I’m not one of those people who you talk to who says they ‘always knew’ what they wanted to do in life. I don’t have any inspirational stories as to why I became a Paramedic. To be honest, I saw an advertisement for the job as part of a recruitment campaign and thought ‘yeah, I could do that.’ I never imagined that 6 years later I would be sitting here talking with you about what life is like as a Paramedic.
I’ve heard people say time and time again ‘oh I could never do your job.’ And I get it. Some days even I wonder how I could face another patient in cardiac arrest or another car accident. But I do. Because I hope so much that at the end of the day I can make some sort of difference.
My job isn’t like others. I don’t get to predict what my day will look like. I can’t make lunch plans with friends because some days I don’t get to stop for lunch. Others I’ll prepare a delicious sandwich, take my first bite and a call will come in. Some days I’m trying to eat while on my way to a job because I don’t know when my next chance to eat will be.
I don’t know what my next job will be. And I don’t know, as I put my boots on and kiss my son goodbye as I head to work, if today will be the day that breaks me.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that people are so quick to judge us. They have this expectation of what we should look like, how we should act and how we deal with situations.
I’ve had people call to complain about seeing me smile on my way to an emergency job. They complained that if I was going somewhere with lights and sirens on I shouldn’t be smiling.
I want to make this clear, in the nicest way possible. You do not have the right to judge me. You do not have the right to judge how I respond to situations. You do not have the right to tell me when I can or cannot smile. You have no idea what I have seen.
I have been to the most horrific of scenes that no one should ever see. I’ve seen elderly women take their last breath as their doting husband watches on, begging me to bring them back. I’ve seen children taken from this world in the most unfair ways. I’ve seen families torn apart, I’ve seen the consequences of bad choices and I’ve worked myself into the ground to keep going, to keep doing my job, to be there for my patients.
That little moment of happiness, that smile, that laugh – no matter what caused it, is mine. You have no idea what I am about to see and that little smile might be just what I need to get me through.
We have this ability as Paramedics to switch our emotions off during our jobs. And trust me – that is a quality you want. If I didn’t do that, if I let my emotions take hold, then my judgement could be impaired. I have studied for years and I am so very proud of what I do. And during the call – in those moments when I am making life saving decisions, I am not emotionally involved. But when I go home, I carry those jobs with me.
In my 6 years as a Paramedic I can still tell you the names of patients that have stayed with me. I drive around my local town and I don’t see places anymore, I see jobs I’ve been to and patients I’ve seen. Some days it gets me down, but most of the time it makes me strive to be better and strive to do better.
So the next time you see a Paramedic smiling, laughing or joking about something remember this. Remember that you don’t know what they’ve seen, you have no idea of what they are about to see, and let them have that smile – because God knows they’ve earned it.
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Photo Credit: Tim Watkins Photography