From my Police Officer’s “Daily Field Activity Report”, log entry #6 a true Police story about my first experience with suicide.
Your first time having to deal with this is the one you never forget. Suicide is tragic, confusing and I believe it hurts more people for generations to come, not just the person who decided to give up for whatever their reason.
I was working alone that day and it was almost the end of my shift. The dispatcher gave me a “Medical Response” call, “see the woman, she stated her husband is dead, possible suicide”.
I am a qualified and certified “First Responder” which is part of Police training. Many times an Officer will be the first to arrive on the scene of a medical emergency and will need to attend to the injured person until paramedics arrive.
I ran code 3, lights and siren all the way to the location. I had no idea what to expect when I arrive on the scene and I was nervous. Upon my arrival, I saw a woman sitting in her car with her head in her hands crying. I was cautious as I walked closer to her, I could see the car window was rolled down, “Ma’am, are you ok? I asked. She stopped crying and looked up at me, “he’s dead…he’s dead”. “Who are you talking about? I asked. “My husband… he’s been very sick lately, and he always sits outside in his chair under that tree over there and when I drove into the driveway, he wasn’t there… I just knew something was wrong, I just know in my heart that he is dead”.
I quickly ran into the house, looked around upstairs, and saw no one. Then I saw the stairs leading to the basement. It seemed so still and quite in the house, I could hear my heart beating. I walked slowly down each step holding my breath. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I turned into the basement room and there he was, hanging from the ceiling by his neck, a chair kicked over just like in the movies. I walked around to the front of him and looked into his eyes. His face was purple, his tongue was sticking out of his mouth and a little drop of saliva was on the end of his lower lip. I reached up and felt his carotid artery in his neck to try to feel a pulse. He was very warm and for a second I thought to myself, “This guy could still be alive”.
Another Officer arrived and I could hear him enter the house, “down here” I yelled out. The Officer ran down the stairs and entered the room, “Oh my… is he dead?”“Well, I’m not sure,” still looking at his face, “he feels warm and I can’t be sure but he may still be alive”. The other Officer quickly took out his knife and with one swipe cut the rope the man was hanging on and with a big thud, the man fell to the floor. The other Officer quickly untied the rope from around the man’s neck and was about to start CPR. At that moment, the paramedics arrived and took over.
“He’s dead,” said the paramedic, “he’s been dead for several hours”. “Why did his neck and head feel so warm? I thought dead people felt cold?” I asked trying to learn. “Anywhere below his neck will be cold, above the neck will feel warm because of the blood,” replied the paramedic.
The paramedics placed the man on a gurney, loaded him into the ambulance and drove off with lights and siren to the hospital. I attended to the wife making sure she was ok and called some family members to come stay with her.
When it was all over, I drove back to the Police station, sick to my stomach to ponder what I had just experienced. “Suicide is so damaging and tragic and affects so many people,” I thought to myself.
To this day, nearly thirty years later, I have never forgotten the look on the man’s face.