First came the death notice. A man only 40 years old, a husband and father, stricken suddenly and fatally. The obituary was proper and correct, yet somehow insufficient. A family and a community share the loss of someone whose life was more than printed words.
The anguished letter from a witness to the life-ending incident followed. One minute the writer and the man had passed as he was en route to the water cooler. The next minute he was on the floor, dying in front of her eyes. She wrote because the images were haunting. She was troubled by a sense that the loss of life might have been prevented if only someone had acted more urgently. But, "the paramedics ... just walked..."
Today, these pages include a response from Fire Chief Mike Doyle. He speaks articulately and for himself, but allow us this characterization: His words are measured and moderate, not defensive nor accusatory. His explanation offers understanding and, possibly, some comfort.
Most of us were not present when our fellow Juneauite died prematurely, just after he had sipped that cooling water. We cannot know what, if anything, might have been done differently. Anyone who read the letter submitted by witness Emy Abad would realize she spoke from her heart, expressing her sadness and her concerns.
And now Chief Doyle explains that running full speed while carrying 70 pounds of medical equipment and trying to assess the scene can reduce the chances for the delivery of life-saving care by an emergency medical technician.
We accept his explanation. Our thoughts turn to the EMTs who tried and failed to save a life on Oct. 14. They, too, watched someone die in front of their eyes. And they, too, may be haunted by the images. And it would come as no surprise to learn they have asked themselves over and over if they could have done more and contributed to a different result.
We accept their best efforts, including a "rapid walk." We trust their motivation and genuine desire to save lives whenever possible. Becoming an EMT is a calling, not just a job. We share the grief of everyone involved, but also extend our understanding when the outcomes disappoint.
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