Warning: This post contains mentions of suicide, abuse, and murder.
First responders have one of the toughest and most important jobs out there. They've saved countless lives while being put through unimaginable situations, and they deserve way more credit for the hard work they do day in and day out.
1."I'm a 911 operator. I received a call at 3 a.m. from a woman who was home alone. She told me about a week earlier that a vehicle parked in her driveway and a man came to the door saying that he had run out of fuel, despite the fact the vehicle was idling. She had told him to leave, and he did. Now, the same vehicle had shown up in the middle of the night. As we were talking the vehicle drove away. I told her to check all of her windows and doors. All of a sudden, she gasped and every hair on my body stood up. She yelled, 'Oh my god, there are hand prints on every window!!!'"
"Turns out, whoever it was had circled the house peeping in. I still get the willies whenever I think about it."
2."My first DRT (demand-responsive transit). Motorcycle vs. truck. I arrived to find the biker about 30 feet from the bike, his shoes scattered about 20 feet away in different places. He had jeans, no shirt, or helmet. Smelled like a brewery. The truck driver was obviously upset, talking to the only police officer out on this dark road. As we got the stretcher and approached the body, someone came down the road to investigate. They ran back inside. Suddenly, multiple drunk, shoeless people began pouring out of nearby trailers, screaming about 'killing a motherf****r.' They came down the road like a nest of drunk hornets. The one cop stood there with his arm out toward them, bless his heart, trying to protect the truck driver."
"We didn’t secure the body onto the stretcher or even get him in the bag on scene. We tossed him on there like a sack of potatoes and ran like hell. Last I saw, that one cop was standing in the road with his arm out while they all ran towards him."
—Anonymous, North Carolina
3."In my 30s, I was an EMT in rural Arizona. One evening, I responded to an auto accident. The driver had been drinking and was quite drunk. We loaded him into the ambulance, and with lights and siren, we started the 15-mile trip to the nearest hospital. About halfway to the hospital, the patient decided that he wanted to go home. Despite my best efforts, he managed to unbuckle the straps holding him onto the stretcher, push past me, and unlock and open the back door of the ambulance. He was hanging halfway out of the ambulance as I wrapped my legs around the stretcher and grabbed onto his belt. I screamed at the top of my lungs for the driver to stop as I watched the highway speed past us. The driver finally heard me and stopped."
"We radioed the police who responded to our site; the officer convinced the patient to ride in the ambulance the rest of the way to the hospital. The ironic part was that when we unloaded the patient at the hospital, he refused to let the doctor examine him unless I stayed and held his hand. Needless to say, after this experience, I needed some clean underwear."
4."I went to pick up a guy who had wrecked a dirt bike into a ditch late night on a weekend. He was critically injured, lights and sirens transport indicated. My partner was finishing packaging him. I was administering morphine. My partner was about to get in the driver’s seat and put the lights and sirens on when a state trooper appeared out of nowhere and jumped into the ambulance. He straddled the stretcher and started screaming at the patient, who was in bad shape and also on morphine. I told him we were trying to leave with the lights and sirens on. The cop was completely out of his mind, his face one inch from the kid’s face, threatening to look up his military commander and destroy his life because he wrecked a bike while drunk. My partner and I were completely helpless to stop this cop attacking our critically injured patient out in the woods in the middle of the night."
"We just had to wait until he was done threatening and verbally abusing the patient for no known reason. He was able to delay transport because no matter what they tell you in NIMS (National Incident Management System), in real life, the angry person with the gun is always the incident commander."
5."When I was a 999 call handler, I had a woman call and say her mother-in-law had called her and said the caller's husband had 'done something stupid' and that was it. I knew in my gut it was something awful, but I had no way to upgrade the call. She was just around the corner from home, so I stayed on the line and heard as she discovered her husband had attempted to take his life. No CPR had taken place, so I had to try and talk this poor mother-in-law through CPR."
"It's really unheard of to hear the event or moment take place; we normally pick up just after it's happened. It was awful. He didn't make it."
6."I was a 911 dispatcher for four years. One night dispatching, I took a call from someone whose stepdad was drunk and chased them through the yard with a shotgun. I got the address, started officers, and while talking, the victim said he left his yard and was hiding behind a car in a driveway down the road. It was my sister's house, with my nephews inside. All I could think was if the stepdad found him and shot at him, the bullet would go right through the front of the house and kill them. Longest eight minutes of my life. I had to keep the caller calm and safe while panicking for my family."
"The stepdad was arrested for attempted murder. Trying to keep the poor kid hidden while wanting him to get away from the house was such a terrible choice to have to think about."
7."Former 911 dispatcher. I have so many stories, but one call that has always stuck with me was a call from an elderly female. She suffered from dementia and had a caretaker, but she would call frequently due to confusion. She also wasn’t always able to speak very well (I’m not sure if that was from dementia or some other ailment). One day she called, and all she said was hello, but then, she must have set the phone down. Our policy was to send an officer out since she called 911, so I stayed on the line to see if she would come back on or if the caretaker might pick up. After about 20–39 seconds, I hear her caretaker screaming obscenities at her, telling her to 'shut the f*** up' and to 'get with the f***ing program.'"
