Don’t Mistake Our Smile

I read an incredible story, written by a local paramedic. He was off duty and became a part of an amazing rescue attempt to save a life. Unfortunately the life was lost, however his story made me think. He talked about the hurt and feelings after the rescue, how quiet the car ride home was, and how he knew his friend had the same feelings but not once did they discuss it.

I am guilt of what I am about to write about, I’ve caught myself and partner doing the same thing. I hope one day to start educating fire and EMS crews, but right now I don’t have the degree for that. Instead I will stick to sharing my thoughts here.

I don’t remember a class during my fire and EMS training that was titled “Feelings: Keep Them Hidden.” I can’t recall a time in class where the instructors lectured us on not showing emotions. And I certainly don’t recall any training on how to deal with the emotional drain this career can have on a person. Is this what leads to so many suicides within our field?

We often see things the majority of the world is spared, our eyes have seen tragedy and our hearts have felt great pain, but no one ever talks about it. Many times I have ran calls with my partner, tragic calls, but we never discuss it. We ride back to the station in complete silence then we laugh it off with other crews.

Don’t mistake our laughter for not caring, our laughter has become our way to deal with the pain. Somewhere between school ending and starting to settle into the field we learn that laughter hides the pain. They say laughter is the best medicine, but laughter can’t take it away. The memories are still there, the pain still weighs in our hearts.

Sometimes the smallest thing will bring the memories back, maybe the same smell from that horrible day. Or the sunset after that day, it looks so much like the sunset now. All the emotions and memories come flooding back, but we just laugh it off.

Often times crews I am with discuss the sick sense of humor you have to have to be able to work in this career, but they don’t mean what I thought when I first heard that. What we mean is, you have to have the ability to laugh about it so you don’t let it bother you as much, but laughing about something so tragic makes a person look crazy to the outside world. To the normal people, that live their lives unaware of the horrors in this world, our laughter is confused for not caring.

We send men and woman to fight for our country and offer them very little help when they come back. We send police officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, and first responders into some horrible situations, yet offer them no help to learn how to deal with the things they see. How many lives will be taken before we start educating and offering help?

The next time you see us laughing after a tragedy, please remember we are not laughing at the people, we are laughing for ourselves. We are human, we still hurt too, but to keep doing this job we must laugh it off. I remember some young kids asking how we deal with what we see and the firefighter standing next to me had the ability to explain it like no one I have ever heard.

“Each one of us has out own memory book, we take the pictures and memories of the events and file it away in that book. A book we never open willingly. We laugh then file it away, never to be opened again. Some people have books 5 inches thick and still live each day happy, while others books are only 1 inch thick and completely full. Each of us have our own limit, but you will know when that book is full. Once it is, you will know. You will know it is time to quit.”

So each of us must know our limit. You must know when it is time to stop. Once your book is full and you can no longer laugh the pain away, it is time to walk away. Don’t let this career take your beautiful life, you have done wonderful things. You were there for someone when they needed help, they will be forever grateful for that, but much like us and our feelings, they don’t always know how to show theirs. People often forget that a simple “thank you” can make us smile for weeks. A true smile, that makes this job all worth it.

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When Seconds Count (Shared)

I read this story today and I have to share it with you! I love reading stories by patients, about paramedics that do an exceptional job of taking care of them! My first boss instilled the “customer service” upon me. See…people don’t care that you got the big IV, or knew which part of their heart was being attacked, or how many hours of schooling you went to…what they care about is how they were TREATED! How friendly you were, how you took care of their needs, how you made them feel comfortable…that’s what the patient cares about! I can’t stand when I’m stuck with a partner that can’t be nice, it’s simple! Be nice to the patient AND their family! So here is the story I just read, please take a moment to read it for yourself, and see the link below if you want to go to the page where I found the article. Thank you.

After a crazy-busy Saturday, lying in bed late at night watching Big Brother was a welcomed retreat while browsing Twitter on my iPad. A peaceful, relaxing night until suddenly, a daze fell over me almost leaving me feeling like I couldn’t breathe with sharp pains traveling through my chest, clammy skin and an immense amount of dizziness. I’d never felt like this before. After a few steps out of my bed, I found myself lying on the ground holding my chest trying to remedy the excruciating sharp pains. I couldn’t move, breathe, talk. It hurt too much. Everything hurt.

Minutes later with the unbearable pain not subsiding, I look up to see two paramedics and three firefighters running up my stairs towards me. “Patrick, can you tell me what’s wrong?” queried one paramedic. Sharp pain still ran through my chest, sweat still pouring off me like I had just run a marathon, my head pounding. Next thing I know, both paramedics had me sitting up with ECG leads placed on me from head to toe. “This is going to make you feel better,” said one paramedic as he placed an oxygen mask over my mouth.

Wrapped up in blankets in the back of the ambulance, the paramedic with me in the back chatted about The Sopranos and other random topics in an effort to keep me calm while I was connected to an array of cords and monitors. While he continued to reassure me that everything would be OK, it hit me; when the paramedics were dispatched to my call, they had no idea what they were going to deal with. They didn’t know me — I was a complete stranger to them. Yet they treated me like I was a close family member.

Simply put, how can someone care so much for someone they don’t even know? While so many try to avoid trauma, paramedics put themselves into harms way to help those in need and at the end of each call, they may never know what happens to the patient. Tasked with saving the patient’s life, it’s no easy fete. They work feverishly for the crucial moments they are with the patient, before doctors and nurses can intervene.

Lying on the stretcher in the hospital, I didn’t notice the two paramedics who worked so hard making sure I was OK, slip out. I didn’t get to thank them for helping me when I was in such pain — for making sure I didn’t feel anymore frightened than I had to be and for being there when I needed them. Although I didn’t get to thank them, they didn’t want to be thanked — me being fine was thanks enough.

