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“So, Epi... How's work going?”
My family is sitting around the dining room table. The chatter has stopped as they wait with baited breath. My one drunk Aunt even sets her wine glass down.
What do I tell them?
Do I tell them how five, yes count them, FIVE of my regular dialysis patients died this week? Do I tell them how I now read the obituaries on a daily basis at the age of 32?
Do I tell them about the 22-year-old quadriplegic former football phenom? The one who has to go to wound care appointments every two weeks for the massive decubitus ulcers on his backside?
Do I tell them that I did compressions for the ninth time in my EMS career this week? Do I tell them about the patients' Granddaughter who had to be restrained at the door of the room? Do I tell them how I am still having nightmares about her screams? Do I tell them that nine out of nine times I've helped to work a code the patient has died?
Do I tell them how exhausting it is, mentally and physically, to work 50-72 hours a week for barely above minimum wage. Do I tell them that we do anywhere from six to ten runs a day? Do I tell them how I want to cry when they tell us to “Grab the Bari-Cot”. Do I tell them that most of us eat Flexoril like they're candy thanks to cots that at times don't function properly and morbidly obese patients?
Of course not. I don't tell them about any of that.
The room is still silent. My Mom looks concerned. “Epi?”
“Oh, it was great. Got to see some cool stuff. A structure fire, and a car accident. Everyone was fine, but there were some HAWT firemen in turnout gear.”
Everyone laughs. I do too, but it's not real. I change the subject by asking my Brother about his job. He regales us with a story of a couple committing insurance fraud and his part in their prosecution.
They don't want to know.
Later on that night my partner text messages me. “How was dinner with the fam?”
“Typical.” is the only response I can come up with.
“Still having those dreams?”
“Yes” I respond. I think he can hear me exhale from two miles away.
“Come on over and talk it out.”
There are some things only a Partner can understand. And a family can't begin to.