**Any names have been changed for privacy concerns.**
The tones dropped just after 2300 hours.
I’d been in bed for an hour already, but while I was at work I was always primed to respond to a call. Just for good measure my partner pounded on the wall between our room a couple times to make sure I was moving.
I can’t recall the particulars of the dispatch, just that shots had been fired and we were to meet a vehicle to guide us in to the location. I dressed quickly and headed to the door just as Lee was leaving his bedroom.
We got our boots on and headed for the ambulance, parked in the bay one street over. It was late fall with snow on the ground, and the I remember the biting cold as we headed to the ambulance.
We got to the ambulance bay, entered, and I pulled myself behind the wheel. We rolled out of the bay headed out of town towards a rural location.
We were met on the highway a few kilometres out of town by a vehicle with its hazards on. We pulled alongside and I rolled down my driver’s window. The driver of the other vehicle said that they were at a house party, their friend got up and left the room, and a couple minutes later a gunshot filled the house. They cleared the house and called 911.
Protocol said we wait on the highway for the R.C.M.P. to arrive.
We broke protocol. Based on what had been described to us, we knew if we waited and someone was down, they stood the best chance of survival the sooner we got to them.
We were directed down the road by the people in the vehicle to the house. We let dispatch know we were proceeding to the scene.
We pulled in front of the home. We could still hear music playing, and the front door stood open. Lee grabbed the med bag, and we approached the residence. As we entered, the smell of burned gun powder still hung heavy in the air.
“Ambulance! Anyone here?” we called out. We began to search the upper floor of the residence room by room.
We found him in the master bedroom washroom, with the rifle still cradled in his arms. The white walls were covered in red. The injury was instantly fatal. Our med bag remained closed as we headed out to the ambulance.
The mounties showed up as we exited. We told them that it was a fatality, and we guided them through the house to the washroom.
I remember one of the mounties on scene was a fairly new recruit. The community was his first posting. When he went into the washroom, I honestly thought he was going to throw up on his boots.
Hell, I was feeling lightheaded myself. I’m glad that something like that is not an everyday job occurrence. We knew the cops were in for a long night, however with our part done, we cleared the scene and headed back to quarters to try and get some rest ourselves.
I remember calling Lynn to talk after we got back to quarters because call shook me to my core.
I’ve dealt with severe depression before, even attempting suicide myself nearly a decade before by way of an overdose.
After Lynn and I finished talking I got some sleep, and thought the call was done and over with. A few days Later I got a call from our operations manager asking me to come in.
Seeing as I lived nearby, I stopped in while I was on days off, and we chatted. He was concerned about our breach of protocol, and we discussed why. He said that he didn’t want to be responsible for telling Lynn why I wasn’t coming home after a call.
I could see his point. The protocols are in place for our safety, as well as the safety of the casualties we are supposed to be helping.
I did go over the thought process we used for the deviation in protocol. I let him know the information we had, and why we made the decision. At the end of the meeting we had an understanding that next time we would wait, even though I stood by our decision to do what we did.
Over the next weeks and months work resumed. We went to the next call, and the one after. The call sat with me though.
I struggled with the call because of my previous attempt. I was still walking around because of what ultimately ended up being one decision. When I made my attempt, I took an overdose of pills. The pills hit my system, knocked me out for hours, and gave me an incredible headache the next day, but I woke up. My liver ended up taking some damage in the attempt, but all things considered, the damage was minor. I could have easily done something more severe, such as drive my vehicle off the road at speed, or any number of instantly fatal things to attempt, but I didn’t. I chose the pills.
It scared me that one decision could have put me in the ground as well. However, it didn’t, my attempt being nearly a decade previous, and I went back to work, stuffing my emotions so that I could do my job.
It’s been years since I responded to this suicide call, and it still bothers me. I grew up around guns as a kid, and I learned fire arms safety. I used to love to shoot. Today, the smell of burned gunpowder transports backwards in time to this call.
Occurring a year or so after responding to a double fatality, this call was the second in a short period of time that made a lasting impact on me. I thought I moved past it, yet I didn’t. It was one more call that further set the hooks of my eventual diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a disease that would eventually see me leave the career I was so passionate about.