The trauma of near death

ResusA friend’s son went into respiratory arrest last week and just hearing of her story has brought back a flood of emotions.

Like her son, both Aidan and Anthony have been brought back from the brink of death and while they have gone on to survive, these two events continue to haunt me.

Television shows, particularly medical ones like ER, throw up images of people being resuscitated all the time. The doctors whip out the bag and mask, warm up the defibrillator and massage the heart almost on a daily basis. Yet the reality is beyond anyone’s imagination.

Although it’s been well over a year since Aidan’s last resuscitation the sounds, the smells and the images from that day will forever live on in my mind. I can see every monitor and hear every beeping like it is was yesterday and even just writing this post I can feel my chest tighten and my breath quicken.

I remember so vividly holding my limp son in my arms and running into the emergency department. I remember someone grabbing my handbag while someone else grabbing Aidan as they rushed him to the resus bay. I remember being pushed aside as at least 10 people began working on him, grabbing his arms and face like a rag doll while I stood there in a daze trying to comprehend the scene in front of me.

With Anthony, the scene was different. I wasn’t there when they were resuscitating him following his car accident but the impact on me is equally as severe. I well up with tears when I think about how, upon identifying myself in the emergency department, a look of horror went over the triage nurse’s face. She didn’t have to say anything, her face said it all. Within seconds, a senior doctor came out and quietly escorted me to a private room and I knew at that moment that things didn’t look good. Being told that my husband was in a helicopter en route to the hospital and was non responsive was one of the hardest things to hear.

The term ‘post-traumatic stress’ is thrown around so easily these days and I can’t even begin to compare my experience to soldiers on the battlefield but I do believe that there is some amount of trauma that I will never get over as a result of these experiences.

For this reason, it has been a long time since I’ve watched any medical drama series but this week has shown me that the emotions are lingering just under the surface and can be triggered at any time.


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