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When we deal with death, many providers build a wall or remove themselves emotionally in an effort to cope.  Other times humor is used to deal with the passing of a public figure, celebrity or noted personality.

Recently my system saw the death of a legend.  A person who every EMT and medic on every rig, every engine, and even some of the BLS truck companies knew by sight.  Everyone knew this person by name and reputation.

They were one of the fighters, the biters, the urine soaked, feces covered 911 abusers.  Sometimes you could predict this person simply based on the location and description of chief complaint.

It was confirmed recently that this person died.

I learned this news at the same time as a number of other ambulance crews and I was unsure of the reaction I would witness.  Would there be cheering?  A celebration that we would likely have 75-200 less calls next year, and less need to change uniform when dirtied by subduing this person?  Or would these crews begin the humor response, laughing and joking about where this person was now and who was judging them?

These scenarios raced through my mind as silence took over the room.

Silence.  A moment of silence for someone who rarely, if even once, needed an ambulance.  A moment of reflection for someone who, as is said in A Christmas Story, worked in profanity the way some artists work in oils.

There were sighs and a few folks looked around saying, “Really? [name] is dead?”

I spoke later with a friend from the CoEMS community who shared a story about when one of their regulars/legends passed and he confirmed a similar reaction.  What blew his mind a week later was when dozens of ambulance workers arrived at the person’s funeral, in uniform, to show their respects to someone they had seen so often, talked with so much, had become, in a strange way, a friend.

Part of me wants to watch the obituaries for a noting of a service and see if anyone else wants to stop by and say goodbye to one of the legends.

The worst part is that there are already 3 new arrivals to the City vying for the spot left open.

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10 Comments

  1. Rsquu November 30, 2010 5:40 pm

    I can relate to this well. We recently lost a frequent flier in our district. He was the type of patient that we could COUNT on calling pretty much once a shift just after we finished coffee for a virtual potpourri of bogus complaints. He was quite a character….profane…crotchety…uncooperative…and refused all of our attempts to get him social services help. Predictably, he eventually was hospitalized and died. When we heard the news in the station, there was a mixture of relief mixed in with a bit if sadness. While none of us ” enjoyed ” seeing him, he became a fixture in our community, and on our shift. Although a year has passed, I still think of the old bastard every time we run by his trailer park on a call. I am quite sure that he is laughing maniacally from his grave at that…..

  2. Rsquu November 30, 2010 5:40 pm

    I can relate to this well. We recently lost a frequent flier in our district. He was the type of patient that we could COUNT on calling pretty much once a shift just after we finished coffee for a virtual potpourri of bogus complaints. He was quite a character….profane…crotchety…uncooperative…and refused all of our attempts to get him social services help. Predictably, he eventually was hospitalized and died. When we heard the news in the station, there was a mixture of relief mixed in with a bit if sadness. While none of us ” enjoyed ” seeing him, he became a fixture in our community, and on our shift. Although a year has passed, I still think of the old bastard every time we run by his trailer park on a call. I am quite sure that he is laughing maniacally from his grave at that…..

  3. Anonymous November 30, 2010 8:20 pm

    There are certainly some who willfully abuse the system, but there are others — and I’m pretty sure it’s the vast majority — who have no other options. And I bet for a good chunk of those folks, WE are the closest thing they have to “family.” We are the only ones they can count on, the only ones who come when needed… the only ones who CARE.

    “There, but for the grace of God, go I”

  4. Anonymous November 30, 2010 8:20 pm

    There are certainly some who willfully abuse the system, but there are others — and I’m pretty sure it’s the vast majority — who have no other options. And I bet for a good chunk of those folks, WE are the closest thing they have to “family.” We are the only ones they can count on, the only ones who come when needed… the only ones who CARE.

    “There, but for the grace of God, go I”

  5. Paramedic Pete. November 30, 2010 8:52 pm

    Don’t worry the Regular Ambulance Abuser Agency (RAAA) will fill that vacancy quick smart. No matter how obnoxious/ aggresive the last one was there is another waiting in the wings. You just get used to the absence of one and another pops up, the RAAA always happy to help fill that gap in your day. Take care, Pete.

  6. Paramedic Pete. November 30, 2010 8:52 pm

    Don’t worry the Regular Ambulance Abuser Agency (RAAA) will fill that vacancy quick smart. No matter how obnoxious/ aggresive the last one was there is another waiting in the wings. You just get used to the absence of one and another pops up, the RAAA always happy to help fill that gap in your day. Take care, Pete.

  7. Too Old To Work December 1, 2010 11:34 pm

    A few years back one of our regular, and more obnoxious regulars drowned himself. More or less by accident I think. Witnesses had seen him dive in and by the time the divers found him it was way past the point that resuscitation was possible. I wrote the report, gave a copy to the cop investigating the death, and drove to a nearby ER to clean up. One of the other crews asked me about the call and I mentioned that it was the regular who had drowned. Apparently I said it loud enough for a number of the ER staff to hear because a cheer went up from the nurses and aides. It was odd, but I think understandable, to see this reaction from medical providers. One of the hidden facets of our job is that we often have to deal with very unpleasant people who also happen to be sick.

  8. Too Old To Work December 1, 2010 11:34 pm

    A few years back one of our regular, and more obnoxious regulars drowned himself. More or less by accident I think. Witnesses had seen him dive in and by the time the divers found him it was way past the point that resuscitation was possible. I wrote the report, gave a copy to the cop investigating the death, and drove to a nearby ER to clean up. One of the other crews asked me about the call and I mentioned that it was the regular who had drowned. Apparently I said it loud enough for a number of the ER staff to hear because a cheer went up from the nurses and aides. It was odd, but I think understandable, to see this reaction from medical providers. One of the hidden facets of our job is that we often have to deal with very unpleasant people who also happen to be sick.

  9. andy December 4, 2010 10:01 pm

    Funny, I started my day shift this week to find out from the night crew that ‘so and so’ regular had died. A similar reaction went round the group – ‘ah well’ sort of thing, no cheer or anything. Almost a minute later we got round to talking about ‘such and such’ at a call. “Oh we were there last night”, then “yeah, we were too the day before”.

    And lo…..a new regular is born………….!

  10. andy December 4, 2010 10:01 pm

    Funny, I started my day shift this week to find out from the night crew that ‘so and so’ regular had died. A similar reaction went round the group – ‘ah well’ sort of thing, no cheer or anything. Almost a minute later we got round to talking about ‘such and such’ at a call. “Oh we were there last night”, then “yeah, we were too the day before”.

    And lo…..a new regular is born………….!

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