Trigger Warnings: Trauma & Death
Typically speaking I am not a person to put up trigger warnings about things but this is a time that I feel like it I should as this post is not light in any way and will be covering a very heavy subject and a very personal experience for me. So please be warned now if the warnings at the top did not turn you away that this post may not be an easy read and will be fairly dark.
Okay, I feel I have even enough of a chance anyone to turn back if they wish, and any who are still with me will not be upset with me for making a post of this nature.
I feel that the best place for me to start would be to say that I’ve never thought I truly feared death. I had a healthy survival instinct like any other human being and would fight for my life should it come to that and I didn’t go off and do death defying things either like cliff diving. (I’ve been rapelling but that is 100% safe if proper equipment is used and you are under the guidance of a well trained individual – but I digress.) However, I felt rather comfortable in my own demise, I didn’t know when it would come and I know I can’t prevent it. I also always took comfort in my own religious beliefs that when I die I go to a better place.
Some of these things have not changed in me. I know I can’t prevent my death. I also still firmly believe that when I die I go to a better place. Those things have not been shaken. Other things however, have. I have no sudden urge to go cliff diving but I have gained a bit of fear of death, and in some ways I think that’s what happens when you face it head on.
I admit I didn’t have a near death experience, nothing threatened my own life. I feel that if that were the case something different would have happened to me, but that is not the case here. Something very different happened to me and it has changed my view on things, I don’t know if it is forever but it is true of the interim.
I know I’m leading up here to tell why my view has changed, but at the same time it is not easy to come out and tell the story and say what happened. In some ways it is easier to verbalize and speak it aloud, but I think for me it becomes more real when I write it down. Part of me wants to be quick and say it outright and yet I find myself not wanting to write things. A certain denial to the truth. So maybe it is story time:
It was Friday morning and I was going into work as usual. I was tired but glad that the week was pretty much over. I drove in, and was running a little late as I hadn’t had breakfast, meaning I had to run downstairs to the Colonnade to buy something from the vending machine as very little is open at 3am, the start of my work shift. Being quick I went to my computer to sign in so that when start of shift rolled around I would be marked as present.
Walking in I can see the row of desks that contain my fell co-workers who I arrive two hours before me. It my habit to note if a desk is empty because if one is then I know the work day may very well be a rough one. Of course, an empty chair can me they are on break, but if the monitors are black it means they probably didn’t come in. I instantly thought ‘Oh no Amy is not in.’ But then I looked up at the board that tells us the status of each caller. If they are ready for a call, on a call or not ready. I saw that Amy was here today because she was on the board. I remember thinking ‘strange’ because it showed her not read for about an hour and a half. Still I dismissed it considering that she was supposed to be not ready as she was assigned to work emails instead of taking live calls, and I figured her computer screens were off as she went to the restroom for a bit longer than an average person which was nothing out of the ordinary either. So logged into my computer and rushed to get some food knowing that thing would be timed for me to be at my desk exactly on time.
With food in hand I stopped to get a cup of ice with a co-worker and friend Chris telling me “Your late! Your late!” in his teasing way. We have a good rapport and share a social group outside of work. I told him I wasn’t late and if I was I wouldn’t have stopped to get ice. He had figured as much but at the same time had to tease a little.
As I got my ice he mentioned. “Hey the guys would like you to check in on Amy, she’s been in the bathroom for a long while.”
I agreed but asked to set my things down at my desk as I was now juggling a wallet, food and a cup of ice. I walked to my desk got asked how Amy was by Terry who looked quite worried. I set my stuff down and checked to make sure I had my phone on me. It was an odd thing but there was a part of me that said there is a problem – a real one and I might need to take emergency action to help Amy.
So I walked to the bathroom, and pushed the door open noticing that the light was out. I didn’t question it too much as I’ve had that happen to me before where the automatic lights in the bathroom go out before I am finished using the bathroom. I don’t know how long the lights are set to stay on without movement in this bathroom but I accepted it and tentatively spoke Amy’s name as I rounded the corner ready to ask if she was okay and needed anything when I saw her face flat on the ground head sticking out of the handicap stall and the place smelling horrible.
Without a second thought I fled the scene as I knew she needed help and I couldn’t provide it. Amy is a larger woman and I knew I couldn’t turn her off her face. I called down the hall.
“Guy’s she’s passed out, face on the floor and I need help!”
Jack was quick to respond as an ex-military man recently back into civilian life. He tried to turn her over but couldn’t with the stall being closed and locked and I was trying to think of a way to get into the stall and unlock it. There was no way to crawl under as was my first thought as Amy was blocking all ways under the stall. And the panic and worry admittedly was mounting in me. Amy was so blue. I hadn’t seen someone as blue as she was, her face which was flat as a pancake against the floor told me she couldn’t be breathing an the blue also told me that. Not only was her face but but her arms were too.
Jack was able to use his nail to turn the lock to get the stall open. By that point Chris who is older and also ex-military came to help. However Chris is a very small and slight man and between him and Jack they weren’t able to do it.
“Go get Taylor!”
