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Word Count: 764
You shouldnt have coded her my partner for the day instructed me Wiping my mouth after my first CPR attempt I began to learn that on-the-job reality doesnt always follow the formal rules Twenty years ago just a couple of months after taking a course to become an emergency medical technician and a week or two into my new job with a private ambulance company I had a lot to learn The three-month EMT course taught me basic skills but never how to tell if someone is dead Declaring death the teachers insisted wasnt in our job description Upon discovering a body breathless and pulseless we had only one legal and moral requirement Commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation So when I stared at the breathless pulseless old woman lying on her bed I commenced CPR on what turned out to be the first dead person I ever touched My partner rolled his eyes but said nothing as we lifted her onto the stretcher and transported her downstairs and into the ambulance Only after I compressed her chest and breathed into her mouth for three or four minutes and after we left her with the doctors who quickly declared her dead did he tell me Id screwed up Back at base the guys ribbed me about mouth-to-mouthing a corpse Apparently I learned too slowly After a second pointless by-the-book resuscitation effort a different partner took me to see a comatose patient in a hospital room This is what happens when you code someone whos too far gone he warned You dont want to be responsible The jokes continued During my four months on the job before returning to graduate school I coded six people three of whom I should have left in peace Only once did even I realize the person on the bed was stiff cold colorless Theres nothing we can do we euphemized avoiding the doctor-owned d-word I
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