Monday, February 4, 2013

Not All Calls Have Happy Endings!

This weekend my local newspaper ran a story about a call from many years ago that I have written about here in the past. The article by Bill Vogrin, here is a link was done with great skill as he (and I) both had hopes for a much different ending to the story. What Bill discovered is that sometimes there aren’t happy endings to stories.

What Bill did find was heart breaking and a true tragedy. Before he published it we had a few conversations about what he had found and how he should handle the information he had collected in his long investigation. Much delicacy was required of Bill, he wanted to tell everything he knew, but doing so would have injured innocent people once again, and he knew it.

So how do you tell the story and at the same time protect the innocent? Well you do what Bill did, you write with courage and skill and heart. I believe the more intelligent and caring reader may be able to find a clue or two in the piece that could lead to finding a beast among us.

If you never read my first post about this a year ago or haven’t read Bill’s article I’ll give you the Readers Digest version of it. My crew and I found a live baby in a trashcan, the daughter of a teenage girl, who believed the baby to have been still born. She was so young herself that the baby was given to the grandparents to raise and so that baby grew up and was eventually returned to her parents.

Yes the two teens that had created her had gone on to marry and have more children, so the return of their first child should have been a celebration right? Wrong! Her “father” and I use that term with great reluctance was accused of and arrested for raping his own newly returned daughter.

Bill found that this dirtbag had made bail and then fled from the law, his whereabouts still unknown as of today. He grew up and went to school in my hometown and may have returned here to hide out as the crime was committed in another state.

I have to admit that when Bill called me with what he had found out I was greatly disturbed as I had created in my own mind a happy ending for the little girl I had pulled out of the trash so many years ago, and told Bill as much. I wanted the fantasy; I wanted my version of the truth, not the real truth.

As Firefighters and this is true for most emergency workers, ambulance medics and EMTs, police and so forth, we rarely ever know what the outcome is of the emergencies we respond to. There is no follow up, no one calls or emails you a week or month or year later to say hey “Do you remember that call you went on?”

All there is for us on most days is the next call and we answer that one, as the last call is cleared from our memory. On the rare occasion our next patient may be transported to the same hospital and we can ask doctors and nurses for follow up, but that is risky as there are laws in place read HIPPA, that prevent us as well as hospital workers from reveling information about a patient.

So depending on the nature of the call, critical life threatening to minor injuries we don’t get much feedback. For the critical life threatening about the only tool we have is watching the obituaries for the next few days, I know it may sound morbid to you that we scan the obits for a patient we treated but it really is a tool we use.

Maybe not for all calls but the ones where the circumstances were unusual or you felt an emotional connection to the family or friends of the patient, in other words the calls we cared about. Some days we saw the obit other days weeks went by with no mention, we took the absence of an obit as a victory.

On other occasions our patients would just show up at the fire station days or weeks later to thank us, what rewarding days those were because we found out firsthand that we had made a difference and also because they generally brought us some sort sweet snack which was always devoured the moment our guests left.

So what Bill did was go find the truth, a truth I wasn’t prepared for and he put into motion more thoughts and more memories of days gone by. I pondered other critical calls I had had over the years and I wondered how many people are still walking this earth because of the difference that a bunch of firefighter and paramedics made on one given day.

I am sure nationally there must be thousands or even more than thousands still out there. I like to think they are having babies, or bouncing grandbabies on their knees. That they have gone on to do something amazing in the world or gone on just to still be a best friend, brother, sister, son or daughter they could be to those around them.

And I hope every now and then they think of us, the men and women of the emergency services business, and out of nowhere they smile a smile that only they know the reason for. That thought makes my day sometimes.

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