Friday, October 9, 2009

My First Death (by HF)

Last night I was dispatched to a medical call that was occurring in an area that I happened to be patrolling in. The call came over the air as an infant that was unconscious and not breathing. The dispatcher informed me that the paramedics were en route but were several minutes out. I arrived at the home within seconds. The door was open and I could hear people screaming and crying inside. I ran in and instantly saw a little baby boy on the floor. He looked like he was asleep but his skin told me otherwise. I have spent years training and re certifying in CPR but it wasn't until last night that I ever had to use it. Everything around me became silent and I felt myself turn into a machine. Without thinking about it I knelt down by the baby and began infant CPR.

I was later told that I did CPR for about 6 minutes before the paramedics arrived and assumed patient care. The paramedics got there and instantly started to do what they do best while I backed off and watched. They transported the child to the ER and he was later pronounced dead.

When I was a dispatcher I heard recorded calls of hysterical mothers calling 911 to get help for their dying children. I had even handled several similar calls. Last night was a first though. My first time doing CPR. My first time being there when the tragedy was unfolding instead of on the phone. My first death. I remember seeing my own son in that little boy as I was performing CPR on him. I remember talking to him during chest compressions, telling him to "come back." I remember seeing the parents at the hospital and seeing the raw uncontrollable sadness in their beings. I remember sucking it all in and looking like I was keeping it all together.

Immediately following this call, I was sent to a noise disturbance. It was a report of some guy playing his guitar outside his apartment complex at 2 in the morning. Suddenly this seemed so trivial and stupid. I arrived and was still probably visibly upset. I saw the guy, jumped out of my car, and yelled, "Hey! What are you doing?"

He looked surprised and exclaimed, "uh, I'm just playing my guitar man."

I was trying hard to contain my anger. A baby just died and this guy thought he was the most important thing in the world. "I understand multiple people have asked you to stop playing and you have refused. Now it's two o'clock in the morning and you're still out here. What the hell is your problem?" I demanded.

He looked at me like he was about to start crying. "This guitar is my most prized possession and I have to sell it tomorrow. I just wanted to get as much playing in until I lose it in the morning."

I looked at him and I instantly understood. I've played the guitar for fifteen years. I knew this guy wasn't trying to be a jerk. He had a deep and unmet need that he was trying to fulfill. The only problem was that he was fulfilling it at the expense of others.

I softened my approach and I asked him to tell me more about his guitar. I expressed my appreciation for such a beautiful instrument and let him show me all its features. He stopped playing and just sat there dejected. He was a local college student. I told him that even though he had to sell his guitar now, someday he would be able to buy another one just like it. He admitted that he had known this all along but he just didn't want to admit it. I told him that he needed to let it go and move on. I told him that playing out in the bitter cold wasn't good for it anyway and he agreed. He thanked me for being so understanding and went back into his apartment for the night.

When the shift finally slowed down my sergeant came to me and, together with the other officers who had seen this kind of thing before, we had a debriefing. When I expressed to my sergeant that it was as if it were my own baby, he said, "No. It was not your baby. It was a doll. It was the CPR doll that you practice on in training. We've all been there. The first time is the hardest, but you have to remember that you were doing this on the CPR doll and you did it perfectly, and you will do this over, and over, and over again throughout your career."

I remember coming home and checking on our three kids. I had to wake the baby up to make sure he was breathing. He cried and Mrs. Fuzz woke up. Then I told her what happened. Together we stayed up much of the night, talking about it. I am grateful to have such a supportive wife. She understands me and knows how to approach me.

Last night's ordeal was not an easy one at all, but I cannot imagine how things might be for me right now if I did not have such a strong spouse in it with me. I have vowed to come home after every shift. To survive, and to win every battle, and that includes my own mental health. I thank my amazing wife for being there and listening to me last night, as I cried like a baby, when I needed her the most.

I don't know if I'll ever see that family again. I don't know if they even knew I was there. If they do see me again in passing, I doubt they'd even recognize me. I hope that they'll be okay. I can't imagine the pain they're going through right now and I admit that I feel guilty taking comfort in the fact that my kids are safe and sound. I wish them the best and I hope they stay together and can work through the grief that will inevitably follow them the rest of their lives.


