First, watch this. It’s important.
Wow, right? Did it get you right in the ‘feels’?
That was only a small portion of a paramedic’s world, but even I watch that video and get emotional. I’ve been a paramedic for 11 years. Despite that rather seasoned number, I can still vividly remember my first shift, first week, even my first year. Every experience was new and uncharted. Everyday was scary and overwhelming. But that’s how paramedics learn. College only prepares you for the book smarts and pretend scenarios – nothing can prepare you for perpetual death and sorrow. Sadly, that’s the job and maybe even more sad, over time it isn’t as bothersome as you might think.
There are a lot of good days mixed in with the bad. Days where we get to bring new life into the world, whether it be in someone’s car, backyard, bedroom or driveway (that’s always a bit exciting). We get to splint a child’s broken arm and then spend the entire ambulance ride singing songs, making glove puppets, measuring their ginormous muscles to show them how strong they are, and wiping tears when mom can’t because she’s so rattled.
Or when we walk into a home that is full of terror and chaos, then leave that same home with a calm patient and family because we fixed what was wrong. Turning the, “I cannot breathe” into formed words of thanks. Stopping a life threatening allergic reaction from becoming a near death experience. Delivering reassurance to families who called because their confidence was depleted. Picking the fallen from their floors and ensuring they have everything they need before we leave. The list is endless and so is the job.
On my first day, I got stuck in a small service elevator with a stretcher, a guide, and my 7 ft tall partner. Prior to being a paramedic, I was always the person taking the stairs because I hated elevators. And here I was stuck in one with no space and two other humans. My partner had no idea what was going through my head.
At first, I thought he could certainly pry the doors open – but then I quickly realized that only happened on Grey’s Anatomy. Next, I pictured one of us opening the top latch and squeezing through (it was clearly going to be me) but as soon as I pictured that, I then pictured Mission Impossible and the elevator scene. So there went that idea.
Then, out of the blue, my partner says, “Oh well. We better call for a second unit.” I stopped all my internal dialogue and realized, oh yeah, we were called to help someone and we are still paramedics. I needed to learn to keep calm, no matter what. Or at least do my best on the outside to not portray what might be going on in the inside.
Flash forward 11 years. I do my best to be calm, no matter what. I can even take an elevator now with a little less of an impending doom feeling. But that’s just it though. Over the last 11 years, I’ve learned that despite what I’m feeling, I have a job to do and it’s a fantastic one.
You meet the most amazing people doing this work. Occasionally you walk into a home and leave with an absolutely incredible story. Whether it be a story of survival, a story about a past life or career, or even a sad story but it is told by someone who has lived with no regrets. Those calls are unique and they are often nestled deep inside nursing homes or extended care facilities. Pictures on the wall often tell such incredible stories about our patients.
We see wedding photos, which can be sad, as the room is usually only occupied by one person. We see pictures of grandchildren, great grandchildren, and if we’re super lucky, great great grandchildren. Career photos, pet photos, hobby photos, and even badges and certificates of honour.
I have never regretted becoming a paramedic. It has been an exciting journey and one that I hope will continue for a long time. I will relish the wonderful memories as I process the bad ones. I will pray for peace for those who might never have it. I will sit and listen to someone who is scared, if it means they will feel heard. I will speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I will make that pot of tea for the lonely patient who simply needed another life form to be near by.
I am proud to be a paramedic. I am proud to be married to a paramedic. And I am proud to work with so many amazing paramedics.
Happy Paramedic Week!