The first time a patient happened to die under my sole care I had years of schooling and training under my belt. I knew the moment would come, but it still rocked my world.  I can still recall the details as if it happened this morning. I also remember going home that night feeling like I had failed.

I ran through every moment in my mind thinking of what I could have done differently. It was an inner dialogue that I rarely, if ever, shared with others.  For years afterward, I prayed that my patients could have a better doctor.

Working on the frontlines of healthcare ensures that we are battle-tested.  Working a county hospital’s emergency department feels as if we are engaged in a small war taking care of the severely injured and the sickest of the sick. 

Then on our next day off, we may walk through the mall or supermarket and no one seems even remotely aware of the intensity with which emergency medical professionals are toiling to bring aid and care to an ailing and sickly nation.  

I think about the challenges and all the cases that have changed me as a human being over my career. It still seems like an impossible task at times.  

Then I think about my brothers and sister working the true frontlines as paramedics and EMT’s.  I honestly still don’t know how they do it, but I admire them for it.

Before challenging cases and broken lives arrive in the ER as patients, the men and women of the EMS system literally meet these souls where they are- on the streets.  Many times the cases are straight forward, other times they are not. Sometimes the cases are life-altering for everyone involved.

We are well trained to care for the sick, but not so well trained on what to do when we take the hard cases home with us.

The demand for our presence and skill set is so great that stopping to think about difficult cases for longer than a minute or two feels like a luxury.  So we tend to just suck it up.

Today I share this video of a brave first responder who tells his story and experience with PTSD.  

We need more of this dialogue in our community. I hope you take a few minutes to watch this amazing video.  

That’s all for now,

Hector Caraballo, MD