'It's A Dead Man's Party'

Jeff Clawson, M.D.

Jeff Clawson, M.D.

Best Practices

Jeff Clawson, M.D.

In one of the most influential calls in the early evolution of the MPDS®, the EMD involved here was a master at the early protocol of using the somewhat limited PAI process to provide effective CPR instructions. Michelle Welch, Salt Lake City Fire Department 911, who became the winner of the first Academy “EMD of the Year” Award in December 1988, was the calltaker on this call, which turned out to be her first-ever resuscitation attempt. The caller was a very calm male with an obvious Dutch accent stating, “I think my wife has died.” At the time, the usual response by most dispatch centers receiving such a call would be to assume an apparent death—a death which was commonly encountered in the early morning, as one spouse awoke to find his/her partner dead in bed, having passed away during the night. That “response” did not include any PAI help, as the patient in these situations was most always considered “obviously” dead—or as was often said in EMS back then “DRT” (Dead Right There).

In this case, Michelle, fielding her first call of this sort, hadn’t “learned” yet the “usual” way of handling these situations—which was to assume the patient was simply dead—and not offer any PAI help at all.

The title of this most interesting case is “Dead Man’s Party,” a throwback, as was the call, to the 1980s critically-acclaimed song of the same name by Danny Elfman’s rock group, Oingo Boingo. In this case, however, the “party” ensuing was that the caller’s wife was successfully resuscitated after the paramedic engines’ belated arrival! They had been delayed in previously responding to a minor injury freeway accident and were able to clear the scene, but took six minutes to then arrive on this more important call.

Most of us remember the famous scene in the movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” in which the man pulling the grim street cart implores, “Bring out your dead.” The apparently deceased then replies, “I’m not dead yet!”

In this case, how true …