The Nation's Health + suicide

Closed Doors

"83 year old female, collapsed behind closed doors"

It was a long winter. The dark seemed to last forever, the cold seemed to bite eternally the feeling of being cooped up seemed never ending. But hey, this is England. If we can't bitch about the weather, what can we do. The reason I mention it, is because I feel it may have contributed to the events that followed.

'Collapsed behind closed doors' is an unnerving situation. A lot of the time you have no idea what lies beyond the door, thus serving its purpose! Still though, day or night, doors must be kicked in to get to someone who may be dead or alive on the other side. Today was the same uncertainty and the same vague details. All we knew was that there was a lady, behind a door, that her daughter couldn't get to.

We were met at the day by the worried looking daughter. She had been out all afternoon and when she'd got back her was in her room, door locked and not responding to the knocking. She also 'never locked her room'. We went thought the motions of knocking and shouting but to no avail. My crew mate called control and requested the police. Meanwhile I was trying to peer through the key hole but couldn't make anything out. It was an old house and the doors weren't perfectly straight so the was a small gap at the bottom. I laid down and put my cheek to the floor. In that single moment my heart rate doubled and I could feel the adrenaline pouring through my body. About 3 feet from the door, lying facedown on the floor was our patient.

"We need to get in now!"

My crewmate took a sizeable shoulder barge at the door but just bounced off it. He the kicked, and kicked, and kicked some more. After about 5 hits the door swung open. I rolled her onto her bad, her eyes were closed, she wasn't breathing, but she was still warm. She was linked up to our machines and there was signs that her heart still had some activity going on. Due to that, and the fact the distraught daughter was screaming for us to do something we started the resus. We called control back and said that this was now a working resus and we needed more resources.

After 1 shock her started beating again, unfortunately, this was short lived and within a minute or so we were doing CPR again. As the resuscitation moved on it became apparent we weren't going to be successful. The a bin was put next to me by my crew mate. Inside the 100s of tablets she had presumably taken. A glance around the room left reveals a suicide note to her daughter. It was unanimously agreed after we'd exhausted our protocols to cease our efforts and confirm her passing.

Her daughter was beside herself with grief and guilt. I sat in the kitchen with her whilst she read the letter over and over. I also read it and it really was heart breaking stuff. She had lived a full life, a life of adventure, a life of many tales, but that was a life she had shared with her beloved husband. She explained she simply couldn't live without him anymore. She had her enthusiasm for life had died with him and she could no longer go on being a burden on her daughter. When you read words like 'seeing you grow into the woman you have become fills me with immense pride and joy' was touching to read but little comfort to her daughter.

I don't know why, but I suppose I associate suicide with younger generations but depression is all to common in the elderly. It's often dismissed as part of being old and the anti depressants are handed out like smarties by GPs. Behind the tablets though the real people. Real people who are not coping with the loss of independence. Not coping with the loss of life long soul mates and not coping with having to impose on their children's lives. As she said, her enthusiasm had gone, and if you take that away from

any of, all that is left behind is apathy. In her mind she wasn't living the life that she had always stood for. The joy and adventure had gone. I suppose she realised that she didn't want to live her final years with apathy and sadness. It did make me think. When the time comes, do I want to go on my own terms when it's right for me. Probably.

I have no doubt it was a decision that she agonised over for a long time. I'm sure she was well aware of the pain and hurt she'd cause her daughter but it was what she needed to do, for her. At 83, who is to argue when she says 'that's my lot'.

"Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul"
- Samuel Ullman

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Relevant to: Closed Doors + suicide