To all the paramedics and emergency responders who risk their lives, miss family gatherings, work long hours and experience such trauma with every call, thank you. You truly are the people who run in when everyone is running out when seconds count. You dedicate your lives to helping people when they are at their lowest, and you work every shift saving lives.

So to the two paramedics from Durham Region, Ontario who treated me like their own child and who whispered to each other when I was in a groggy daze, “I was worried for him” — thank you. Thank you for being there and thank you for caring. Thank you for making such a scary experience that much easier.

It’s when seconds count that it all matters.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-mott/teen-health-scare_b_3644810.html

EMS Week

It was a wonderful EMS week full of goodies! : ) Now it’s time to get out there and thank your veterans for your freedom! This holiday wasn’t free!

As you know, I hate being called an “ambulance driver” and there are many people that don’t know much about EMT’s and Paramedic’s. It’s ok if you don’t know, but please do not call us ambulance drivers. The picture pretty much sums up what we are.

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Jobs, Jobs Everywhere

So I realized earlier tonight that all my blog is quit confusing with all these jobs I have now. It’s easier to keep track of “hell” job because that’s the only one I have that is pure hell. But I have many other jobs I love so how do we keep those in order? I guess I’ll have to start numbering them.

Hell job will stay as hell job, also known as Job 1 because that is the first one I had. When hell job started to go to crap, worse than it was, I found another job. I loved this job, I used to call it my good job, but I got other good jobs. So let’s make that first good job I got Job 2 because technically it was my next job on the trucks. I have others between there, but we never talk about those so I’m skipping them.

Not long ago, I got offered a job, shortly after I had applied for my dream job. I kind of fell over this job, it was a complete accidental. I had class with a high ranking person on a department not horribly far from me. It was quit the drive, but it was hours and I need that to get me out of hell. So I took it and I love it there too! We’ll call that Job 3, because it was my next official job after the first one I like. I still love it there!

And finally, the newest job, the one I recently posted about. This had been my dream job, the job I wanted when I first got into this career. I am beyond happy about this job! It’s what I always wanted! I know several people there, a few bad, but not near hell job, no one else tolerates that shit! Since this job came last we shall call it Job 4. I can’t think of any other way to refer to them for now so we shall just use the number system.

I guess I’m back to studying for now because I’ve breaked long enough. First test tomorrow morning, medical exam for the new job. Then a State test to obtain a certification for the fire side. Then Thursday is my Critical Care Paramedic final…FINALLY! Followed by my practical test for the new job. I’m ready to get this week over with!

Could You Comprehend?

I wish you could comprehend a wife’s horror at 3:00 in the morning as I check her husband of forty years for a pulse and find none . . . I start CPR anyway, hoping to bring him back knowing intuitively it is too late but wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done to try to save his life. I wish you could understand how it feels to go to work in the morning after having spent most of the night, out on jobs. I wish you could know my thoughts as I help extricate a teenage girl from the remains of her automobile. “What if this was my sister or a friend?” “What are her parents’ reactions going to be when they open the door to find a police officer with hat in hand?” I wish you could feel the hurt as people verbally and sometimes physically abuse us or belittle what we do or as they express their attitudes of “It will never happen to me.” I wish you could realize the physical, emotional and mental drain of missed meals, lost sleep and forgone social activities in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have seen. I wish you could know the brotherhood and self-satisfaction of having saved a life or being able to be there in time of crisis. I wish you could understand what it feels like to have a little boy tugging at your arm asking, “Is Mommy okay?” not even being able to look in his eyes without tears from your own and not knowing what to say. Unless you have lived with this kind of life you will never truly understand or appreciate who I am, who we are, or what our job really means to us …I wish you could though.

Toying With An Idea

This is something I have been thinking about for years, since at least Freshman year of high school. I never was one for the grades, I think that came from a combination of the ADHD and abuse. It was all pretty much known by teachers, friends, and people around me. Everyone knew I had problems, but no one ever asked or did anything.

When I was in elementary I got diagnosed with ADHD and learning disorders including dyslexia. I remember my mother’s words exactly…”she doesn’t need treatment, she needs to grow up and learn how to behave!” My mom allowed my sister to get treatment for her reading disorder, but wouldn’t let me. I learned to adapt, even ended up in honors classes through junior high and high school. I never did a single bit of homework either, not one. Looking back I wonder how I managed to pass classes and stay in those honors classes…I’m really starting to think my teachers knew about the abuse. Anyway, I made it through school, barely, but did it. I always thought about what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about becoming a doctor or counselor or something to help children get the help I never got.

I got into college, barely made it through that. Problems at home got worse and I dropped out of school. Was working 3 jobs and got tired of it. I went back to school, trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. About this time I met “asshole boyfriend” but he wasn’t an asshole yet, he was a good guy at this time. I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. With his help and suggestion, I got into EMT class. I loved it! It was great and loved working in the field. I moved forward, finished fire school and got into Paramedic. Asshole boyfriend became more of an asshole because he didn’t like me being in fire/EMS even though he suggested it. We split up and my man became a bigger part of my life.

So now I’m done with medic, working as a firefighter/medic but I feel like I want more out of life. I LOVE being on an ambulance and firetruck, but I have always considered doing more. I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about becoming a doctor…I think this is what I want. I still hope to work on an ambulance too, but I think I want to continue schooling to be a pediatric doctor. I want to do more, help more, and become more in life. I really want to go to school to become a doctor but I can’t afford that…I don’t know how I’d be able to…I can’t work AND go to school for that at the same time.

So…now what do I do? I guess I have to be content with being a paramedic, something I love doing! And just not move on to be more…that’s ok, it’s probably better that way anyway. No matter which choice I make, I know I have my man here to support me!