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Saturday, December 10, 2005Death and Dying in My World
I hate doing a school career day. Having to stand in front of a class of young minds who
want to ask you about what you do should be a thrilling experience. At first, to be honest, it was. But the same question always comes up… “Has anyone ever died?”
The obvious answer, at least to us, is a big yes. People die in my business all the time… probably because my business revolves around the sick and dying to begin with… but one thing I always stress is “No one ever dies in the ambulance.”
This, technically is true. While they may arrest in the back of the vehicle, they don’t actually “die” because we use CPR to keep the blood pumping. Every now and then you hear of a hospice patient dying in the back if the bus… those are patients who are terminally ill and have signed DNR orders or Advance Directives… and then the bus becomes tainted and discriminated against by the EMTs and Medics. We just consider it bad luck.
The next question that always comes is the one I hate… and although it usually comes in different forms the nut is the same… “How do you feel when they die?” Now remember… we’re dealing with kids here… so of course we give a canned answer of, “Well we’re sad… but then we move on because someone else needs us.”
The truth is a lot harder to explain. There are those patients where you feel relieved for them… like the 80 year old lady who dies in a nursing home… or the man who decomposed in his apartment for 5 months because no one missed him. Then… there is the outrageous grief we feel when we find the blue babies in their strollers… or we carry away nothing but a bloody car seat. The majority of the patients… we just move on. There is no feeling… or if there is we store it up inside.
As cold and callous as it sounds… we don’t know these people… so their passing doesn’t affect us the same way as it will those who knew them.
At 4:10am this morning, my close friend Kenny lost his father, George. I’ve known Kenny and George for at least 20 years. Kenny and I were in the same Boy Scout Troop 119 and his father George was active with the troop. Kenny and I also volunteer at the same ambulance Corps, where we both served on the Executive Board and worked as partners on the ambulance.
George had been sick for awhile… fighting cancer like a champ for over 3 years. So this morning, with his sons Kenny and Tommy at his side, he passed away on the 7th floor of North Shore University Hospital at Forest Hills… going to a better place… where he won’t be alone.
I guess what bothers me about this whole thing more than normal is that Kenny’s mom also passed away… 10 days ago. Carol had been taking care of George, and they’ve been married for over 30 years. These were two people who basically lived for each other and cared deeply for each other. It’s kind of like the book The Notebook… George may have officially died of renal failure due to complications with cancer… but in reality he died of a broken heart.
Death is different when you know the person. There is a definite feeling of loss… and something in the back of your head that nags “what if?”
I can only hope and pray that somewhere along the line I can be with someone who will love me like that. The hidden fears of loneliness and solitude have crept back up… and while I know that I have solid friends and family… there is still that ache for that person to fill in the gap left in my heart.
I used to revel in being alone… I used to sit in solitude with pride… because I was the Watchdog… He Who Stood Alone… In my eyes you can see the pain of the masses… In my heart you can sense the coldness I feel... but that is not what I want. I’m tired of being cold… tired of being alone… but it seems to be the only thing I know.
Rest in Peace George… your in a better place… and with better company.