Dori said...

I remember my husband's first infant death...he didn't talk about it but he came home and crawled in bed --our own infant son sleeping beside me--and pulled us both into his arms and just held us. And that was enough.

You're a good officer, Mr. Fuzz. The way you handled the second call shows that. And please do not feel guilty for your gratefulness.

copswife said...

Wow. I have nothing helpful to say. How sad and awful and ... Don't feel bad for feeling grateful. I'm glad you could talk to your wife about this. Feel better soon.

Rebecca said...

Wow incredible, a very similar event just happened my my Mr while he was on patrol in our local city. Thanks for sharing -this really hit home.

LOUDnPROUD said...

wow.MF,I am so glad you shared your ordeal with us and the emotions you went through,for reminding us spouses we do need to be extra supportive and strong for times when you really need us.Thank you for sharing how amazing MrsFuzz is.

The crazy Shaw Family said...

Thanks for sharing. I understand, having been there with my own husband. Good for both of you for talking about it, and not letting it fester.
Hug your babies, and love your wife. thats all you can do!

Momma Val said...

It is raw, and horrible and tragic and I can not even imagine how you must feel now. I cannot imagine that it ever becomes easier for any human with a pulse especially a father to feel it's all in a days work. Cop Dad has been to a few of these but as backup, it was horrible for him as well. You are VERY lucky to have such a wonderful wife and children and family behind you. My heart aches for anybody that has to work with or respond to the sick or the dying.

TM said...

You've done a great job and by the sounds of it, have a wonderful support team. Thank you for letting us in to this event and allowing us to relate so we too can learn to talk about things and appreciate what we have all the more. I hope all the best that can come from this awful situation.

Anonymous said...

My husband thinks about his first infant death all the time, It has effected how he is around our children in certain situations.

(Hugs) I couldnt imagine how you must be feeling.

Natalie said...

Ditto to pretty much all of the above. I don't really have anything else to say since so much was already covered by previous comments.

It's great seeing from the LEO perspective how you feel about your wife during such a tragic event. Thanks for sharing such a painful instance with us.

Sean said...

Was going to say something but my wife got to it first.

I'll just add -

To this day the hardest call I have ever dealt with was a child my son's age whose mother was driving drunk. Someday I may post more about it, but I understand completely how every moment you saw your own child there.

You did good, and you will remember this. Use it as a reminder of why we do the job when times get rough - to help those who can't help themselves. Sometimes we lose, but remember why we try.

Christopher said...

I remember every dead child I've held. I remember every child from every child abuse case I've worked. If I'm alone and it hits me at the right time, remembering the first child homicide I worked can still bring me to tears, and it's been 7 years.

When people talk about the sacrifice asked of police, they mean the danger and the threat of danger. We know otherwise.

Well written. It was hard for me to get through.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for sharing HF.

RD said...

There are few things in this job as terrible as responding to the death of infant.

Thank you for doing your job.

Damsel Underdressed said...

Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for loving your wife and family.

God forbid that anything would ever happen to my son but I would be grateful to have you as the first responder. I would have been eternally grateful for the effort you put forth.

BunnyO said...

Wow this definitely brought me to tears. I will keep HF in my thoughts.

HF just know that the family DID see you and they will always remember you and what you did for their little one.

I hope you always keep this kind of heart. Don't ever become disillusioned. Trust in yourself; you know that when you got there it was already too late. You held that little one as if he were your own and you never gave up. That is what makes a true hero.

Mrs. Fuzz- I know you are proud of HF and I am proud of you for taking such good care of him.

Erin said...

Wow what a difficult night. But your compassion for everyone you work with is evident yet again.

Texas Ghostrider said...

deaths do not get easy as you age in your career. You need to have a support system in place, they do come back to you, especially the children. You will see a lot of tragic events, don't personable them. most of all don't keep your emotions knotted up inside you.

Sandra G. said...

As TGR said, deaths get no easier the further along in your career you are, and those involving children are always horrible.

I'm very glad you have such a supportive wife, as a good support system is exactly what you need.

Thank you for sharing this experience, and for being so candid about your reponse.

To shed tears after such an awful call is normal, Fellow Officer. Be glad you were able to shed them.