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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey

Month

April 2019

My Open Letter To State Senator Walsh

My Open Letter To State Senator Maureen Walsh:

Dear State Senator Maureen Walsh,

Please allow me to explain to you, in the nicest way possible, how nurses do anything but, “play cards all day”. When I stumbled upon an article in the New York Times, that shared your ignorant and incorrect preconceived notion that nurses do such a thing, I was immediately prompted to share with you a list of just SOME of the things that nurses actually do.

I am not a nurse. But I am a retired advanced care paramedic who has had the privilege to work with many nurses over the duration of my eleven year career. In that time I have witnessed nurses perform the following tasks:

-triage patient after patient for hours without a break, while paramedics continuously roll stretchers with more patients into the hospital hall.

-hold a distraught mother’s hand while a baby gets a lumbar puncture to see if it has meningitis.

-know exactly where to get an IV on a patient with seconds to spare before the patient goes into cardiac arrest.

-deliver babies when the doctor is not available…many times.

-clean up vomit more times than I can count.

-perform ECG’s on heart attack patients while the family cries in the hallway.

-juggle multiple patients at once, with care and compassion, as hiring freezes occur and populations continue to increase.

-auscultate the lungs of a child with asthma who literally can barely breathe.

-hold the amputated limbs of a trauma patient.

-hug a father when he is told that his teenaged son has overdosed and died.

-calm a scared psychiatric patient when no one else could.

-be the doctor’s eyes and ears at all times.

-perfectly orchestrate an operating room filled with equipment and doctors while a patient gets a heart bypass.

-not have the opportunity to use the washroom when they have to…for a long time, if a trauma patient rolls in.

-explain to a family member what life support means, and watch the look of sadness on the family member’s face when they understand.

-give crayons to a young cancer patient who is waiting for chemo.

-hold the hand of an elderly woman with dementia who, “just wants to go home”, knowing full well that the woman’s home no longer exists.

-decontaminate patients exposed to toxic substances.

-take care of a police officer who was hurt while on duty.

-smile in the face of adversity…more times than I can ever count.

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, and do much more than “play cards all day”.

I’m sure you have received an overwhelming amount of angry letters from citizens who respect nurses and everything they stand for; and now you can add this one to your list.

Do yourself a favour, apologize, profusely, and often, because one day I am sure that you will need the care of a nurse just like most of society does, and when you do, I can guarantee you that there won’t be a deck of cards in site, and that you will be cared for with compassion and urgency; because THAT’S just what nurses do.

Sincerely,

Natalie Harris

Barrie City Councillor – Ward 6

BHSc, ACP, AEMCA (Ret.)

Not So Poisoned Anymore

Alright. This is HUGE for me. Tomorrow I have to go to the opening of a building in Barrie, and because it’s still under construction I have to wear steel-toe boots.

This means that after five years of recovery from PTSD…I need to put my paramedic boots on again.

Thoughts raced through my head as I walked to the hall closet where they have been collecting dust for so long. Memories of the feeling of doing them up each shift flooded every corner of my brain and heart. BUT, at the same time, I had an overwhelming confidence in myself that I could do it – I could put them on again.

I opened the closet, and there they were. I took a deep breath and picked them up. And rather than stress out and wait for tomorrow, I put them on right away. I wasn’t afraid of them anymore. This doesn’t mean I can go and be a paramedic again; but what it does mean is that I sure have come a long F’ing way!

As I stood in the hallway, staring at the ground, I recalled the following blog I wrote some time ago. I want to share it with you again. Paramedicine will always be in my blood. But putting my boots on again has shown me that my blood isn’t so poisoned with PTSD anymore:

It’s title is “Things I Miss In Paramedic Land”

I miss:

-interpreting ECG’s;

-the smell of tourniquets;

-the feeling when I got to take my coat off in a warm truck after standing on the cold highway for hours;

-getting a pulse back;

-when I had a student and I let them sit in the front so I could sit in the back alone with my feet up on the stretcher, looking around my ‘office’, wondering how the heck I got to do the best job in the world;

-the clang behind me of the base’s garage door when I first arrived at work;

-patching to the hospital with a CTAS 1 knowing that everyone was listening and wanting to do a good job;

-telling the room that I got the order for midazolam;

-getting the tube;

-hearing a healthy baby cry for the first time;

-getting cancelled at 5am;

-being a preceptor;

-making my preceptor proud;

-my fire guys and my police officers;

-knowing a street address without looking it up – and knowing the patient too;

-knowing the nurses and doctors well enough that they trusted your word;

-being able to stand up in the back of the ambulance;

-checking my bags and the sound of the zipper;

-seeing the relief in a parent’s eyes;

-new boots;

-having a sunny day and not having to clean the truck;

-getting the line that no one else could get;

-lifting the patient after they said I was too small to lift them;

-laughing so hard when my pants split that I almost peed said pants – and duct taping them back together;

-having time to pee, have a coffee and eat on the same shift;

-dynamic calls;

-my partners;

-the helicopter landing and taking off from the highway;

-knowing the dispatcher’s voices;

-Jugo Juice at the hospital;

-when my partner brought extra dessert for me.

.

Putting The Hero On Ice – New Book

I am happy to announce that I will be writing a new book. And I would love your help. It will be called “Putting The Hero On Ice”, and will describe my personal experience with ”phases” through PTSD recovery to post traumatic growth. Below is a very rough list of those phases that I compiled with some friends who have been diagnosed with PTSD as well. I would love it if you could email (paramedicnat@hotmail.com) me with testimonies about your direct or indirect experiences with these phases. Please only share if you are willing to have your testimony published.

*One of the main components of my upcoming book will be highlighting the fact that PTSD recovery is not fluid or ‘curable’ for everyone.

In a paragraph or even a small quote, can you elaborate on your experiences with any of the following:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Self-destruction/recklessness

4. Bargaining

5. Isolation

6. Depression/physical pain from depression

7. Lack of empathy/concern for the world

8. Rollercoaster of emotions (progress to regression)

9. Diagnosis

10. Learning what PTSD is

11. Trying to return to work (if applicable)

12. Rumination/obsession

13. Shame

14. Realizing that you won’t be able to return to work

15. Worthlessness

16. Emptiness

17. Sanctuary trauma

18. Reaching out/accepting help

19. Forming a new tribe

20. Ego realization

21. Relapse (this can be anything- however YOU define it)

22. Defeat

23. Acceptance of diagnosis

24. Accepting who you are without your career

25. Finding purpose

26. Helping others

27. Clarity/enlightenment

28. Gratitude

29. Post traumatic growth

30. No regrets

It’s a long list; which makes me realize how difficult it is to battle with/recover from PTSD. The book will solely be about anecdotal experiences – it is not intended to be clinical in nature.

Thank you so much for your help!

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