Challenges. They happen. We rise against them. We encounter an outcome either of success or failure.
The actual definition of Success is:
1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
3. a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors.
4. a person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc.
Yet what you deem as being a Success is more of an individual and subjective matter. That’s really the amazing thing about Success, is that you can set your own definition for it that never needs to be the same as anyone else’s, never as high and never as low, it can be uniquely yours.
Unfortunately… so can Failure…
1. an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success.
2. nonperformance of something due, required, or expected.
3. a subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency.
4. deterioration or decay, especially of vigor, strength, etc.
5. a condition of being bankrupt by reason of insolvency.
6. a becoming insolvent or bankrupt.
7. a person or thing that proves unsuccessful.
It’s always that last one… definition #7 that looms on the horizon menacingly. During my life I have had a number of failures. For that matter, I would say it was a very large number. I’m sort of okay with failure. Denis Waitley said, “Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience.” I feel the same way about mistakes and Failure. Mistakes are going to happen, we need to learn from them and move on so that we don’t make the same one again. Failure is going to occur, but we need to recognize it for the experience it creates so that we are better prepared not to allow it to occur again.
Yet Failure is just as subjective as Success, and the Failure that hurts the most are undoubtedly the challenges when you didn’t realize how desperately you needed that Success.
One of the hardest failures was my first true cardiac arrest as a Crew Chief. It was during the holidays, the patient was a female who had fallen unconscious in the middle of the living room. We were there quickly, she was still warm, and we went to work as furiously as we could. What seemed like days was actually about an hour of working that arrest. The family of children and grandchildren watched on as their holiday tree became the backdrop for their loved one dying… only for us to turn and tell them that we, “Did all we could, but we were sorry.” I walked away from that arrest… and I was absolutely crushed. I considered that to be an immense Failure.
Now twenty years later, I know the truth. I know that “saving lives” isn’t what I do. I understand that my purpose is to “change lives“, whether it be on an ambulance, in a garage, or from an office. It is SO much easier to find Success in that. You don’t need to have ROSC, or negative neurological deficits, and your Failures aren’t nearly as life altering for others.
Sure the Failures do exist, and you’ll feel bad about it. You’ll wish it had been different, but it’s so much easier to find Success through that different goal that it seems almost as if Failures have gone instinct. When you do have a Failure there won’t be that broken sense of self that you feel after pronouncing someone dead and gone. That knot in your stomach as you ready your words to deliver the news to those who bore witness to what was, in the end, a failed attempt to preserve their loved one. The absolute nausea that comes over you as they pour out their grief for you to absorb. It just isn’t like that anymore because the vast majority of the time, it just isn’t that serious.
Until it truly is that serious and a Failure will result in radical life altering for others.
When you have a Failure at resuscitation, there is a lot of places to put the blame. The quality of compressions, the failed IVs, and the delay in the initiation of CPR are just a few things that can all be pointed to and bear some of the guilt on your behalf. But when you’re not “saving” but “changing“, well then where can you point the finger or shed the guilt?
You can’t. It’s yours to bear.
So, after a phone call this morning, I fear I am on the verge of such a Failure. It took me too long to recognize and accept the path it has been headed on. As hard as I try, contemplate, and look for solutions it seems I won’t be able to avert it. Just the idea of failing at this has crushed me the same way I felt twenty years ago in that apartment… that feeling will only magnify when it actually happens.
I think that at some point I’ll recover, bounce back, and keep it moving… just as I have before. Or maybe not. Maybe this is the one to end on. Perhaps this truly is my swan song from this type of work and I will quickly fade from it before finding something else to occupy my mind and my time without so many rewards or rammifications from the outcome.
I truly hope that those I have failed will be able to recover… although I would much prefer it if they didn’t have to at all, and this could be turned into a Success instead.