I’m Sorry I Didn’t Respond to Your Email, My Husband Coughed to Death Two Years Ago
Rachel Ward

As an ex-paramedic I thought I’d clear up a couple of the things you mentioned from that day. In the immediacy of an emergency communication with the family is very often neglected:

> I don’t know if it was “don’t bother” or “you don’t need to.”

They were probably using what’s called an AED (Automated External Defibrillator). The AED reads the heart’s rhythm via it’s electrical impulses, and makes a determination whether to administer a shock or not. Some rhthyms respond to shocks and some don’t. Unlike what you see on TV and the movies, a shock almost never has any effect on a heart that has flatlined. That’s drama for television. Shocks really only work when the heart has gotten into a bad rhythm (called fibrillation). Anyway, when the AED says “don’t” it’s saying that because it’s detecting a relatively normal heart rhythm, or none at all. If it were none at all, they should have immediately begun chest compressions and administering drugs. If there was, at that time, a working rhythm, they would not do chest compressions, though they almost certainly still started an IV.

> They asked me how old he was, which I assume was to gauge whether to keep working or not.

This is just a standard question asked because it might determine how much of a drug to use, though in the case of someone your husband’s age, it was probably just routine. It would never, to my knowledge in any US locale, determine whether to keep working or not. In EMS, in every place I’ve ever seen, you don’t declare someone dead in the field unless it’s blatantly obvious there’s no way back. Still warm and body in-tact always equals keep trying, no matter the age, unless the person has a DNR order.

> Once we were in the ambulance, I asked where we were going and one of the EMTs just sort of nodded “no” to me, and indicated I should hold on.

Hard to say what that meant for sure. He might not have known where you were going yet. If there are several hospitals in range, often the description the medic gives over the radio is used by the hospital’s dispatch to direct where the ambulance should go. For example, a trauma patient needs to go to a trauma center, and the one nearest you may be full. Anyway, it could also have been his way of telling you how bad it was. Impossible to know without asking him.

> Yeah, I’m not a fucking ANIMAL.

I am 100% with you on two spaces after a period. However, this comment entry box on this very page limits us to only one. You might work for animals.

— x