Monday, June 15, 2009

Stories Told

[16 Oct 2006 | Monday]

Current mood: touched
Category: Jobs, Work, Careers

Why do you do what you do? Crazy question, but can anyone answer it? Why did I become a paramedic? Was it for the excitement (right!)? Was it because I love blood and guts and puke and pee and poop (doubt it!)? Was it for the money (what planet am I from?)? Or was it because I wanted to help people? All of us, no matter the job, have the same or similar questions that we can ask each other or of ourselves.

Anyone that really knows me, knows that I absolutely, positively, without reservation, love what I do. Sure there's excitement. Lot's of pee, puke and other bodily substances that most normal people wouldn't touch with a ten meter cattle prod. The money wasn't great when I started and I'd probably agree with the rest of the planet that what I'm making now isn't what I am worth or should be getting.

And I sure do help people! I've saved more than a few lives, helped many people suffering suffer a little less, and I've helped little old ladies and gentlemen to their feet after they've fallen. I've made people breathe just a little easier, I've reduced the catastrophic effects of full-bore heart attacks, I've stopped people from seizing and, (The Lord only knows) how many diabetic emergencies I've fixed. I've dropped probably a hundred tubes, started thousands of IV's and interpreted just as many ECG's. I've stopped allergic and anaphylactic reactions, chemically and electrically cardioverted tachycardias, and paced bradycardias or complete heart blocks. I've administered hundreds of medications and (it seems) millions of liters of oxygen.

Does it "do" it for me? Sure it does. All of us have our favorite war stories. I make a difference. People are glad, happy and relieved (and angry) that I've stepped on their doorstep or visited them in the middle of a busy intersection. But does it really "do" it for me? Not as much as I'd like to think.

What really does it for me is just being there. I've had some great calls. Calls where I've really actually, positively, beyond-a-shadow-of-doubt saved someone's life. I am so proud that I did it, have done it and I'll probably do it again tomorrow. But my BEST calls are the ones where I can just sit there and talk. Get to really know someone. Most of those tend to be transfers from one health care facility to another. Woooohoooo! A transfer! Everybody loves transfers (can you sense the sarcasm?)! What happens on most transfers? You just put the patient on the stretcher, take the patient from point A to point B, maybe get a set of vital signs, and drop the patient off and then you get ready to take another transfer. No interaction whatsoever with the patient (or very little).

Sure doesn't sound very exciting, but that's the fact of life in a private ambulance company. The bread-and-butter-pays-your-bills isn't the emergency with all the excitement, it's the boring transfer. Believe me, some of my transfers are just that...boring as hell. But I like to take the time to get to know someone. And sometimes, just sometimes, it's worth more than each and every exciting balls-to-the wall emergencies you'll ever take in your lifetime as an EMT or a paramedic. Most of our patients tend to be elderly; there is no disagreement with that. But I do not think for a moment that every single patient I've ever had has led a dull, boring existence on this rock. Each one of us suffers the full range of emotions and experiences at some point in our lives. In short, everybody has a story. I love stories and these patients of ours love, absolutely love, to tell their story! I love to listen and they love to talk. They love to talk because nobody seems to want to listen to them anymore. They feel discarded, worn, old, and displaced.

It seems to me that we, as a culture or even as a generation, tend to or have forgotten the old, the forlorn, the weak, the displaced, or the discarded. When something breaks, we get a new one, a better one. Fix something? Pah! It's easier and quicker to replace it. The world is revolving way to quickly lately. Way too busy. Everything has to be instantaneously, now or quicker. Well, I'll clue you in. You can't replace your parents or your grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. We can't trade them in for newer ones that work better. So we tuck them away in nursing homes and forget about them. It's easier to do that then to slow down to their pace and to take some extra time out of our busy lives.

I met a gentleman today, not too much younger than my own father (on a transfer believe it or not), whose story enamored me such that I stopped my life for a moment to listen to his. Well, I guess I didn't really listen to him. I read him. He has a tracheostomy and is on a ventilator. So he wrote his story to me and I listened to it. We both laughed, remembered, loved, anguished and were saddened. We experienced and enjoyed each other. I enjoyed it so much I went back for more. After work, I went back to the facility where I dropped him off and spent another hour and a half talking with him. He had a rather tragic story that he told rather tragically. But it was worth the mistiness that I felt well up in my soul and I showed in my eyes. And I saw the happiness in his eyes, that someone he had never met but several hours earlier, because I took time out of my busy life to spend it with him. To listen to his story.

I'm going back again to listen to him. We already promised each other we'd go fishing together when he gets back home. And I know he's going back home. He's not the sort to have it any other way.

Everybody loves a good story. There are many great books of fiction to be read. Great movies to watch. But the greatest stories to be told aren't works of fiction, they are works of life. And all you have to do is take the time and listen to them. I am and I am better for it, for it enriches my own life and it makes my own story worth telling. You just gotta listen.

God Bless,



Amen, you are such a CHAMP! It is soooooo true . I do love and miss the gore of EMS and people think I'm a bitch, but when it comes to my patients and the elderly., Listening and holding their hands somtimes is all the medicine they need. Society has forgotten the people that brought our parents and us into this world, you call (ROCK!) love you Mikey and you are 100% right on everything you said. Tell your new friend, I said hello. God Bless, Brenda

Posted by BRENDA on [17 Oct 2006 | Tuesday] - 14:59

Mikey I just love ya and I think you are truly amazing. I am honored to call you my best friend /brother Love ya nicole
Posted by Nicole on [20 Oct 2006 | Friday] - 01:46

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