When the moment chooses you
I heard something recently that was a passing statement. But a statement that was said with a conviction that it could only come from experience. The type of experience that sometimes people don’t survive. I know this person had lived through mortal danger to pass on this wisdom.
I do not name drop, I personally can’t stand it. Each man should be able to stand on his own merits. Even though I spent a long time in the Special Operations Community. I have never considered myself special. I am just too smart to fail and too dumb to quit, that is all I have. But, there are people in SOF that will absolutely humble you with their level of ability and dedication. They are the antipathy of the prima-donna athlete often revered in our media. They are people whose character will permanently strip away your ability to complain, forever.
The words came from someone I know, who I knew have lived to pass on the wisdom that was so clear in just a few words. This man, Travis, reminds me so much of my best friend Cameron. They both possess an aggression and confidence is often mistaken for recklessness. When the house of a man’s confidence is built with the bricks of accomplishment, these men have built fortresses. It is a common trait in Special Operators, they know they can get it done. It comes from being ready for whatever the world throws at you.
What Travis said was “to be ready when the moment chooses you”. In my military experiences, there were times when the situation forced itself on you. Where you had to dealt with it, you had to overcome it. The consequences meant shame, failure, or even death. No time outs, no stress cards, no deferring it to the chain of command, no passing the buck, it was fucking win or die. One false move and you collapse the booby-trapped cave. You have shoot them before they shoot you. You win or you die.
Law Enforcement and Medicine is the only other places in life I have seen that can parallel the crisis of combat. Where the situation is forced on you. Make no mistake it is a step down, but it is close. In these environments, lives hang in the balance of your decisions. It is an environment where ignorance is a fatal flaw and stupidity is lethal. A place where you can do everything right and still fail. Where you can give all of yourself, and still people die. A place journalists, bureaucrats, and lawyers will never truly understand.
Some may know I am closely tied to both Medicine and Law Enforcement. My entire family is in Law Enforcement. My father is a famous SWAT sniper, my brother a detective, my mother a Sheriff Deputy, and even my most of my step family is in Law Enforcement. I have a cousin who is a paramedic that holds a pistol qualification record for an Ohio Law Enforcement Academy. Many of the members of my 19th SFG ODA’s were in law enforcement. I am honored to count most of my friends and acquaintances from the LE community.
I am also closely tied to medicine. Some my friends and close business advisors I rely on at Handl Defense are also Doctors. Then when I am not developing weapons and relationships for Handl Defense, I also work as a Paramedic. My department is often regarded as the best Paramedics in the world. Where most programs require 833 hours of training and education, ours requires over 3000. Our cardiac arrest survival rates are in the high 50% to low 60% range. We intubate critically ill patients in the high 90% range. We bring the ER to the patient. We are studied the world over as the model of pre-hospital lifesaving care. We have a lot more in common with SOMTC than NREMT-P.
One early morning the situation chose me. I am dispatched to a Law Enforcement officer not breathing and pulseless. There is just enough time to really open my eyes and focus on the road and flip on the lights. It’s a cold, dark, and wet night the Northwest is known for. I am working with the newest guy in the department. For a second the thought creeps in. My father, my brother, my mother, my friend, the junior Bravo on 9115, is effectively dead on the ground. No time outs, no pause button, no deferring it to the doctors, no passing the buck, it was time to do what only we can do.
In what seems like a minute, I arrive. On his back, staring lifeless at the sky is a police officer. Exposed to the cold and wet of the early morning night only his cut away armor between him and the sopping pavement. A man in his 50’s, in a moment I knew he was a father and husband. He had been fighting with a criminal. Once the criminal was subdued, the officer sat down, and went into cardiac arrest.
The fervor of the firefighters doing CPR was readily apparent. We treat every one of our patients the same. But you can feel the intensity when its one of us who is dying. Every Firefighter and Paramedic consider Law Enforcement one of us, we are all part of the same team. The officers had seen him sit down and go into seizures. They quickly realized he was not breathing, started CPR, and delivered a shock by way of AED. The firefighters delivered two of their own and CPR was still on going, I could sense he has a chance.
As the Medics, we have all the powerful tools. We deliver cardiac drugs and intubate patients. Intubation means we insert a breathing tube into someone’s lungs through their mouth. As some have heard, if you don’t have an airway you don’t have a patient. Without the ability to provide high concentrations of oxygen to a patient via an endotracheal tube, it can make survival less likely. Without the ability to offset rapidly progressing metabolic and respiratory acidosis cardiac function will not be restored. They will become too acidic and tissues will begin to die and any survival chances rapidly decline.
I will not go into the specifics of this particular situation but his care was incredibly complex for so many reasons. Initially, It looked like saving his life was not going to happen. It was a very bad situation that was not set up for success. In the back of my mind was Travis saying “be ready when the situation chooses you”.
Even though the odds were stacked against me, I knew where I was. I know I can get it done. It comes from being ready for whatever the world throws at me. I had to rely on understanding the problem mentally. I had to visualize what I could not see. This can only come from an in-depth understanding of your craft. Some times you have to do things by feel and not by sight. Although there was no way to see or directly verify on one procedure what I was doing, I knew where I was. The cold, wet, dark, and crisis all disappeared in the focus.
He began to show signs of life. He had a blood pressure. He wasn’t out of the woods just yet though. Even though we had gotten pulses back, he had very serious issues that still threatened his life. The specifics of this situation were dire, this situation is very infrequently survived After we got him to the hospital it took 3 hours for Doctors to fully stabilize him.
As the doctors and nurses wheeled him on the bed down to the surgeon, I saw the officer’s son. He was image of the officer 20 years younger, himself a police officer on duty in another district. Sometimes the reality of what we do is instantly apparent.
Unless the entire team did their jobs, he had no chance. Not unlike SOF, in public safety even the new guys are capable of really good job. The collective sweat of 2 dozen people was spent on one man. This is part of what makes America great, that we know one life is worth all the effort. His fellow officers, the firefighters, the medics, and the doctors were ready when the situation chose us. One more walks among us because we were prepared for the worst.
“many have the will to win, few have the will to properly prepare to win” – B. Knight