I went to work on Wednesday following the incident described below and was sent home while they "decided what to do with" me. I was told to return the next day. On Thursday, I was again sent home without a decision, but was promised an answer on Friday, so I wouldn't have to be worrying about whether I had a job or not while I was on vacation for Thanksgiving. On Friday, I was told to go ahead on vacation and would receive a call on Monday morning after I got back.
Well, I finally got my answer. I have been "let go". I have also been given a separation agreement to read over and sign. The terms of the agreement read like nothing more than an attempt by the company to offer me a month's salary as hush money. Also, I was told that the premise for my termination is performance. What in the world does trying to save a desperate man from committing suicide have to do with poor performance? I have never gotten a poor performance rating in my life!
My position with the company was as the Health Office Manager, where I provided First Aid, Emergency Care, Basic Assessment to determine illness and mostly oversaw and administered Workers' Compensation Claims for the company.
On Tuesday, 13 November 2007 at approximately 3:00 PM, I received a telephone call from a driver who was injured in January 2007. I was under orders from the company not to talk to him without the presence of the Director of Human Resources. The driver had indicated that he had obtained a lawyer to assist with his Workers’ Compensation claim. He had many times indicated that he was angry and upset with the service he has received and the money he has lost, although he has been paid all monies due him by law.
Unfortunately, on the above date and time, I was unaware that this employee was calling and instinctively answered my telephone. I was about to tell him I would have to call him back, so I could have the HR Director present, when he told me he was about to kill himself.
He sounded very distraught and was apparently under the influence of alcohol and/or narcotic pain medications. I made this assumption based on the fact that Mr. Tate hhe had often told me he goes to bars and drinks a lot, and he has been on prescription narcotic medications for several months.
Given his threat of self-harm, his obvious state of mind and his slurred speech, jagged from sobbing, I felt I had to take the call very seriously. A person in that particular state of mind is not thinking rationally. The HR Director was not on-site at the time. All my training in crisis management and suicide prevention (I have both received and presented training in these subjects many times) forbade me to hang up on him. I attempted many times to find out where he was located that I might get him some intervention, while keeping him talking and trying to persuade him not to do anything drastic. He would not tell me where he was, other than he was in the cab of his pick-up truck, that he had a gun and that he was about to kill himself. He related this at least 3 times. He also used the phrase “I’m gonna blow my damned head off” several times. He told me that he had called me because I was the only person who gave “a damn” about him, the only person he felt he could trust, and the only person who had been straight to him throughout his injured time. He said he wanted to talk to “a buddy” before he “checked out”.
During the phone conversation, which lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, I think, I tried to locate my micro-cassette recorder to record the phone call, but could not find it.
On the phone, this man kept saying he was “about to do it” and that I “probably won’t like what” I was “about to hear”. I continued to try and talk him down and find out where he was, with no success. His responses to my requests were very short, clipped “nope”s and “nope, gonna do it now”s. Finally, he said “I ain’t stupid. If I tell you where I am, you’ll just send the police to take me in”. I told him that would be the only smart thing to do, because I didn’t want him to hurt himself, and to think about his family and friends. He returned that he didn’t have any real friends anymore and that his family had left him. He went on to say that he was sick and tired of the pain and not being able to do anything and that he couldn’t even afford a gallon of milk so he could have milk in his coffee while he has to sit around the house.
At this point, I tried to lighten his mood a bit by joking that I would buy him a damned gallon of milk and a can of coffee, if that would keep him from killing himself. His response to that was another “nope”.
I then asked him what I could do to talk him out of hurting himself. He said “I’ll tell you what, you come down here and talk to me, and I won’t do it”. I told him I really couldn’t do that, and he said “I didn’t figure you would. You don’t really give a damn about me, either. See, I got nobody…nothing”. I asked him again where he was. He would not say. I told him I couldn’t come see him if I didn’t know where I was going. He was very skeptical, but finally told me an approximate area. He would not reveal any more until I called him from the road he indicated. That way, he would have time to observe from a short distance if any police entered the area. I told him that if I took the time to drive all the way down there, he had to promise he would not hurt himself. He agreed to this. I further told him that I was not just talking about tonight, I was talking about permanently. He responded “I’ll tell you what, if you come down here and talk to me, I won’t kill myself, tonight or any other time. You have my word on that, if I have your word you are really coming, and not just sending the police”. I gave him my word that I was not going to send the police. I told him he would have to give me some time, because I had to finish with the doctor before I could leave. He agreed. The only threat he made other than self-harm was to me, that if the police showed up instead of me “I will hunt you down.” This was spoken quite slowly and emphatically. I told him that was not going to happen. I did not tell him that I wasn’t sending the police, but did plan to bring them with me. I had chosen my words carefully.
