Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Recovery and Tragedy

I'm not being overly dramatic. The tragedy wasn't my own, but I was involved in it. I mentioned it many times in my previous blog post about the terrible 911 call we had on Wednesday. A family is living its worst nightmare right now; this is their tragedy. I'm feeling nothing in comparison to that, but this call affected me. It's just one of those that will always haunt me. It ended up setting the tone for the rest of the week with two big races over the weekend, so that I went into them without the usual nervousness or worry about my performance. After what I had experienced Wednesday, it all just didn't seem as important anymore. It was still important, but not to the degree to which I usually hold such high caliber races. I managed to stay so busy Friday-Sunday that I didn't even have time to think about the call much, but there were random times when it would just pop into my head as a reminder. I really wish I could write more about it because through the tragedy we had an amazing, nearly unheard of, moment, and I would love to share some of those details, but I can't due to HIPPA. Just writing that last sentence has me choked up. The crazy thing is that I'm actually doing pretty well. I've had enough life experiences that have hardened me up: three long distance thru-hikes (it's mostly mental strength), 7.5 years as an Army spouse, divorce and probably other things I wouldn't even think of. I think that's why I can handle this job. And most of our job isn't like this. It's often a glorified taxi ride or just basic customer service. It's when you're in the moment of a call this bad, and you're able to detach from it and just do your job, that you know you're cut out for this business. But that doesn't mean we don't hold onto these bad calls that will just rear their ugly heads at the most random of times without warning. I saw a lot of tears on Thursday from this. People who have been in the EMS field for a long time. We're just as human, just probably better at coping than others. I will say that seeing the patient's photo on the news did send me over the edge to full-on tears because we didn't get to see him/her like that; it was tough to see that smile.

I feel like every blog post lately has just been a downer, and I guess that's true. The ones previous to this incident, though, now seem so trivial. I feel like a whiner now. But it's not like every day has been bleak the last month. Not even last week! We had an amazing weekend! In order to separate out the tough week from the great weekend, I'm going to separate these into different posts. It just doesn't feel right to go from this to, "Hey! Look at my pic in the snowshoe race!" I just can't do it. I can't mix the two. I can mix the days prior to that call in here, but not the weekend. It was also John's birthday, so I don't want that in the same post as this.

Monday, February 20, 2017- I woke up crazy sore and tired from the weekend. Boy, was that dumb. I had already planned a much needed zero day for Monday. It was the right call. I needed it badly after 3 races in one weekend. No regrets on that one. I still don't understand why it's so taboo to take a zero day. I don't like to take them if I don't need them, but if I feel like taking one, I take it. I knew that M-F this week would be all about easy running and recovery! Low mileage. If I wanted to go into the double race weekend feeling 100%, I had to do this. I ended up screwing it up a little bit, though, but lucked out to be feeling great by Friday.

Busy-ish for the 24 hour shift, but we lucked out and got sleep overnight. I needed that rest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017- Woke up to a BEAUTIFUL day! I was psyched because today was finally going to be Mt Kearsarge North day! Yay! John Rodrigue had run it the day before so I got the scoop from him that the trails were solid. Sweet! I knew it would still be cold enough in the morning to keep those trails solid before the big thaw began, and I was really excited. I brought my clothes for the run so that I wouldn't have to stop at the house on my way to the mountain. I technically only have until 10am until John gets dropped off, even though it sometimes is 11ish. I never know, though, so I always try to plan on being back by 10. I knew the run would take me about 1.5 hours, so I wanted to go straight there from work in Tamworth.

There was only other vehicle in the lot, but I had to park on the side of the road. The lot was a slab of ice and I could barely get my car out after I pulled in there. It was actually pretty cold out even though the day called for temps close to 50. I was happy for that because that meant the trail would be very solid. I made my way up the mountain slowly wearing microspikes. My legs were even more sore today than Monday, so my muscles were burning right off the bat. Even though the trail was so solid, it wasn't smooth. So many people had been up over the weekend. Too many in bare boots! Ahhh!! The best way to describe the trail was "lumpy". Haha. Fortunately, most of the bare boots had melted down, but there were frozen boot post-holes that had to be avoided. I really couldn't complain too much, though. It was good enough! The temperature got warmer as I climbed onto the granite slabs. It felt great. Even though I was sore and running slowly, I was still able to run the entire 3 miles up to the top in just under an hour. 57-ish minutes. Omg. Beautiful! Clear, blue skies! Mt Washington was completely clear.

