What They Don’t Prepare You For by Harly Didawick

It was finally the moment I had been dreaming of since I was a little girl; my wedding day. Although it is not how I imagined it to be. I imagined it as a magical day where time would just stop, but standing at the beginning of the aisle without my dad made it impossible for me to embrace my special day. Looking over at my mom took me back to the day that changed our lives forever. 

It was just another day at work. A call came over the scanner, “901S on South Mince Street, officer shot in the chest and is unresponsive. Police have the suspect in custody, scene is clear for paramedics.” Levi responded, “10-4, unit 6 responding.” He flipped the sirens on and sped off towards South Mince Street. 

“Marie, are you okay?” 

“Yeah, I am good!” Levi always asked me if I was okay everytime a call included a police officer because he knew my dad worked for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department. It was hard being an EMT in the same county that my dad was a police officer because I knew everything that was happening. The constant fear of being called to a scene where my dad was injured always took over my mind, but my job was to save lives which I know I can do. 

We arrived on scene to find nearly a dozen police officers surrounding the injured officer. Levi jumped in the back of the ambulance to grab the defibrillator as I raced over to the crowd of officers. “Move, move, move.” I stood frozen as my dad was lying limp and unresponsive on the blood soaked sidewalk. An officer was frantically pressing down on the gunshot wound to control the bleeding while the others just stood there. A rush of adrenaline began racing through my body as I collapsed beside my dad and began doing CPR. Levi rushed over with the defibrillator and began applying the stickers. “Dammit Levi hurry up!” He glanced over at me without saying a word. 

“Everybody clear.”

“Again Levi!”

“Clear.” A faint heartbeat appeared on the monitor and was now a moment of life or death. 

“Get him in the ambulance, and we will take him to the hospital. Levi, you are driving. There is no way in hell I am leaving my dad.” Levi’s face filled with astonishment because he knew that we are not supposed to work on our family members. We raced my dad to the ambulance and loaded him in. Levi flipped the sirens on and took off, honking at anyone that got in the way. 

The piercing sound of a flatline coming from the heart monitor echoed throughout the ambulance. “LEVI HURRY UP! WE LOST HIM AGAIN!” I started CPR and never thought about stopping until we got to the hospital. The ambulance jerked forward as Levi slammed on the breaks. He flew open the doors, and we slid the gurney out of the ambulance and onto the ground. We were met by a team of nurses and doctors. I jumped up onto the gurney as a flatline still appeared on the heart rate monitor. The sliding doors to the emergency room opened and we were quickly wheeled into a trauma bay. 

My dad had been gone for fifteen minutes, but no one was ready to give up on him. I continued doing CPR while they hooked him up to the defibrillator and gave him 1mg of epinephrine. “Everybody clear.” No response. “Charge to 200.” No response. “Charge to 250.” Nothing. Forty-five minutes of CPR and constant shocks from the defibrillator couldn’t save my dad. The head doctor said the dreaded words, “time of death 17:45.” Tears filled my eyes as I watched my dad’s lifeless, blood covered body lay beneath me. I wrapped my arms around his upper body and began to sob. How was I supposed to tell my mom that I let my dad’s life slip right through my fingers? How am I going to walk down the aisle in a couple of weeks without him? So many questions were racing through my mind as my body began to fill with guilt.

I slowly stepped down from the gurney and walked out into the waiting room. Levi was waiting for me and greeted me with a hug. 

“I am so sorry Marie. I already called your mom.”

“Tha, tha…” I couldn’t even speak, but Levi gave me a smile of reassurance. Moments later my mom frantically came running through the sliding doors. 

“MARIE!”

“Mom, I am so sorry.”

“Stop honey, it’s not your fault. Where is he?” I pointed to the direction of his room and my mom immediately ran to his room. She dropped to her knees and started uncontrollably crying. After minutes of crying, she stood up and we said our goodbyes. She took her wedding ring and placed it in his pocket so he would always have a piece of her with him in heaven. 

We began to walk out of the room, but I knew I needed one final moment alone with my dad. 

“Mom, do you mind if I have a moment alone with him?”

“Sure honey!” I walked back over to the gurney and grabbed his hand. Whispering softly I said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you like you always have done for me. Ever since I was a little girl it was always my dream to become an EMT. I watched you protect people’s lives and I wanted to be the one that saved them. In school they never prepare you for the possibility of seeing your family injured, let alone saving them. The whole reason I became an EMT was to save lives, but I couldn’t even save yours dad. I let you down. I’m sorry.” I began to sob as I kissed my dad on the cheek one last time before I said my final goodbye. “I know you will be watching over me on my wedding day. We will see eachother again someday, dad. I love you!” 

I looked at my mom and smiled one last time before she walked me down the aisle. We arrived at the end where I placed my bouquet of flowers on the only empty seat, my dads. My bouquet had a picture of him attached and “I love you” written on the stem. Even though my dad was not physically there I knew he was there in spirit fulfilling his promise to make my wedding day special. He will always be my best friend and the man who showed me what love was.

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