Life and Death On the Job – Part 1 

Catherine Pegram

The accidental death of a patient at Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft last summer brought obvious pain for his family. It was also traumatic for hospital staff, who overdosed the man on medication that was supposed to save his life. The hospital quickly took responsibility for the death. But it highlights the on-going duties of doctors, nurses, police and other emergency workers, who deal with life and death, on the job.”It was the Lozier murder up on Allen Court. Four ended up dying in that.”Sargeant Paul Edwards with the Bangor Police department has been on the force for more than 20 years. He vividly remembers the first time he was faced with death on the job. “Someone told me that I was to watch the guy in the kitchen dying, he had a large pool of blood around him.”Edwards is now a blood spatter specialist, and often collects evidence at disturbing crime scenes. Like the death of 5-year-old Tavielle Kigas in 1993, starved by her mother. And Heather Sargeant, who’s husband killed her in 2003 when she was 8 months pregnant.And most recently, last year’s murder of Holly Boutilier, a 19-year-old woman stabbed to death on the Bangor waterfront.He says its cases like these that hit him the hardest by making him think about his own family.”I gotta know where people are when that call comes in because the call could come at any time, that you gotta go down by the riverfront, there’s a dead, young girl down there and instantly, I’m trying to call my daughter just to make sure.””People dying, children dying, in my case … Is part of what goes on, on a somewhat regular basis.”Dr. Amy Movius specializes in pediatric critical care at Eastern Maine Medical Center. She often meets families on one of the worst days of the lives, forced to tell them the child in their life will no longer live. “I tell them the truth – I don’t leave anything for them to figure out. And that I’m really, really sorry and I wish it were different. And that’ll I’ll do whatever I can to make this wrong thing as right as it can be for them.”Movius and other hospital staff say just because a patient is dead or dying, it doesn’t mean they stop providing care – they just do it it in a different way. “It’s very hard to shift gears when you have two patients – you have one that you’re really working very hard to save and in the next room is someone that you’re working very hard to have a peaceful comfortable death.”Sargeant Robin Parker with the State Police says dealing with death is often where the conflict comes in for troopers and other emergency responders, trained to save lives. “They take on the role of being protector, the sheepdog if you will. And if they can’t always protect, they can’t always save the person, there’s a sense of guilt sometimes.”Dr. John Lorenz, a forensic psychologist, says that can lead workers in life and death jobs to serious mental health problems, like post traumatic stress disorder.”They’re expected to respond to these unusual events even though there’s very little way to prepare emotionally.””The result is naturally a great amount of anxiety and the anxiety sometimes results in long-term and chronic problems.”In part two of “Life and Death On the Job”, we’ll find out how emergency workers cope with death on the job and learn about systems that are set up at work to help them. We’ll also hear how dealing with death on a regular basis affects their lives outside of work.