The events of Sunday 23rd August 2015 are forever etched in my mind. This was the day that Jake took his own life and the day that time became irrelevant, as it will always seem like yesterday. I want to share something in this blog about the paramedics who attended Jake’s death, what one of them said to me and why I will be forever grateful.
I won’t talk now about the events leading up to me finding out that Jake was dead, I will cover that detail in a future blog. but once I received the phone call, I had to make some quick decisions around whether I would drive to the house where Jake lived or whether my brother would pick me up. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t like driving at the best of times. I decided that I would drive as it would take too long for my brother to drive all the way to my house to then drive all the way back. My husband has a neurological disorder that stops him from driving and he would have given anything to have been able to drive for me that morning.
I don’t remember much about the journey other than I kept trying to get my breath as I felt panicky and that we had the windows down because it was a warm and sunny day. Throughout the journey we were preparing ourselves to go into the house and to see Jake no matter what. As we got closer to the house I just remember my husband saying to me ‘just stay focused and when we arrive at the house don’t get out of the car, just take in the surroundings, gather your thoughts and we will get out when we’re ready’. When we parked up, the scene was surreal. There was at least one ambulance a police van and other police cars, there were 3 female paramedics, 2 uniformed officers and 2 plain clothes police, my brothers and some of the neighbours. I felt sick.
The first thing I noticed was the faces of the 3 paramedics. One of them was quite young and she looked shocked, she didn’t speak to me, but I didn’t take that as being rude because I actually thought she does not look good. *I found out 2 days later that this paramedic had to be taken into the ambulance for some time, as she was very distressed*. One of the plain clothes Police Officers came over to me on the driveway and just started to ask me questions that I was trying to answer in full view of the whole street ‘when did you last see Jake?’ What time did you leave him yesterday? Who else saw him yesterday?’ I really did not care for him too much or his side kick who did not speak, she just looked me up and down and stared at my face.
I told the police that I wanted to go into the house and that I wanted to see Jake, I had psyched myself up for this and I was going to do it. I can’t remember what the police officer said, but one of the paramedics looked at me square on, she put her hands on my shoulders and said ‘as a mother I would advise you not to go in there’ I replied immediately ‘no, no it’s fine, I really want to do this it’s fine my husband is coming in with me’. This conversation must have repeated itself at least 3 times. At this point the paramedic, re-positioned herself, held my shoulders even stronger, she looked me in the eye and said ‘I am talking to you as a mother you don’t need to go in there’ The penny dropped and I said to her ‘you’re a paramedic and you’ve been in there as a paramedic not as a mother haven’t you?’ she replied ‘yes I have’ I then said ‘so I don’t need to go in there do I?‘ ‘ No, I would advise that you see Jake tomorrow’. I can’t thank this paramedic enough for this advice. I will go on to explain why as I continue with this blog.
At this point the plain clothes officer informed us that he was waiting for ‘Top Dog’ (his words not mine) to arrive, assess the scene and rule out any suspicious circumstances. So instead of standing on the driveway for what I now know would have been several hours we were taken to my brothers house which was only a few mins. away and that is where we waited whilst ‘Top Dog’ did his bit. Jake’s body was found at 10.00am on that Sunday morning, it was not until after 5.00pm that his body was moved from the house to the mortuary. Those hours were difficult. Just after 5.00pm the plain clothed officer and his side kick came to my brothers house to tell us that all the activity at the house was complete and that Jake’s body had been moved. The next thing he said made me feel angry, ‘he belongs to the Coroner now’ and I just thought, no he doesn’t he belongs to me. His side- kick continued to stare at my face and my reactions. She spoke once to say ‘mental health is very complex’ whilst shaking her head. Patronising Idiot.
So, taking the advice of the paramedic I waited until I could see Jake in the mortuary. A friend of ours offered to drive us there as the hospital was not that close to my home. Now this friend did not know how Jake had died, it wasn’t a secret by any means but he just hadn’t asked and the conversation during the car journey was anything that would distract us from thinking about viewing a body in the mortuary. We arrived and were shown to the reception area and were introduced to Tony the Mortuary Technician. Tony had a very broad northern accent (maybe Bolton). My husband went to the gents, which left me and our friend just waiting. To break the silence Tony came out with ‘Eeeehh, it’s terrible in’t it, me friends daughter she ‘ung herself 6 week ago, shocking’. Well, I can laugh about this now, but at the time I cried and our friend nearly fell off his chair. You really couldn’t make this up. Tony then explained that as Jake belonged to the Coroner, he would have to stay with me and my husband when we spent time with Jake’s body. For goodness sake.
When we entered the room we both gasped, as seeing Jake lay on the trolley (he was completely covered up to the neck and looked like he had been tucked in bed for dear life). We were both struck by how tall he looked laid out. Once we composed ourselves we were able to take in the situation and we each sat down next to Jake. Tony stood at the foot of the trolley. We took in everything about Jake’s face and his hair, he really did just look like he was sleeping. Jake had very long eyelashes and these stood out (Jake was very proud of his eyelashes). We asked if we could touch him and I tried to feel for his hand under the blanket. We started to chat with Tony about mental health and young people. When we both left the room we both said that we could have sworn Jake moved. Of course he didn’t, but the fact that he looked so restful really was like he was just asleep and appeared to just flinch slightly.
So, back to the advice from the Paramedic. This experience of seeing Jake in the mortuary was so positive that I made up my mind to not see Jake at a later date at the Funeral Directors. I felt very strongly that I wanted this to be the last physical image of Jake and I did not want anything to spoil or change this. I focused on the image of him tucked in for dear life with his long eye lashes when we buried him, I draw on this image when I visit his grave and I use this image to replace any imagined image of how he died.
I am eternally grateful to the Paramedic. What our emergency services see and do is incredible and even in the most tragic and difficult circumstances it’s the little things that can have a long lasting effect. I guess I need to give Tony the Technician a mention for bringing some unintentional humour into our mortuary experience. Some things are just unforgettable.
#AfterSuicideBlog #TheParamedic&The MortuaryBlog #BBCAmbulance #NWAS #SuicidePrevention #StartTheConversation