a practical sense, or do you have a desire to get your I and/or P?

    Being in B school, and never having actually done the job before, I'm trying to decide if I should just immediately move on to I school, or if I should jump into the workforce and see how that goes before continuing on with my education.

    I realize it's a fantastically vague question, but it's the best I can phrase it, unfortunately. :(

  12. I don't think being a B is "enough," either financially or in terms of fulfillment--it's a good way to get experience, but it's a lousy career endpoint. Personally, I'm more likely to start studying for an RN at this point, but if that weren't the case I would want to get my P.

  13. Have you ever read "Trauma Stewardship" by Laura Lipsky? If not, you should.

  14. I'm a B in Boston for a private company. (I know that narrows it way down, which is sort of the point.) It's easy to have the "who cares" mentality on a lot of patients, but any time I have a pediatric (meaning under 8-9 -- teenagers can cope a lot better in my experience) it really hits me. I have my own three year old, and I guess I think of either her in the same condition or how I would feel in the position of the parents. It's makes me try harder though. I would never want to have to face a parent that I didn't do EVERY GODDAM THING I COULD to help their kid, whether it was life saving of simply making the kid more comfortable.

    I know I work with more than a few people who either don't give a shit or have completely lost their humanity and thus seem incapable of acting as a normal human would. I tend to find this happens mostly pertaining to the elderly. "Oh what a pain in the ass, we gotta go again. Think like its your own parent (I find this easy, as my dad is 88 and has needed some serious help) and it becomes a lot easier to be a better EMS provider.