It’s Christmas Eve morning, and at 7:45 the pitter-patter begins. Three little boys are playing and smiling with eyes so bright. The family begins gathering around for morning coffee and embraces the time we have together. The lights are twinkling above the sea of presents with a few lopsided red ribbons because of certain little hands.

So this is the start of a rather unique and exciting day. After the paper gets shredded and the squeals of excitement erupt over the loved gifts, we begin preparing our traditional English Christmas dinner. Every year our themed Christmas meals require “all hands on deck” to make it an over the top experience. The table gets set with the silver-rimmed china, the tea lights are lit, and the table is ready to welcome the feast. Rosemary carrots and fresh cranberry sauce are placed on either side of the citrus-roasted goose and potatoes. The Yorkshire Pudding keeps getting passed from one end to the other until it is eaten up. The figgy pudding is almost done baking and smells so wonderful. The meal is a hit!

Again, we gather in the living room for afternoon coffee and to soak up every bit of family time that we can. After a few hours, everyone slowly drifts out of the house that has been our home for 24 years. This will likely be the last Christmas here, and everyone is a bit sentimental.

Christmas festivities are over and my renter calls me. There is a leaking pipe. I ditch the festive attire and put on more appropriate clothing for dealing with the plumbing problem. (Really my dad did the work, and I was just the support staff.) The gushing water problem is resolved and we return home for a quiet evening around the farm.

While folding laundry, I overhear my father on the phone. He gave the caller a 12 minute ETA. He asked for brief details. Immediately I knew what was happening. Because he is the Paramedic first responder (also viewed as the local doctor) in our rural, Cajun town he gets calls like this frequently. I put my gold sparkly shoes back on and my brother and I rush out the door after him. The only information that we had was, “It’s a code.”

As we top the levee into town, my dad asks for me to “pass his stethoscope.” I see the location of the medical emergency. The front porch is lined with family and concerned friends. Across the road is a cemetery. We rush onto the scene with the big red medic bag and prepare to analyze the situation. Right in the living room lies the patient. No response. No breathing. No pulse. Immediately I cut the shirt off of him, and my brother begins assisting with compressions while I bag the patient, sealing the mouth guard with one hand and manually filling his lungs with air with the other. My dad begins searching for a vein to begin an IV while monitoring vitals.

For what seems like hours, we work him taking breaks only long enough for the AED to analyze searching for a “shockable rhythm”…none was found.

I hear the helicopter landing and 2 medics rush in to take over. Because of the situation, we are asked to continue assisting. The ground crew arrives to offer more experienced knowledge and an extra set of hands. The small room becomes more crowded and stuffy. We are all pouring sweat. However, the mission of the interventionists is never compromised. Everyone keeps working tirelessly to save this man’s life.

After doing everything possible (and I will leave some details out), the crews load the patient in the back of the ambulance while continuing CPR. The lights flashing and siren wailing alerts everyone in the neighborhood that something is wrong at the little wooden house. As I take off my purple gloves and turn back to look at the house, I see the patient’s uncle. He is cleaning up the mess made in that small room. We offer to take over and pick up the extra paper and wipe the area, which we usually do, but again he asks us to leave. The concern is all over his face. This is his nephew and he knows the chances of survival are slim.

The crew continues CPR, shock analyzing, and trying to get a pulse before arriving at the hospital. Once there, the emergency staff takes over. Shortly after, the medical director calls it in as a death on the evening of December 24. Today is Christmas Eve. Today is a day a mother lost her son, a sister lost her brother, and a friend lost a companion. Today is the day another heart stopped.

Throughout the roller coaster experiences of the day, I can now see how lopsided ribbons around boxes don’t really matter. The carelessly folded blankets can wait. We all have one heart, and when it stops beating, there may be nothing anyone can do to bring it back into rhythm.

Death does not see a date. Take time where it matters, for you really don’t know which breath is your last.

-A Paramedic’s daughter

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