I immediately went to the Workplace Chaplain for assistance and guidance as to contacts in the area that could be of service. We got addresses and map quest directions to the medical facilities in the area. We also spoke to the Crisis Center Manager down there and told him what was going on, requesting any assistance he could give. I told him I was not acting as a representative of the company, but as an individual. We also asked that he contact the Police Department and tell them I would be contacting them requesting a couple of undercover police to enter the establishment just before my arrival so there would be police coverage, if needed. We also wrote down the PD phone number so I could call it from my cell phone en-route.
I then went to see if the HR Director was back, and he was not, so I told the Human Resources Manager very briefly what was going on and that I had to leave to try and get the driver some help.
I then told my assistant and the doctor who was on-site that day very briefly that I had to leave to try and keep this man from killing himself.
Once en-route, I called PD and gave the Dispatch Officer the details. He told me to call him back as soon as I was close.
Shortly after calling the PD, I received a call on my cell phone from the HR Director. He had conferenced in three other corporate "officers". They all told me to stop and turn around and let the police handle it. I explained that the police needed to know where he was located, and tried to explain my plan. They were all adamant that I stop.
While I understood their concern, I tried to explain the plan, that I have some experience in this sort of situation, and that I was in no way going to endanger myself. I also told them that I was acting on my own merit, and had so told the police and the crisis center. Their concern was that I would place the company at risk by participating in this intervention. I assured them that was neither the plan nor the intent, and that I had expressly indicated to all parties that my actions were wholly my own and in no way the company’s. I then got a call from the Security Chief at the company. He, too, expressed his concern about my well-being and the danger I was walking into. I explained the plan to him. He understood the plan and my actions better than the previously mentioned company officers, but still recommended I stop and let the police handle it.
I also received several calls from the PD requesting my location and any updates I might have. Because I had so many scenarios going through my mind and kept receiving call after call, I made a wrong turn and wound up far from where I was trying to go. I did receive a call from the driver, asking where I was. I told him I was close, but had made a wrong turn and was therefore running late. I asked him where he was, and he put a female on the phone. It was his ex-wife. She said they were sitting in a bar waiting for me to show up, and that he would not leave, because he was waiting for me. I asked her what bar and where it was. She told me the name of the bar and where it was. I thanked her, told her I would be there in a few minutes and hung up. I then tried to call the PD, but received another call from the security chief. I told him the info regarding where they were and told him I needed to call the PD. He told me he was on the line with them and gave them the location.
I then received a call from the PD asking to clarify my plan. I again explained that I simply wanted to walk into the bar and let the driver see me, so he would know I had kept my word, then for the undercover police to approach and control him and take him to the hospital. The police wanted me to stop next door to the bar so they could talk to me and solidify the plan. I passed the location and had to turn around a few blocks away. As I was approaching the restaurant, I got a call from the shift commander telling me the individual was in custody and to come give a statement. I did so.
After speaking to the police, I received a call from the man's ex-wife, asking if I was in the area. I told her I was still in the parking lot next door. She asked to talk to me, and I agreed. She was very calm and personable, and agreed that what had happened was probably best, but she was concerned that John thought she had called the police. I told her to be sure John knew it was not her. I also told her I had requested that the police make sure he knew it was not her. She thanked me and left.
At this point, I would like to say that I have for many years made critical decisions in stressful situations. I have never been in the habit of having to explain my thought processes during such times, as they are obviously myriad and fast. Naturally, to try and cover everything basically, this document is long.
Please understand that to have done anything differently would have been extremely unethical in my opinion, as well as the medico-legal equivalent of a nurse or doctor passing an accident scene and not stopping to help. It is considered a heinous act by both the medical community and the public.