I didn't have too much time to stay at the top so I started down. When the trails are solid in the winter, you can FLY down the mountains. I was excited about this until I realized that I had hardly done a bit of mountain running in months which meant I was about to destroy my already sore quads. 3 miles down, and I mean down. It is ALL downhill. With the trail a little lumpy, I wouldn't run it anywhere close to as fast as I ran down it two years ago in 23:37. That was just insanely fast, but I remember the trail being perfect for it, and I had fresh legs. Today, I would end up running it in my second fastest time in 30:04. Haha. No idea how. But man, I knew that I was in for some major hurt the next few days. Actually had me worried about the World Champs and Amherst!! Did I just ruin any chance at doing well? I hoped not, and I definitely didn't regret my choice for a run that morning. The trail is measured at 3.1 miles so it's 6.2 total. My GPS only picked up 5.7 miles this time. Total run time of 1:29:31. 2,587ft of elevation gain.

I went straight home since I had no time to stop. John didn't end up coming home until almost 12! Ugh. Oh well. We had been so busy that we were out of spring water, so I made a plan to walk up to Big Rock Cave from Wonalancet before driving down to the Sandwich Spring for water. John was not enthused. Haha. I assumed the trail would have been packed down well after the weekend, but it turned out I was very wrong. Someone had gone up in snowshoes part of the way so the trail was solid. When that ended, a pair of footprints had continued on. We were able to follow those...until that person turned around. Any attempt to go on further meant postholing, and I didn't want to be a bare boot asshole, so we turned around, too, right at the 1 mile point. Turning around to go downhill always changes John's attitude to a happy one, so he actually enjoyed himself on the way back down.

John throwing snowballs for the dogs

Just before turning around
Phoenix never sits back there, but for some reason she jumped right in with the big dogs. I think Spot was offended.
It was off to the Sandwich Spring and then a stop at the Tamworth Lyceum since John asked if he could get something to eat. I got a latte, and we sat down for awhile. I like this place even though it's a weird mix of usually old people and the young hippies who work there. Haha.

I got in 20 minutes of upper body and abs before taking John to ninja class, as usual. This would be my last upper body workout until Sunday.

Had a great beer that Michael Crutchley gave me
Wednesday, February 22, 2017- Got myself up for the usual 5 miles on the treadmill in 36:38. My quads were SO sore, just as I predicted. It would get worse all day with sitting to the point I could barely walk. Ugh.

 All was quiet except one fire alarm in the morning. Around 1500, a friend working on Conway Ambulance messaged me saying we were probably about to get toned to East Conway for a woman passed out in her car. He was laughing at me because she's apparently a big pain in the ass. Haha. I didn't have the radio on scan so I wasn't listening to the police chatter. But I got up, used the bathroom and waited for the tone to drop. About a minute later, the tone dropped, but it was not for the call we were expecting. It was for what would be this terrible call. I think I yelled, "Holy shit!" We were in that ambulance so fast. I drove faster through North Conway than I've ever driven through town. Vacation week people made for a lot of traffic, but I just laid on the horn and siren and slung us all around the turns and rotaries. I got that ambulance up to 70-75mph on North-South Rd weaving in and out around cars going both directions. I normally would never do that, but the nature of this call meant EMERGENT. I've already written as much as I can about the call. It seemed like forever when it was probably only a span of 20 minutes. I have to say that we crew members in the back of that truck did an awesome job. We worked so well together. Everybody was calm. We did the best we possibly could. I'm the last one to ever use the word "proud" since it usually makes me cringe. I can't explain it, but I hate the idea of being proud. In this situation, though, I was proud of us all. We went right into work mode, and we did our jobs the best we could. We SHOULD all be proud of how we handled that situation. Looking back, I can't think of one single thing we could have done differently. That IS something to be proud of. The ultimate outcome was not what we wanted, but we did everything in our power to make it right. THAT is one of the things that has probably kept me in this "I'm ok" state.

It took awhile to get our truck back in a working state, and by then, the adrenaline rush was wearing off. Reality of what just happened started to sink in with all of us. The rest of the day would be somber. It began to hit me as the day progressed. We ended up with 6 more 911 calls!! I was thankful for mostly fire alarms and CO alarms because I really didn't want to deal with another serious call this shift. It did have us out overnight twice, though, so I only got 3 hours of sleep. Ughh. When my head finally hit the pillow, an image from the bad call popped into my head. Something we had seen in the ED after transferring care. Seeing that image in my head immediately sent me into heavy tears. Just pouring down my cheeks. My pillow was literally soaked from the tears. It was good. I needed to cry. I needed to get that out so I could sleep.

