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.