Any amount of time put into this career will most certainly riddle the corners of your brain with calls that shake you, give you chills and/or wake you up with cold sweats, some months or even years after the run. We all have them or something like them. I call them my “ghosts”. Everybody handles them different, some are good at separating themselves from the incident and never think twice about it. Some wear every bad run on their sleeves, and you know, that’s ok too.
Without too many details, one of my “ghosts” that visits me regularly is from a Christmas eve fatality wreck. Kids in an unfortunate circumstance put my crew and myself on a scene that would later prove difficult to separate myself from, because of a decision I made in a split second that could have not only cut my career short but could have potentially made a patient unable to walk ever again.
That’s just one of a few I have, I handled it my way and went on about life. Some don’t handle these calls easily and others never even show a sign that they cared. But what resources do you have if you need to talk about your “ghosts”. At that time all I really had was my brothers, which I think should be our number one crutch for situations like these. Some departments have a full blown PTSD resource, which is great and had i asked, my department might have had one as soon as possible but I don’t actually know.
The point I’m trying to make is to use your resources, make an effort to rid yourself of your “ghosts” when they begin to interrupt your daily life. Discuss with your brothers, your officers or chief officers whenever you need to. Get it off your chest, get help. Professional and volunteer civil servant suicide rates are way too abundant. Firefighters are notoriously tough, BUT IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU LESSER OF A MAN TO REACH OUT TO YOUR BROTHERS OR ANYBODY ELSE FOR SOME HELP.
My ghost is four years old and has blonde hair and blue eyes, and I first met her over 20 years ago. After meeting her I spent most of the rest of the shift comforting and counseling a younger EMT who was having problems with the call. I remember telling him we did all that could be done, and the old adage rule 1: people die, rule 2: we can’t change rule 1. I remember explaining to him how we were ordinary people working in extraordinary circumstances. I spoke of how her organs were being donated and that other children would survive because of what we had done. (ROSC but brain death due to lack of oxygenation). I hope I was of some comfort; my young EMT friend’s wife was 4 months pregnant at the time. I finished my shift, went home and cried bitter tears, not for what happened, but for what did not happen. I had been a Para Medic for just a little over a year, and all my newly acquired knowledge and skill proved useless in saving this child.
My ghost she visits me from time to time, like whenever I want to complain about doing another CE over the same thing I’ve been doing for over 20 yrs., or when I cut the body of a 18yo blonde female whose body has the consistency of jelly, out of a car at 2 in morning, another victim to a drunk driver. She comes to me and so do the tears, never on duty always latter when I’m alone. I’ve seen her face on countless calls; those sapphire blue eyes staring lifelessly back at me with always the same result tears and remorse when the shift is done.
My four year old ghost with blonde hair and blue eyes is also my friend, and I have come to realize just how much I need her visits. I have seen in my career the countless horrors that humans can perpetrate on one another, those things which maim and kill with no good reason, and illnesses which ravage young and old alike and through it all I apply my skills and knowledge to whatever outcome the gods will allow. She comes to me to allow me to see that I am still human, that I can still feel, and shed a tear for what could have been. I truly believe that should the day come that I can no longer see her; it will be a message that it is time for me to retire.
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I have numerous ghosts that haunt me from over a 20+ year career. The one the gets to me the most is a 4 year old little girl and her 18 month old brother that were the victims of a murder suicide by their grandmother. I can’t talk to much about it because it still hurts not being able to help them. I know it might sound strange but my ghosts keep going because it is for them I want to learn more.
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My ghosts were 2 young boys in an early a.m. apartment fire. In street clothes myself and the then Chief R.I.P. made 5 attempts to get up and get them under heavy fire. I can’t drive by their without getting a basty shiver up my spine and a tear in my eye. I can re-live it like it was 5 min ago. It still wakes me up.
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I worked in our photo unit for a few years. My ghosts are numerous. Six stand out in my mind the most. They visit me very December. A junkie crack whore set her house on fire, killing four of her children and two neighbor kids who had spent the night there. She then climbed out the front bedroom window with her baby in her arms and was initially thought to be a hero. If I live to be a thousand, I will never get those images out of my head. If you need help, seek help. There is nothing macho about suffering in silence!
They say that a firefighter will see more death and trauma during the first three years on the job than others will see in a lifetime. Very often you’ll see the worst that humanity has to offer. During my 32 years as a firefighter/officer in a major metropolitan city I too have my ghosts: the 18 month old drowning victim who, when finally found and brought to the surface reminded me of the toy dolls that my 2 & 5 year old daughters played with, or the burned beyond recognition victims of a vehicle accident caused by a wrong way driver, or the loss of one of my crew while fighting a multiple alarm fire, or the loss of 4 brothers in an arson fire. What makes it worse is that most of my ghosts are the result of the stupidity of others.
To my fellow brothers and sisters still on the job, watch out for each other and stay safe
My ghost would be one of my close friends, who was on his motorcycle and struck a car that made an illegal turn right in front of him, the strech of highway that runs through our is one of the deadliest in the county so ive seen alot, but this one really hit close to home. I was fresh out of high school and had only been a EMT for about a year and a voulenteer firefighter for about 2 years. As we rolled up to the scene I saw his bike laying about 100ft from the scene and automatically knew it was him. I grabbed the med bag and jumped off the rescue before we even came to a stop! After we wrapped up at the scene there were fellow EMT’s and Medics that told me that we did everything we could and that i did a hell of a job. we had a scisim team come out to the station to meet with myself and a few guys who were also friends with the victim. But it wasn’t enough for me. I would wake up in a sweat screaming in the middle of the night for a long time, eventually I turned to drinking and drug abuse and seldom went to the firehouse unless I was sober, wich was hardly ever for a while, eventually I went to outpatient rehab and counciling and straightened my life out. I am no longer an EMT, but i am still a voulenteer firefighter. I may have made some bad decisions in my past, but i dont regret anything because it made me the man i am today and I’m a much better and stronger person because of it.
Reblogged this on 10-75 The Box! and commented:
Yes. We all have our ghosts.
I guess I’ve always called them my demons. They never go away. Sometimes I even have dreams in which I see some I thought I’d forgotten about. So I know they’re all still in there. It’s something I wish I would have known about 25 years ago. It falls in to the ‘Shit I wish someone would/could have told me when I started’ category. And, right or wrong, I get irritated when people I’ve just met ask me to entertain them with stories from my career. I know they don’t know what they are really asking, but it’s still a very private thing.
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I like everyone on here have my fair share of ghost/demons whatever you want to call them. I’ve been a Firefighter for 7 years now and still wake up from calls that happened over 5 years ago. But as hard as it is sometimes the best way I have found to help is to think about the one’s you have saved not the one’s you’ve lost. I had at the time a 2 yr old boy who had a seizure and was unresponsive and barely breathing when we arrived and I gave him rescue breaths all the way to the hospital in the ambulance. I see him to this day at the local store in our town from time to time and he remembers me some how and will come up to me and gives me a hug and say’s hi when he see’s me. But I’ve also got the one’s where I drive by the scene and get chills and then will cry about it. I have a hard time speaking about the bad one’s so I won’t list any but I think of all the one’s I’ve been able to help save and that helps a lot. And like most everyone on here has said SEEK HELP IF YOU NEED IT!!! I know I have and it don’t make you any less of a man. that’s my advise to any new Firefighter’ or EMS personnel out there your not a hero or any good to the one’s we help if you can’t help yourself .