"I also heard him threaten to take her food away from her (I think she wasn’t eating as quickly as he wanted?), and I swear I heard her say, 'Ow!' at one point. I documented everything in the call, but never found out the outcome other than there was an Adult Protective Services cross-report filed. It was so incredibly sad to hear how someone her family trusted to take care of her was treating her."
8."I recently had an open line 911 call, where the person that called was the victim of a home invasion. He was smart enough to call 911 and hide the phone so we could hear everything that was going on. I heard him begging for someone to just take the money and leave, saying, 'Please don't kill me; I'm an old man...' And I heard another male voice in the background swearing, telling him he was going to shoot him in the face. It was the longest phone call of my life — I thought for sure I was going to hear this poor guy get murdered on the line. I was afraid to say anything because I didn't want the suspect to know or hear that the victim had called. Thankfully, our officers got there fairly quickly, surrounded the building, and caught the guy trying to go out a back window."
"He got arrested, and the old man survived with only minor injuries from being punched several times. Apparently, the suspect was super high and was a friend of a caretaker of the elderly person. The caretaker had mentioned the old man had money hidden in the house."
9."I worked in an ambulance for 10 years as both an EMT and paramedic. I've been in dispatch for the past three years. I gotta say — it's a different animal. On the ambulance, when I arrived on an emergency scene, one of my priorities was controlling the scene, so I could do what I needed to do. I had lots of ways to do so and tailored it to the situation at hand. In dispatch, all I have is my voice to help control the situation. It's a different skill set for sure."
"One call that sticks with me is a woman called because a dog attacked and mauled her son. She had grabbed her son and jumped into their car in their driveway to escape the dog. It was still barking outside the vehicle. ... It was very tough to listen to her try and hold herself together while waiting for help to arrive. People don't call us on their best days and don't always like it when we start asking questions. We listen to them take their last breaths, console them after being raped, and tell them help is coming when they run out of their blood pressure meds and think their blood pressure is high. All in a day's work."
10."I was an EMT in New York for a small town volunteer ambulance corps for a few years and then an EMT in Massachusetts at college for a few years. I responded to a call at college on a Halloween night shift. Someone had found or seen this college-aged girl passed out in a bush. She was probably the drunkest I'd ever seen a (semi-)conscious person: she couldn't answer questions at all, couldn't keep her head/upper body up at all, and kept vomiting on herself. But what upset me the most was that this girl had probably been out with her friends and somewhere along the way, they just left her."
"I just couldn't wrap my head around the scenario where someone's friends would think that this was an okay condition to leave her in — at night, sh*t-faced drunk, in a place where she's lucky someone even saw her."
11."I also responded to a call that probably came in as 'male acting strangely' or 'mental distress' or 'unknown' or something. I got there, and there was a middle-aged, maybe slightly older couple and the man was having a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack). He needed to go to the hospital, but he was fighting us. I had to restrain him (and this was no easy task I was in late high school at the time and this was an adult), while someone else put him on oxygen or tried to get him on the stretcher or something. As we're dealing with him — and everything's taking longer because we can't get him to cooperate and he's throwing off his oxygen mask and fighting us (physically) the whole way — we learn that: while he's not capable of answering our questions and is speaking to us frantically in another language (can't remember what it was), it turns out that he actually does speak English. He's even a doctor."
"It was terrifying to see that someone who, in their right mind, would know the danger of his situation, cooperate completely, and speak to us in English, but was incapable of doing any of those three things because of his condition."
12."Paramedic here. I can't pinpoint one specific 'creepy' call, but I have to agree that the calls for people who have already died can be especially creepy. I am very comfortable with death, but there have been a few times where I swear to god, I saw them twitch, and I almost lost it."
13."EMT/firefighter here. In an ambulance, my patient would sit up and would ask, 'Who's that kid sitting there?' There was nobody there so I felt creeped out. Then, with the fire department, we got a note on our CAD (computer-aided dispatch) saying this guy was suicidal and was planning to ram any ambulance or engine while running from the cops. So, I was really nervous, thinking at any moment a car would hit us head-on."
14."When I was a new EMT, we went to one at this family's house; the husband woke up in the middle of the night with difficulty breathing. His vitals were all over the place, and he had an AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysm). Lung sounds were rails, like all classic symptoms. The family was going to meet us at the hospital — he was alert and talking with us (although difficult) during the trip, and when he arrived, he went into cardiac arrest, and we were helping the nurses work on him."
"His family didn't get to say goodbye; it all happened so fast, they walked into the ER and saw everything. It was right before a holiday, too. I feel really bad for them"
15."We did have one call where we picked up a patient who claimed they were being tracked by the US government. Of course, the nursing staff and everyone involved assume that it's just some kind of psych patient case. He spent time talking about documents that he previously had access to and how the government didn't want him to release the information to anyone. He yelled and screamed as we put him on the cot about being sane and that we were being brainwashed. As we loaded our patient into the rig, he said we'll be followed to the next facility. Jokingly, my partner asked what was going to follow us, to which he replied with 'a black Lincoln Town Car.' As we left, almost immediately there was a black town car behind us."
"It stayed behind us for the roughly 15-minute transport and only disappeared as we got within a few blocks of the new facility. Dropped the patient off, and all he had was a smug, I-told-you-so look on his face."
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.