A nugget of Big Medicine every day. #72 Collateral damage
We got the news just before the start of another day shift. We cried like babies. I remember sitting on the back bumper of my rig with Blake Camp and trying to make sense of it all.
Every rig in the garage had their emergency flashers on and crews were sounding the sirens in a wailing cacaphony of pure despair as they hit the streets. It was one of the most rugged starts to any shift in the course of my career. Patrick Walsh had been found dead. He took his own life after ensuring he was far enough out of our territory that it wouldn’t be any of us who responded to the call.
His death probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
He had suffered life-threatening emotional wounds during the massacre at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989. Patrick was a student when Marc Lepine separated the men from the women and went on a 45-minute rampage killing 14 young women, wounding 10 others and four men – and then turned the gun on himself.
Patrick provided first aid to the wounded in the midst of that bloody scene from hell. You can see him in several of the photographs taken by journalists that awful night.
And then he went home and stuffed all of his traumatic stress and survivor guilt into an emotional duffle bag and shoved it into a mental closet.
He immersed himself in his work as a medic. He was a great medic. There was an otherworldly calm to him even during the most chaotic scenes. He had the gift of being able to connect with patients and their families. He held hands and he listened attentively.
He was empathetic on the road and in the garage. Patrick was a quiet mediator of the tensions that arose between the medics and the managers. He was easy to talk to and had a brilliant mind.
I remember him saying that nights were the hardest for him with the relative silence of the city and the all-encompassing darkness.
Patrick continued the process of slowly dying from within – unable to cope with carrying on with his life and pursuing his dreams while so many of his classmates had died.
Eventually the sadness overwhelmed him although he did his best to hide it from the rest of us. None of us had an inkling he was plotting a premature exit from this world.
Three years after the Montreal Massacre, Patrick Walsh committed suicide. He was in his early twenties. He was just a kid.
I still miss him. Rest in peace, brother.
Be well. Practice big medicine.