I rushed out. “Taylor they need your help – she on her face and blue!”
Taylor came rushing in as a tall burly guy and I watched as he and Jack pulled her out and turned her over. By that point Terry was calling 911 and Alex was running down to the security office to try and get help while Chris looked for a defibrillator per the command of Jack and I stood there panicked and not sure what to do.
Jack asked about CPR which Taylor knew how to do as did Jack. Talyor started compression’s and demanded paper towels which I grabbed as fast as I could. Jack used it to wipe Amy’s mouth and perform mouth to mouth. I remember thinking though my training which was too late for me to bring up that mouth to mouth was mute and compression’s were the key. Taylor was doing them too light and I always said something but Jack told him harder. “Don’t worry about hurting her” I said meekly. I knew sometimes you have to break and crack ribs with how hard you have to push, but I didn’t need to provide that information. I remember vividly how her body moved under the compression’s of the guys and knew they were far stronger than me to do things and I have not need to get involved as too many people would not help.
I stepped out to check on things and heard Terry on the phone and provided him with the information he needed to give 911 as he was checking in on things. Terry gave the information but was doubling over some going ‘Oh God’ as he saw what I saw which was a prone woman who was still blue in the face as two men tried to save her life.
I heard security coming and stepped out quickly to say where we were as the building could be a maze. I remember praying for a miracale becuase I knew that is what we needed and I remember pacing as I started to loose feeling in my fingers. I knew it was from the panic and I forced myself to keep things together.
In a lot of ways things became a blur as I check on things a bit, tried to figure out what I needed to do. Chris and Alex had moved back to the phones, as it was something to do and was a task that needed to be done. Our callers didn’t know what was going on and they needed help too. Then I saw that Taylor had a call on hold and I figured I needed to take care of that. I remember being surprised that the hold time was only 5 minutes when so much was going on.
I barely managed the phone call which the caller was very understanding that we had an emergency and I didn’t have very good focus. I finished the call and checked on things helping to guide paramedics to where they needed to be.
In some ways a lot of things became a blur as I was asked who found her and was asked for my information and then asked about next of kin which I didn’t know. I helped find her personal information from her purse. As things became less out of my control and I was needed less, I remember having the urge to wash my hands. I have never in my life needed to wash my hands as much as I needed to then. The police stopped me as they didn’t want me to leave as a detective would want to ask me questions and I explained how I wanted to go to the other restroom to wash my hands and then be in a near by hall to make a phone call. I knew if there was any way for me to calm down and process things I had to call and talk to someone and that person happened to be my mother as she is a person I know I can wake in the middle of the night.
I paced I tried to work and I watched for people who had questions. I knew I was on point for that as I was the one that found Amy, and I realized slowly that it wasn’t a matter of just finding Amy who could get medical care but Amy who was no longer and thus what I found wasn’t exactly Amy but a body.
Shock presided over things as I had to talk to a detective about things and watched as a building manager spoke with us and then our lead who presides over the entire department spoke with us.
In between the conversations, we all tried to keep occupied and busy doing work which was not easy as none of us had the ability to focus. I remember sitting there trying to focus and re-living the events of what I saw over and over again. I would catch a reprieve until the smell from the bathroom played on my nose. Smells don’t usually bother my but the smell here made me re-live things every time. I don’t know if it was physiological or real the smell but it got to be bad. It was such to the point that I didn’t want to go to the far bathroom myself. I was scared of going there alone and being ‘forgotten’ should the worst happen. I don’t blame the men for waiting for me the only other girl to check on Amy it was only natural but that meant that I was alone, and I didn’t like that. I also forced myself to down some food as I knew if I didn’t I would pass out, and the process of eating was difficult and a sheer force of will.
Eventually, several hours later we were released from work and I drove to my parents house because the last thing I wanted and needed to be was alone. I also knew that the last thing I wanted was sleep. I was scared of sleeping alone and I was scared of being alone and I was scared of sleep itself not because sleep can been seen as a type of death but because I was scared of what I might dream, and I was scared of dying alone and sleeping is in some ways a lonely activity. I stayed up for about 24 hours before I finally slept knowing I couldn’t physically function any more and knowing that if I were to sleep with people awake it had to be then.
Of course with that fear of sleep and bad dreams, it mounted up more as I got more fatigued and sleepy. It was an unending cycle of where the more I needed sleep the less I wanted it and the more it scared me. However, not that I’ve slept I am somewhat better, I am less scared, I feel I can be alone some but I know it will be a struggle to adjust to things, to be at work, to see Amy’s empty desk, to know where she died and pass that place daily. I already know I can’t use that bathroom and will never use that stall – I just can’t. I don’t believe in superstition or anything such to the point if you point to a spot and say a man died there I wouldn’t be phased by going to that spot but this, this is a little more real this wasn’t some random man or woman this was Amy a person I had gotten to know personally and worked with for about 3 months. It’s just too real and admittedly while it’s only been a day and I’m better adjusted the idea of being alone still scares me some.
*Please note that all names have been changed for purposes of privacy.