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What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?

12/10/14

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?  I was asked this question a few days ago when someone learned about me being a flight nurse. In all the times that I have been asked this question, I am unable to give a satisfactory answer. I usually say, “I see a lot of hurt people.”  So I decided to answer this question, not just for the inquiring minds, but for myself.

I struggle with the question, even now, as I sit here gathering my thoughts. There are a couple of reasons I struggle.  The first reason is, to be honest, I can’t remember the worst thing I have ever seen.  Is this a blessing or a curse?  Without a doubt this is a blessing.  God has no doubt given me the gift of forgetfulness, when it comes to remembering the human tragedies that I have seen as I have nursed people back to life. Let me also clarify that, on several occasions, there are families and patients I have thought about after my shift is over. Some of which I have prayed for. In addition, if I have taken care of you in the last few weeks, I will remember, or if it’s introduced or mentioned. Let me assure you, this is not a case of short term memory loss. The things I have seen have made a profound impact on the decisions that I make day in and day out.

So PLEASE, don’t take this the wrong way, especially if I have taken care of your loved one and you see me at the grocery store or around town.  For example, on occasion I will have someone tell me, “You took care of my mom!! Remember the 83 year old that you flew 4 months ago who was in a coma and you had to put a breathing tube in!!”  I am going to hug you and say, “How is she?” All the while, I will be trying to recall that specific flight.  I know it’s not your “everyday.”  But then again it’s not every day that you almost lose your mom or see them with an endotracheal tube sticking out of their mouth, however it is my “everyday.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes things happen in this field that is not my “everyday.”  Mass causality incidents, rescues, or impaled objects in a human body, just to name a few….and of course I can recall those types of incidences as I sit here pondering.  Nonetheless, when that question is asked of me, and I am demanded an answer, I truly am unable to point to one specific incidence. I don’t think the answer they are looking for is, “I am unable to recall.”  And so…I believe that this is how I am able to have the “desire” to continue to take care of the sickest of the sickest. All because I like to go home without letting that shift consume my thoughts, further allowing me to go back to the base, ready for the next flight.

The second reason I struggle with this question, is when I am asked, my heart and mind urge quietly, telling me, “Don’t go there.” Because if I do, by chance recall an event, or the question does drag forth a situation from way back in my mind that I haven’t forgot….It’s BAD!  It’s something that I’m not going to share with you.  That can be a loaded question, especially if I have seen a mass causality or gunshot wound to the head in the last few weeks. That innocent person behind the question….well, I want to keep it that way, innocent.  Innocent to the pain, suffering, trauma, and what we do to fight the inevitable, death.

There are many times a particular event has played over and over and over in my head.  To narrow it down to that one time, at that given moment, when the question is asked, is not going to happen. I know that is why I am able to get up and put that flight suit on.  I have been given a drive to be a nurse.  I’m able to forget the bad, all while remembering the good.  It’s my coping mechanism.  Not that I try to forget, it’s the way God made me.  If I wasn’t given the ability to forget, I’m afraid I would probably think twice about taking my next assignment.  Instead, when the tones go off, I am able to confidently strap on my helmet and be prepared for what I will see when we land.  I will be able to give my ALL, to keep you alive and get you to an intervention as quickly as possible, so that hopefully you will have a quality life when it’s all said and done.

Now, to answer this question with an answer that is probably not the answer you are expecting. It’s not the dead, bloody, mangled body that bothers me. When I see something that we would define as horrible, I am not thinking in that moment “this is the worst thing I have ever seen.”  It’s the circumstances that go along with it.  The emotions…

SO, here is my answer.  It’s the worst when I am flying a dad, who was the driver and the only survivor in a motor vehicle accident.  I think about how this dad is going to have to go on living with guilt because he didn’t put his child in a car seat and now his baby is dead. Or it’s the worst, when on the way to the hospital, my patient is showing obvious signs of brain death and I think about how the patient’s husband is going to have to make the decision to discontinue her life and decide to let her go.

Or even worse, the most selfish act that I’ve seen, is when a patient is declared “brain dead” and kept alive forever, by the same machines and drugs we would use to save a life. All while wasting away in that hospital bed, suffering without the quality of life, because letting her go to meet our Maker, is just too hard of a decision for those living here on earth. Or I could say the worst is, when you hear a frightened baby crying out for his momma, within a mangled mess of what’s left of the car, as he remains safely strapped in his car seat. While at the same time we work vigorously to save his mother, who is located in the ditch, after getting thrown out of the vehicle… I could go on and on with these disheartening stories.

Therefore, I hope this quenches the curiosity for those that have asked this question.  Let alone, at least now you know why, when asked, I will still be unable to give you a specific answer.

Grace and peace be with you.

Lesley Karonika, RN BSN CCRN CFRN EMT-B

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Giving Tuesday: An Open Letter to the Communities We Serve

L. Mauser
12/01/2014

Hello, USA and Canada!

There are dozens of organizations you could chose to donate your hard-earned money to tomorrow on what is referred to as ‘Giving Tuesday.’ My fiancé Eric and I are as generous as possible every year on this day as a way to counteract the insanity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You might say Giving Tuesday restores our faith in humanity just a little bit. If you’re somebody who is currently looking for a great foundation to give even a small donation, I highly suggest you start with Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.

If your house catches on fire today, you want the fire department to show up, right? If you are in an automobile accident and seriously injured, you would want the fire department and EMS to show up and take care of you, huh? Exactly. That’s what we do; it’s a calling and we’re so glad to be able to help anyone in their time of need. What we do here at FBHA is help those in the fire service and EMS in their time of need. The better we feel, mentally and physically, the better we can come to your aid should you need to call 911 for an emergency. Should you choose FBHA for your Giving Tuesday charity, your donation would go a long way to help firefighters, EMTs, and Paramedics in your own community. Every 2.5 days according to current reporting statistics, we lose a firefighter or member of EMS to suicide in the US and Canada. We need your help to stop this trend.

We’re a foundation formed out of necessity and are working day and night to better understand firefighter/EMS suicide with the nation’s only reporting service and using the information we learn to prevent other suicides. Captain Dill, our founder, treks across the country giving fantastic workshops to fire departments about bettering our brother’s and sister’s mental health and we work shoulder to shoulder with those struggling, the families left behind after suicide, and with those who want to make sure they stay mentally fit. After losing my Dad, Captain Mike Mauser, to suicide in January of this year, I began working with FBHA and can tell you there’s no better place to entrust your donation than with us. My Father was a firm believer in using the best tools of the trade to fight fire and save lives, but unfortunately he didn’t know the strongest tool he could ever use: Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.

Me & My Dad during a hose ops class he was teaching

Me & My Dad during a hose ops class he was teaching, three months before his death.

I thank you, from the depths of my heart, for considering FBHA for your Giving Tuesday donation. You can make your donation at any time by going to our website, ffbha.org. From everyone here at the Alliance, we send you warm wishes for a lovely and safe holiday season.

Loyally,

Lauren Mauser, FBHA Fundraising Coordinator

Don’t forget to share this post with your colleagues and friends and be sure to check back for future posts! Keep up with all the news from FBHA on our Facebook page! You can interact with Lauren any time on Twitter using the handle @ClassyInCrisis and we encourage you to hashtag posts using #FBHA and #MauserStandard for things you’d like to share! 

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