How to deal with witnessing death (sensitive topic!) and feeling useless to prevent it (imposter syndrome)

Hello ADHD brains, this is a sensitive topic so please only read if you feel you can handle it.
I want to write it here, since I can’t get it out of my head.
I’m not sure if it is the right category here since it is very specific to my situation. But maybe I just need somebody to listen or write it down to process it.
So I’m a medical student in my last year of study. I went to my clinical rotation today in the emergancy room and everything was normal.I was maybe a bit unconcentrated and nervous because my clinical instructor asked me questions. Easy ones. But because I’m nervous I answer everything uncoordinated (chaos brain). But I know it at least when I’m not nervous (I’m working on that). This made me doubt myself though and made me feel insecure.
Then it happened. In came an very loud husband crying to help his wife. The parametics came in with an unconcious young women. Younger then me. I felt out of place. My hyperfocus kicked in though and I fet I have to do something, anything. The women crashed into Vfib followed by asystole. Which means her heart fell out of rhytm and stopped. They tried to resuscitate her. It workede once but her heart stopped again. They tried further for over an hour but unfortunatley she did not make it. And I felt like a child not belonging there. I wanted to do something ,anything. I remembered how much adenaline to give, when to shock etc. and tried to folow every step the doctors did thanks to my hyperfocus. And tried to think of the reasons why she was dying. Electrolyte imbalance, did she take anything etc. And what to do to stop her from dying although I was just standing there not comming to any solution. I kind of feel guilty. Shouldn’t I have come to a solution? I know though that that was not a rational thought, since the doctors there couldn’t help her either. But still I felt like I knew nothing and was not sure if I’m really studiyng medicine and if I studied enough. Maybe I had just luck passing all my previous exams. Maybe if any other student of our class was there he or she might have found any detail I didn’t and could have mentioned it and saved her life. I don’t know. First I felt nothing, like I could not believe she just died, but after my hyprfocus ended I felt bad, like wanting to vomit. And I stll can’t get it out of my mind, while I should study to pass my upcomming exams. I just can’t focus. Feeling like maybe I won’t pass anyway beause a real med studen’t would not have been that helpless in that situation.
Sorry if this is a bit off topic

Not at all . . . your ADHD struggles are familiar to us all . . . even though the specific situations and details may vary . . . in so many ways we share so much in common.

In your situation you were the junior member of a medical team. You hyper-focused on the crisis in front of you, on what demanded attention . . . you were not distracted by insignificant other things . . . you followed protocol based on your training . . . other fully trained and licensed doctors were unable to do what you were hoping you could be do! One of the hardest things for anyone, especially doctors who want to save lives, is to realize that sometimes things are beyond our reach . . . out of our control. Death is inevitable, and tragically, at times, comes sooner than anyone would have wished. Your emotional reaction after the crisis was over, shows how much you care about your patients. Sometimes doctors become hardened, indifferent . . . and practice medicine and forget that. . . “There but for the grace of God go I”. But not you . . . And for that your future is bright as a Doctor and as a human being!

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i would be more concerned about your future prospects as a doctor if you didn’t care at all the first time you saw someone die.

you rightly recognized that some of us will have a hard time even reading about your experience. it’s only natural that this is difficult. as you continue in your training, you’ll find ways to cope.

how can you best take care of yourself right now?


You may want to talk with the senior doctor on the same team or someone in the medical field that you respect as these feelings of helplessness etc are not uncommon in such situations and they must all have gone through it. They can tell you how they managed to deal with it and/or suggest things that can help you.

I believe most all humans are empathetic but perhaps us Brains are more influenced by the pain others suffer. Perhaps your feelings of helplessness and guilt come from that deep empathy of wanting to help but not being able to help. You don’t want to lose that empathy. The challenge is how to remain steadfast in presence of all the pain and suffering in order to help others. Best of luck!