Monday, April 24, 2006

"Across from...."

Two little very big meaning. Especially when it comes to the location of a life threatening medical emergency. That's what happened today. That's what, apparently, I missed during a 911 call reporting a cardiac arrest.

Woodlawn Beach and "across from Woodlawn Beach" are two very different places in two separate counties with an Intracoastal waterway between them. He said "across from Woodlawn Beach"....I heard "Woodlawn Beach" and transferred him to the neighboring county after confirming that CPR was in progress. Lifeflight was just landing with another critical patient and I gave them a heads up that they may want to get airborne quickly because it sounded like they would probably be needed. Well, they did and they found him and after an apparently significant delay in patient contact, with no help from any other agency, landed on the beach and took the man to the hospital.

He's dead now. The family is obviously and rightfully very upset....and I feel absolutely horrible. Though several factors played into the delay, attention seems to be focusing on those two little words that I just flat missed. I don't know if he could have been saved. He may have been beyond help. But that's the problem.....I don't know. It doesn't take long in this business to realize that tragedy will sometimes trample all of your efforts to save a life. Sometimes people just die...but on my watch they die after I have done all I can do. Well, this time I'm forced to ask myself..... did I?

I do this job to make a difference, but that just didn't happen today. The hatchet man cometh and will be looking for a throat to cut... I fear it will be mine. Every day we must make split second decisions that could mean life or death, and it better be the right decision...every time...with absolutly no margin of error. The odds are stacked against you if you are a 911 dispatcher. In this line of work, management, the media, lawyers and everyone else has days, weeks, even years to "Monday morning quarterback" a decision that you had two seconds to make. None of that makes me feel as bad as the fact that a family grieves tonight and I lie awake wondering if I could have spared them that grief. That, my friends, is a crushing heavy load.