In humble supplication of the approaching week where we honor all EMS , I can’t help but reflect on my own grass roots start in the industry and my motivation to continue my journey as an EMS professional.
As a little girl, I didn’t dream of being a Paramedic. I dreamt of being a lawyer. It’s hard not to laugh at that sentence after reading it. My social temperament leads me to believe I made the better choice. I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat during episodes of Squad 51, or following a long family tradition of Fire and Rescue glory.
I was lying in a hospital bed in a desperate moment in my life during a severe depressive episode as a teenager, having my turn with an attempted ”call for help”. I was visited by the Fire Chief of the local fire department. I did not know him at that time, but for some reason, he felt the desire to come visit me after he and his crew treated and transported me to the hospital. He had the typical Fire Chief look, the salt and peppery hair, the crows feet around eyes that looked as if they have seen a thousand years of war, the thick mustache that followed the natural downward curve of his mouth, and a silent strength. He sat next to my bed with his elbows on his knees holding his hat in his hands, and in the most non-judgemental way he asked “Do you want someone to talk to?” When I met his eyes I remember being overwhelmed with compassion. It just flowed from him. Warm, comforting, secure, safe, endless amounts of compassion. He could see right through me. He could see the kind of pain you can’t see. He could see all kinds of things that I couldn’t see. His unique wisdom and random act of kindness, reaching out to another human being in pain, was a defining moment in my young life. A secret door had opened and I was about to walk through it. To this day, I am 100% confident that compassion from a complete stranger saved my life in a literal and directional sense.
A year later, as a junior in high school, I was a small but mighty participant in the cadet program in his fire department. I was sporting the blue fire and rescue t-shirt with levi’s, riding on a red fire truck, and attending every single class I could sign up for at his volunteer fire station. I wore my tennis shoes inside my bunker boots, had to roll the sleeves of my bunker jacket up to a three quarter length so I could at least appear to have arms , and could bend the fingers of my firefighter gloves in half while they were on my hands. I had to wear three (3) nomex hoods to keep my helmet on my head and there was a great secret to how I kept the three quarter boots upon my tiny little frame. Lastly, no noob is complete without the mighty Bat belt and mine was full of enough tools to take me straight to the bottom of a swimming pool if I should fall in.
Years later now, I have no trouble fitting into gear anymore and I’d like to think that is a result of improvements in our gear and not the damned side effects of my severe chocolate addiction. Today my Bat belt consists of pen(s), a multitool, my pager, and my twisted sense of humor. But moreover, I find myself reflecting and writing about experiences that EMS has offered me. I’m almost fourty (40) and with my degree from the University of Life, I’m beginning to tap into that stream of wisdom, the kind of knowing that my Fire Chief was so demonstrative of. I know that only life experience can give you the key to open any secret doors upon this land and I know that the universe “annies” up and continues to challenge us to learn and grow. The EMS path has been and continues to be fraught with experiences beyond my wildest imagination. I have a new kind of understanding. Maybe someday I can stand on the same platform that our Chieftains stand upon and like my Chief, recognize the kind of traits in people that EMS finds worthy. I hope to motivate, direct, and inspire those people to follow me into this wierd, chaotic and beautiful land.
I did not stumble upon the EMS industry because of my incident and I don’t feel that I was ”called” to it. I feel like it was “called” to me.
I see EMS as a living, breathing entity. It has a heart, an intelligence, and a soul. It lives within me.
The heart of EMS is comprised of its people who together provide an unlimited well from which compassion and comfort flow for human suffering.
The intelligence or brain of EMS is the vast amount of experiential knowledge and skill that healers acquire and share through desired and undesired lessons and experiences.
The soul of EMS is comprised of the collection of wisdom and emotional intelligence earned by EMS professionals who witness first hand the trials and tributes of life. It is knowing what the primal scream of loss sounds like. It is knowing what face to face contact with mortality is really like. It is experiencing the joy that a new life or second chance brings. It is as much pulling someone from the jaws of Death as it is delivering someone to the jaws of Death as gently, comfortably and kindly as you can while humbly accepting the inevitability of the cycle of a human life. It is witnessing, accepting and appreciating the seasons of the heart of mankind, just as we witness, accept, and appreciate the seasons of the lands we live upon.
EMS is a new kind of sight into humanity, like a newborn when first opening his/her eyes and taking a look around a big new world.
EMS is a large part of my ego. It is my security and has strengthened my sense of survival and belonging to something bigger than me. It is my insecurity, my understanding of how vulnerable and temporary I am, my fear of the mistakes I could make, that if I’m not good enough, I might hurt someone.
EMS is my home, whereby sharing emotionally charged experiences and the nuances of twenty four hour shifts with my team mates my human spirit is challenged and nurtured. EMS teaches me that family is not purely born of blood. These people drive me to work harder to succeed, to be a better person, and to remember to heal myself so that I can in turn heal others.
EMS is my church. I am the closest I’ve ever been to a divine source of energy while watching life or death occur right before my very eyes. A much more profound religious experience than having religion delivered to me by other… conventional means.
EMS is my reality where I experience people at their worst and people at their best. It is my faith that although seemingly witnessing more of the darker side of human nature, the human condition will always be in balance. I have learned that we all ride the great arm of the Grandfather clock forever crossing back and forth between good and bad. Somehow knowing this assures me that it is okay to come up for air now and then.
EMS rolls up it’s sleeves and gets in the thick of it, not because of some insane need for a heroic title, or recognition but because it must be done, and we just do it. We are the Keepers, Guardians, Healers, Protectors, and Warriors for sick and wounded people, their property, and our environment.
EMS isn’t a “calling”. It’s not some “thing” that you join or participate in because of some intuitive or curious leap into an amazing mechanized tool box of tricks.
EMS is a gift. And if Life finds you worthy of that gift, you become a part of it and it becomes a part of you.
EMS is the front row seat in the human experience.