Thursday 30 October 2008
Need a Drink
Many officers, on blogs, in books, and even face to face admit to being affected by their job in many different ways.
The side that is usually only touched upon as briefly as possible is the emotional side.
Although, as with all emergency services, we 'toughen up' and the vast majority of things become day to day, there will always be things that effect us.
Sometimes these are things that you wouldn't expect to have that effect; something or someone you've dealt with many times before. These take you aback as much as they upset you. I think personally that part of that is because as coppers we have to accept that there is a chink in our armour, that sometimes, something does get through.
Not too often luckily, else we'd never be ready to go to the next call.
One of the things guaranteed to be difficult for blue light responders is dealing with children; especially sexual abuse cases, or anything at all to do with babies.
In the incidents I've been in which have involved young children, every officer has done the job proud. Training kicks in obviously, as does experience. But humanity is the most important trait at times like that and it is one of the times it is important to use it rather than keep it out of the equation.
Seeing the parents is always the bit that gets me; I've never teared up yet at work, but I've definitely felt washed out completely afterwards.
At one incident, I was sent halfway through a night duty to what was described as a "six month old baby not breathing, LAS on route."
Not a nice thing to happen, and not a nice thing to hear over the airwaves.
I arrived on scene to be greated by a hysterical couple, clutching a baby that was turning purple as I watched.
Suffice to say that whatever you think you know about CPR, doing it on a baby of that age takes a lot more concentration than on an adult.
Once again, thank you thank you thank you to the LAS for arriving promptly, and actually taking over.
The baby girl was pronounced dead after nearly an hour of an entire resus department at A&E working on her, and I stupidly volunteered to tell the parents - they knew anyway, but it needed to be said.
They reacted as any loving parents would.
I walked away to give them a few minutes, and to get some air myself. To be honest, this is when I started feeling it, and frankly what I wanted was a bed and a few shots of whisky - not necessarily in that order.
What I actually had to do though, was pick up the baby and take her to an observation room, tear the parents away for a while and then inspect the body for signs of abuse.
Praying all the time that I wouldn't find any, and luckily my prayers were answered on this occasion.
During all of this, recording my actions in an IRB (Incident Report Book), and then taking details from the parents, getting an initial account of what happened from both, whilst trying to console them.
I'd about reached breaking point myself, but everytime the I felt like taking a break I looked at the parents and reminded myself that they couldn't "take five."
A subtle knock on the door interrupted the quiet sobbing, and a nurse poked her head around the door. "Sorry to intrude, but your son, Jason, he's just turned up"
Cue panicked looks from the parents. The Mum spoke; "He's only fifteen - how am I going to tell him?"
After a long and uncomfortable silence, I sighed soundlessly to myself. There wasn't much else I could say: "Do you want me to tell him? I don't mind."
In the wonderful way of the job of course, after I had handed the parents over to the specialists after a couple of hours, it was back to the nick for a statement and then back on the streets again.
To be fair, if I'd asked I probably would have been allowed home. But what would be the point? I wouldn't be sleeping anyway, so being out on patrol made more sense than sitting by myself in a darkened flat trying to keep quiet.
I don't mind admitting that the nightmares took a little while to stop afterwards though. Seeing a father cradle his baby daughter in his arms for the last time is not something that is easily imagined, and even harder to forget.