******Not for the Faint of Heart******
******Reader Discretion Advised******
I'm going to share another 911 call. I worked in a different agency in Colorado during this call. It was a very rural area, and coming from being a city dispatcher, I wasn't used to it. Response times at this agency were A LOT longer than a City agency.
This call had a significant effect on me. Most likely because I felt helpless during the whole call. I want people to know what so many others are going through. It's happening even if we don't see it.
Anyway, here’s another one, but this references to suicide. So, if this is a trigger, please don’t read any further. However, I am sharing this for you or someone you know who might be struggling. Plus, the media rarely shares stories about suicide. I’ve been in the 911 field for ten years, and I’m still not sure why that is.
Anyway, here’s the call. It’s about 16:00 (4 p.m.), and the 911 line rings. On the other end of the line is a younger male telling me he wants to commit suicide. He sounded younger, and he was; he was about 18 years old. I tried to start gathering as much information as I could. He gave me all the information that I asked for. He wasn’t holding anything back. One piece of information needed was whether he had a weapon AND had already done something to hurt himself. The answers to both of those questions were no and yes.
As you probably guessed, my next question was, “How did you hurt yourself?”
He told me, “I took a lot of Oxycontin.”
A lot was about 40 pills. So at this point, I knew this person was in a life-threatening situation.
Mind you; he lived in a very remote location. It could have already been too late by the time first responders arrived. I had to think of another way to get him help. So, I wondered if he was alone in the house. He said, “No, my family is over for a get-together; I’m upstairs in my room.”
I wanted him to get a family member and bring them upstairs, but he said, “No, I want to die, and you all will be the ones to find me, not them; that’s why I’m calling.”
When he said that, I realized apart from the first responders, I was the only one who knew this person could die, and I couldn’t do anything about it with the time I had. There were many people downstairs that could help, but I had no way to get their attention. I’m just a person on the other end of the phone. All I have are my words.
The only thing I could do was keep him talking. His alertness was beginning to fade, and his words were becoming slurred. It was becoming tough to understand anything he was saying. I had to ask the one question that bothered me: “Why did you do this?”
He said, “I’ve been fighting with my parents a lot, and life was tough.”
Thats it? I thought.
As the phone call went on, he eventually opened up about his girlfriend breaking up with him the day before; he was bullied, terrified of starting college, and felt it would be better for everyone if he weren’t there. It was too simple of an answer, but it was the truth. It wasn’t this long, drawn-out series of traumatic events that occurred over time to make him decide suicide was the best option.
I thought, If your going to take your own life, something terrible must have happened. To me, those problems were simple, but to him, those particular problems were his whole life, and in his eyes, he was a failure.
Police officers, firefighters, and paramedics were still about twenty minutes away. All I was trying to do was keep him talking. I asked him, “Have you ever tried something like this before?”
He said, “This was the first time.” It was hardly understandable between his crying and sniffling.
He said, “He thought about it several times but never tried it.”
I probably shouldn’t have said what I said next, but I did. I told him, “All these problems are temporary, but you’re making them permanent.” He started to cry more, but it sounded weak, almost like he was losing his breath. This was a scary point for me. I didn’t know if I made things worse or made him realize what he did was a mistake and he was out of time.
After about five more minutes, the line went almost silent. I could barely hear him crying, and his breathing was becoming ragged. I tried getting his attention a couple more times, but no luck. For those who don’t know, any opioid overdose will cause respiratory arrest first. I knew right away that’s what was happening. All I was listening to was ragged and rattling breathing. Suddenly, I couldn’t hear breathing anymore…….
There was absolutely nothing more I could do. I was listening to him die. There was no one around to start CPR or give Narcan. For those who don’t know, Narcan reverses an opioid overdose by blocking the effects of opiates on the brain and restoring breathing. It works even when the person has fallen unconscious for several minutes. So at this point, all I could do was keep track of the time, from when he had stopped breathing to when first responders got to him.
This entire call was harrowing. The situation and the time it took to get first responders there. I was sitting on the phone, waiting in dead silence. After what felt like an eternity, I heard something in the background. It sounded like indistinct yelling and panic behind a closed door. I heard something about the fire department and the police. I could hear faint footsteps and finally knocking at the door. In the call notes, I put the fire department and the police there. That way, they could see when he stopped breathing up to when they arrived. I heard the bedroom door open and footsteps approaching closer to the phone. A couple of family members in the background started screaming and crying. I kept the open line on purpose to hear what was going on.
A firefighter in the background said, “Narcan administered.” That was for the dispatcher to time-stamp it in the call notes.
The next thing I heard was, “CPR is in progress.” This was for another time stamp and more information for the hospital staff when he arrived. At this point, they would know how long he had legally been dead.
I could still hear family members screaming and sobbing in the background. Then I heard, “He’s breathing again; let’s go.” At this point, the line disconnected.
I knew he had started breathing, and the fire department and paramedics were taking him to the hospital. Being a 911 dispatcher, there’s not a lot of closure to calls. Every call is a cliffhanger. This was the closest to closure that I got. That is only because I left the line open and could hear everything happening.
A couple of scenarios that could have played out. He started breathing again because of the Narcan. Narcan is KNOWN for bringing people back from the dead. Most of the time, people are FINE right after. Other times, it’s too late for Narcan to take effect, and the person dies. In this case, I assumed he was taken to the hospital, held there for 72 hours at least, and then released to go home. I’m going with that scenario because he started breathing again before the line cut out.
In my experience, this call pretty much followed the guidelines of a suicidal caller. However, this was the first time I had a caller that died on the phone with me. That part was new to me. In my opinion, there is a LINE with people that are suicidal.
When a person has suicidal ideations, they have not crossed that line YET. They often talk about suicide but are not going to commit suicide. It is a cry for help, and that’s good. That person is reaching out. However, once that person has crossed that line, that’s it; there is no more compromise. They don’t want to hear any more from anyone, and they don’t want their plan of suicide ruined. They will stop all conversations and do it. That is the point of no return, and those are usually the calls I will get, which is the devastating truth.
But here are some of the subtle signs of a person that is thinking about suicide but has not made the final decision to do it:
- Talking about feeling trapped or in pain
- Substance abuse
- Sleeping very little or too much
- Extreme mood swings
- Behaving recklessly or acting anxious
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, please seek help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1–800–273-TALK) 8255 or text 988 to connect with a counselor.
My final point, a person that TRULY believes that friends and loved ones are better off without them, and wouldn’t be affected by their actions, couldn’t be more wrong. It hurts more people than you know.
Thank you all again for letting me share with all of you.
Please like and follow. ❤️
There are a lot more stories to come.