One of the calls that stands out in my mind is the very first time I ever witnessed a cardiac arrest. Now, I'd practiced how to handle a cardiac arrest in EMT class, but nothing quite prepares you for the first code.
Let me paint the picture for you a little bit: it was an extremely hot day in early August in 2002, and my volunteer EMS agency was providing first aid at the county fair. At the fair, and as a probationary member on the squad, I was not allowed to take one of the on grounds radios if I was going off on my own. I was wandering the fair grounds that night with a few of my friends when I heard it over the squad main radio:
"Headquarters from station 3"
"Go ahead Station 3"
"Can you start us a CAD and dispatch ALS. We have a reported cardiac arrest on the fairgrounds."
"Received Station 3."
At this point I left my friends and went looking for the call to see if I could help. It happened that I was only one lane over from where I was with my friends so I located the scene in a fairly expedient manner and even still by the time I made it to the patient there were already about 8 EMTs on scene, along with about an ambulances worth of equipment.
The best way to describe the situation for anyone who has never seen a code being run is "controlled chaos." people are going way and every which way. The squad I ran with was a BLS agency only and even still all of the following tasks were being undertaken simultaneously:
Supplemental oxygen being prepped
Ventilations being given
Airways being prepared and inserted
Compressions being performed
AED being attached and power up
Transport being prepared
Information being gathered from family members
Along with some sort of control being orchestrated.
I can honestly say that I was overwhelmed and don't remember exactly what happened on the call. I can tell you that we were on probably the busiest part of sidewalk in the whole fairgrounds as we were located in between the midway and the restrooms. I know we shut down that walkway for the remainder of the incident. I know that we brought an ambulance onto the grounds ( which was and is still not SOP). I know that the patient did not survive and was probably dead before hitting the pavement. I also know that the call was rough on some of the EMTs that I ran on the squad with.
I know it changed me, and it's not a memory that I'll soon forget.