It was another late-night call.
We were responding to a rural property a little way out of town where there was a man down. We were told to stage a couple miles from the property while the R.C.M.P. secured the scene. Seeing as we had gotten chewed out a few weeks prior for not waiting for the cops on a call, we were happy to follow orders.
Eventually, we sit at a crossroads for maybe 15 to 20 minutes before our dispatch lets us know we are safe to proceed to the scene.
We drive onto the scene, and park our ambulance behind a police vehicle then collect our gear and head for the door. As we approached the door where the mounties were directing us, it was impossible to miss the mountain of a man face down on the floor with his hands cuffed behind his back. He was yelling gibberish, and he was totally naked.
I figured at this point he was our patient, because he seemed totally out of it. I was wrong, however, as the R.C.M.P. member who was standing beside him pointed us deeper into the house.
We carefully stepped over the yelling naked guy and headed toward the living room. As we entered the living room, we saw the R.C.M.P. commander standing over another person. The person on the floor was on his back, arms out and naked from the waist up. He also had a small hole in the middle of his chest. The lighting in the room wasn’t great, but it appeared that lividity had started to set in.
We did our assessments and confirmed our initial thoughts. Again, our med bag stayed unused. The story we received from the police members was that the person in custody had shot his brother, our patient some time before. The person in custody had been naked when the cops arrived.
We offered to have a look at the person in custody, however the police members declined, saying he would be going to the hospital for an assessment before they took him to cells.
We collected our gear bags and departed the scene.
I think the patient care report took longer to write up than we were actually on-scene.
This was one more fatality, in what was starting to become a theme.
Working for a small ambulance service in rural Alberta we did get some fatality calls, but not that many.
I don’t know why this call decided to hang on to mem, where other fatalities didn’t, but it has always stuck with me. My partner and I ended up getting called into the RCMP detachment to give a statement about what we had seen as well.
This was the third serious call I had responded to in just over a year. It was the least traumatic of the calls I responded to in that period, but it still stuck with me.
Little did I know that this call would be one more nail into my PTSD.
It wasn’t the last death I responded to, but this call definitely impacted me. This call also sped up the clock on my imminent departure from the job I loved.
Even with these calls behind me, the psychiatrist I had started seeing at the time refused to give me a diagnosis of PTSD. That wouldn’t come until much later.
As an addendum to this call, about a year after the call Lynn received a subpoena for me while I was in hospital, for the first of many admissions I would be facing for my declining mental health. The subpoena was a request for me to appear as a witness at the trial of the brother the R.C.M.P. had in custody.
Due to being in hospital, I never did end up testifying at the trial, but he was convicted and sentenced to jail time.
The deaths I responded to in my last year and a bit on the Ambulance definitely affected me and my mental health. I wasn’t sleeping as well. My temper was getting short, and the ghosts of those I couldn’t save were beginning to weigh on me. I began having a knot in my stomach when the tones went off as well. The stress was definitely affecting me.
This call was one of the last calls Lee and I worked on, as we ended up having a partner change a few weeks later.