Thursday, October 15, 2009

to fix the unfixable (you're right . . . "unfixable" isn't a word)

One of my biggest complaints as an emergency responder is that I can't fix all of the world's problems. Go ahead and say it . . . "Duh!" . . . but hey, everyone has their hitches and glitches and weaknesses, and this is mine.

We firefighters respond to disasters of various sizes and significance. Some are fixable but many are not . . . and that bugs me. The most frequently occurring unfixable disasters in our area are vehicle crashes.

I classify vehicle crashes into two main categories - those that people walk away from and those that they don't. Most of the crashes we respond to fall into the first category, and are "fixable" thanks to modern technology like seatbelts and air bags. The crashes from which people don't walk away can be subdivided into two further categories: those that we extricate and carry to an ambulance (fixable) and those that we extricate and carry to a hearse (unfixable). It's this last category that sometimes gets to me.

At the scene of a fatal crash, I'm fine. No mental breakdowns, no emotional traumas. Just plain firefighter business. The person that used to live in that body is gone, and what's trapped in the snarled mass of metal isn't him at all. His troubles are over. I just focus on the technical aspects of the mission and don't think about the other stuff.

Afterwards though, the "I can't fix all the world's problems" syndrome sets in. It gets me when my guard is down, often in the middle of the night. I get thinking about the family that's left behind. The kids. The moms and dads. The death part doesn't get me. It's those that stayed behind in the land of the living.

Enough of these sappy, woe-is-me, search-your-soul, psychological gymnastics. The whole reason I got on this topic is because there is a guy out there trying to fix the unfixables . . . and actually making headway. Click here. Suspended animation outside of a science fiction novel seems ludicrous, but thankfully there are people crazy enough to pursue ludicrous ideas.

Remember DJ Harper, the young child that was rescued from a burning SUV last summer? Click here and here for updates on his long road to recovery. Now there's a story that came within about 30 seconds of an unfixable ending.

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