A Paramedics’ Life
Do you remember that morning of your first shift of your first job coming out of college? Do you remember how you felt looking at yourself in the mirror after putting on that brand new uniform for the first time? Do you remember how nervous you were driving to the ambulance base and how you felt getting out of your car and walking inside to meet everyone there? Remember that stuff? Of course you do. We all do. We all felt many degrees of emotion that day, but the most intense emotion we felt that day was pride.
College graduation has come and gone. Your mom or grandma has baked you a cake in the shape of an ambulance and your relatives have showered you with toys, models and books all about someone else’s experiences within the world of emergency services. But now the time has come for you to lace up those boots and start you own journey, creating your own lasting memories. You think you have an idea about what you are going to see when you get out there on your own, but the reality is you have no idea. When you start off on your first job the world is your oyster, and you are going to save that world one oyster at a time. The eyes are big. The spider senses are tingling constantly and the positive attitude you show after responding to back-to-back calls and sitting through a two-hour off-load delay is sickening to the people around you. But you trudge forward for the first couple years of your career with that same big smile and attitude as you hone your skills and earn your stripes. You are happy and content. Life is good.
"You’re actually a little older than him and find yourself offering
advice on a regular basis. The thought actually makes you laugh and
smile a little bit, but that is quickly wiped away when he asks you how
soon you are going to retire. "
Now it’s five years down the road. The probationary period is long since over and you have now worked with at least 50 different medics while travelling around to every base in the service. The full-time roster is full of baby boomers at the top of the list who are going to have to work at least to age 60 just so they can afford to retire, so it looks like getting a full-time spot is still a number of years away. You got married last year and now the wife is expecting your first child and wondering if maybe you should find a second job somewhere because you’re going to have to move out of that one bedroom apartment that won’t be big enough for the family. But it’s the middle of winter right now and nobody is taking much vacation time so the shifts are hard to come by as it is. Two weeks ago you had a complaint come in against you from that little old lady who calls for help twice a week because you refused to put her dog inside and lock the house up for her, again. It’s the third complaint on your file from her in the past six months. You are frustrated and angry. Life is complicated.
You are now 10 years into your chosen career and the mood swings have become unbearable. Yours, that is. You finally were able to fill a full-time opening about a year and a half ago and your partner is a 57-year-old who is three years away from retirement in the sunny south and she doesn’t give a damn about anything, including you. She worked with the same partner for the last 15 years and according to her you’re not worthy of even sitting in his seat. Doing emerg runs is an interruption to her day and if you dare do anything other than what she wants to do she’ll write you up and sic management on you. But hey, at least now you have full-time work and benefits for that ever-growing family of yours that now includes a set of twins. The car you are driving is a rusted out bucket of bolts, but you can’t afford anything else because you had to renovate your house when you found out the twins were coming. You put your back out for the first time about a year into your placement because that same partner of yours refuses to ever take the heavy end. Now you are bothered by your back on a regular basis. Your body hurts and you are tired all the time. Life is a candle burning at both ends.
Ahead we go to the 20-year mark. The past 10 years have seemingly flown by. You’re not quite sure where the years went. The kids are older and doing well in school. You pay your bills on time. You finally were able to afford to get a newer bucket of bolts and have it paid off. Although you’ve had your troubles, you’re still married to the same woman you fell in love with so long ago. Things are the same, but different. Your old partner retired with her full pension and you even went to her retirement party because deep down you admired her for being able to make it through a full 30 years in the field. Your thought process surprises even yourself. Your new partner is closer to your own age and you get along and work together well. You’re actually a little older than him and find yourself offering advice on a regular basis. The thought actually makes you laugh and smile a little bit, but that is quickly wiped away when he asks you how soon you are going to retire. You are content. Life is written on the magnetic calendar on the front of the refrigerator.
The 20- year mark hits and you find yourself somehow celebrating milestone after milestone. You have attended all of your kids’ high school graduation ceremonies and now you are paying for them to attend college. At the same time you are thanking your lucky stars that they are not all going to university as you may have had to plan to work an extra five years if they did. You and your wife celebrated 20 years of marriage with an all-out bash at the local community hall. You don’t remember much from that night, but were told you had a fantastic time. The same partner has worked with you for seven years and you hope he doesn’t move on because having to change the way you do things now would be very difficult for you. The technology brought in at work has been difficult for you to master. Everything is paperless now and computers are not your best friend, but your partner is patient and helps you out when you need it. Your partner has also agreed to attend on all the emergency calls and you will handle the lighter stuff. You are stressed out and looking towards retirement. Life is seen through the eyes of your children.
Wow. Thirty years is fast approaching. A feeling of disbelief comes over you when you think about it. You survived. You made it. You take over-the-counter medications for your never-ending back pain and two out of your three grown kids are still living at home, but you made it. You navigated your way through all the stuff that being a paramedic can throw at you. Your mind is thick with the memories of the heart attacks, the suicides, the crib deaths, the horrific motor vehicle collisions, the amputations and decapitations. All the pictures your instructors showed you way back in college you now remember seeing at least once in your soon to be ended career. But your mind also has an area that remembers the other stuff. The good stuff. Like the four babies you helped deliver, the five you were able to shock back to life with your defibrillator, or the countless number of people with shortness of breath or chest pain you were able to make feel better with something from your drug kit. You realize what a balancing act it has been over the years dealing with the good and the bad. But that’s what you always found so great about the job, it was something different every day. You are relieved. Life is short.
So here it is, your last day. You put your uniform on and stand there, looking at yourself in front of your full length mirror. Your wife comes up behind you, smiles and gives you a loving kiss on the cheek. So many thoughts. So many memories. You feel a tremendous rush of emotion as you look at yourself. The hair is thinner and greyer than before and the pot belly just won’t go away, but there is one lingering familiar feeling that you have always remembered having every single time you put that uniform on. That feeling, is pride.