Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why I do my job

I had a dream tonight, one that bothered me enough to get up and write a post about it, at least so I can get my thoughts straight about it. It's the kind of dream that is actually a memory, they're the worst kind because it actually happened. I dreamt about the call where a year ago now, I had been at work and it had been a pretty busy night. I remember that everyone was getting a bit cranky with each other and the room was crowded with extra people. I had just taken three back to back noise complaints on 911 which had me in less than a good mood so when the next call came in I'm sure my opening script wasn't as great as it should have been. It's funny how it can be so busy, everything thundering around you and with a few words it all just disappears.

It was a man on the phone, he said he didn’t want to live anymore, that he had a noose already around a neck and he was going to jump off a chair. He just didn't want to be alone when it happened. The whole room went silent, I didn't hear anything else, it was just me and him in that brief second. My heart was stopped and everything hurt, this was the call I had feared most since I started. It was the one where my caller could live or die before the police arrived and which would happen would depend on me alone. I didn't know what to say, what can you possibly say to something like that, but what my trainer had said would happen did. I began to talk, I began to talk with words that I had no control over, they were just coming out. I told him that I was glad he called and that I wanted to listen to him. I had an address so I was already entering a call, I was already messaging a co-worker to call me an ambulance, it was all happening while I was talking to him. I was able to talk to this man who wasn't like most of our suicidal callers. He wasn't drunk, he wasn't hysterical, he wasn't the kind that made this remark by the hour. He was feeling alone, desperate and at a loss for what to do. I lost the call several times, it kept disconnecting on us and each time I would call him back fearing that he would not answer but every time he did. Damn technology. I confirmed his address and kept talking to him.

I had talked him into taking the noose off of his neck and even untying it and putting it by the front door. I talked to him until police arrived, he thanked me and that was it. I had disconnected the call and just sat there. I felt so good that he was okay, that it was over. Then I just stared at my screen unable to really move. I was still newish and this one left me a bit unnerved. It was still busy, I remember starting to hear the noise again and my 911 was ringing again. I couldn't answer it. I remember someone making it 'not ready' so it would go to someone else. Then they put their hand on my shoulder and we walked off the floor. I was still out of it a bit but in the hall I began to cry (sigh I know but it was my first really omg call). It wasn't like gobs of teenage drama but I got a hug out of it. It surprised me that people who were on lunch came over, I got hugs from all of them. At this point I feel a bit stupid, senior dispatchers are all around me and here I am, the rookie wussing out in the hall. A few minutes of hearing 'the one' story that they all remembered of their own made me feel included, in a morbid way. The one who walked me out and hugged me first was the one who was hardest on everyone, the fire pistol as we call them. She had to go because 911 was still flying off the handle. I needed a minute though so I went to the locker room and called my dad, he's former police. We talked for five minutes then I went back myself. I remember what it taught me, that no matter what call you take, no matter how stupid you answer the next with full attention because you don't know who's counting on your tone.

Every time I have this dream I think about what happened to that man. Was he able to find help long term? Did he attempt and commit suicide after that night? It's hard not to have the answers to these questions. It's strange the ones that come back to us, and those that don't. Since then I had taken more OMG calls, a woman screaming her dead husbands name as he's dying from a fall down the stairs. Hearing someone scream and cry about all the blood. Hearing a mother cry for her infant child to breathe. These calls I think about, but they do not visit me in my dreams. Just my first, and I always remember the way he said it. When he thanked me, it meant more then anything I could express. Those simple, overused, rarely meant words were real and honest. That is why I do my job.


  1. *HUGS YOU* I could never do your job, but I love you for doing it!


  2. Likewise, Jacks, never could I last a week doing what you do. Well not without getting someone killed. Where that's not good for my resume I think I'll stick to doing what I do. Lol ;)