Thursday, February 23, 2017- Plans for today went up in the air due to the day before. A debriefing at the hospital for all involved in the 911 call was set to happen, but the time wasn't set yet. My plan to take John to the open house at the Community School ended up getting nixed when I found out the debriefing was at noon. I asked John's dad to take him, and he said he would, but they ended up not going. I'm the only one who thinks John should consider going to school next year. He's been homeschooled up until this point, and I feel like he should at least consider other options. I feel like he's getting too isolated here. There are hardly any resources for kids here outside of the schools. I don't want him to go to the public school, but I think the Community School would be right up his alley. I'm not going to force him into school at this point, but I still feel like he should visit it. I'm up against a wall here. I understand Bryan's point of view completely, but I also know that John is one of those kids who has to be nudged to try new things almost every time. Anyway, I was pretty bummed I couldn't take him, but I was struggling a little bit with the call on Thursday morning and thought the debriefing would be good for me.

Still keeping up with staying in recovery mode, I ended up just running 8.1 miles from home. Out and back through Cranmore Shores up Tasker Hill past SOLO before turning around. Kept it slow. 1:02:14. My quads were still sore as hell the entire day. The day was another beautiful one with temps rising fast, so the run was nice. The call was on replay the enter run, but it was good because it was just my brain sorting things out. Running does that. When I finished, I had some coffee, showered, then headed up to Memorial Hospital for the debriefing.

This was my first time ever attending a debriefing. I was a little skeptical at first, but after all was said and done, I felt so much better. Every single person (and there were 20+ people there) ended up speaking about how they felt. I was one of the very last because I don't like speaking in front of a group or sharing my feelings, but after listening to everyone else and watching people cry whom you wouldn't expect, I finally felt comfortable. I've known a lot of these people for years. It ended up being one of the best experiences I've had in awhile with the people I know here. Surprisingly, I was one of the few who wasn't very emotional. The run helped. I walked out of there feeling a little bit more at peace. During the debriefing we were given all of the info after our care was handed off to the ER to fill the gaps, which also made it easier to process. Even though, I felt better, my mood was still a bit somber. I rushed home, changed clothes, grabbed my backcountry nordic skis and drove over to the Albany Covered Bridge to ski the Nanamocomuck Trail. I HAD to get back out. And I needed to be in the woods alone. I even packed a beer. It was time to have a drink.

My ski didn't go quite as planned since logging had destroyed the Nanamocomuck for the first 1.25 miles. I kind of lost my shit. Not surprising. I probably would have lost my shit anyway, but it was just like, "Of course!! Of course the trail I pick has been destroyed!" Once I got away from the logging road and made my own trail through the woods (that's what those skis are for!), I finally calmed down and started to feel good. I was enjoying skiing so much. I haven't gotten to do much of it this year, and now the snow is almost gone. Oh well. I skied out 2 miles where I found a wooden bridge over a brook that was mostly dry. I put on some layers and sat down to have my beer. I thought a lot about the day before and the other stuff going on in my life. I was happy to not have a signal on my phone so that I would stay off of it. I really needed that moment of peace. I still took some pictures and a video with the phone, but that was it. I even dropped it off the bridge at one point and had to climb down under the bridge to retrieve it in a mound of snow. Oops. :)

No signal, but I still had to get a selfie. Haha.

I skied the 2 miles back after finishing my beer. I felt so refreshed but super tired. I was drained from the lack of sleep and the call. I ended up in tears again the whole drive back down the Kanc. That would be the last time I would cry like that until today when I saw the patient's photo in the news. I didn't have time to cry after that. We had to leave early the next morning for New York, and I had SO much to do to get ready! I was so busy! I was able to pack most of my stuff but literally had to take a nap between 8-9pm so that I could finish the rest before bed. I was so beat. Mentally and physically drained by the time my head hit the pillow. This was a good thing because it meant the 911 call wouldn't be on replay keeping me from sleep. I had to skip my upper body workout. I just couldn't do it. Too tired. See the next blog post for the World Snowshoe Championship and another one after that for the Amherst 10-Miler.

This song is so beautiful and so sad. The second I heard it, I knew it was about the loss of a parent. My assumption turned out to be correct. Even though the loss this week was a little different, it was still a loss. So I think this song is perfect for this post.

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