I recently posted a blog entitled: Appreciation of Life Through a Paramedic’s Eyes for which I have received wonderful feedback and many shares (thank you!). This important post highlighted the contrast between life and death, and how as first responders it is so important to not only be mindful of the death side of the spectrum of life, but also the beautiful life side as well.
So, I asked YOU, the amazing first responders out there, to share YOUR beautiful life stories, and the response was overwhelming! So here are a few stories of hope and happiness from services all over North America. Keep the beautiful life stories coming, (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will continue to share 🙂 I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did! …. ps. get a tissue! And let the tears of happiness begin….
Nicole from Orangeville wrote: My partner and I had picked up an elderly female patient from a nursing home and brought her to the hospital as she was septic and sadly wasn’t going to survive the night. We were at our local hospital waiting for a room for the patient.
A lady had walked by earlier to visit a patient and when she was walking out to leave she looked at our patient and asked us if our patient was going to be OK. We said no, she was not doing very well and would probably not make it through the night. Well that lady said that she wasn’t able to see her father as they had sent him home without her knowledge. She asked if she would be able to pray with our patient and offer her comfort in our patients time of need.
Of course we said yes.
That lady stayed and prayed with our patient, holding her hand and just being with her when she was alone and there was nothing that we or the hospital would be able to do for her. The lady stated that there was obviously a reason that she was brought to the hospital, and it wasn’t for her father, but to be with a complete stranger in a time when she was alone and dying.
It was such a touching moment for me, I still cry when I think about it…..one beautiful soul helping to comfort another soul in need. It gave me a new perspective on things, including that sometimes all you can do is hold a patients hand and let them know that they are not alone.
Dan from Mississauga wrote: It was another long tedious day. Crews are lined up down the back hall in the emerge. Endless hours of waiting ahead. Medics were doing what medics will do when left to their own devices and bored. Which is rarely good.
My partner was joking with one of our colleagues. I stepped out to bug the triage nurse about the delay. When I turn to go back I see Rob doing cpr on the patient of the crew he had been joking with as they were moving the stretcher down the hall. Did someone miss something? No, STEMI negative. They had checked several times. No previous nitro use so they gave him ASA per protocol. They had reported properly to triage. His Vital signs were stable and there were no available beds, so it was “join the line up in the hall”. He was alive then he wasn’t.
We slapped on defib pads and shocked him. Moved him to the resus bed and started cpr again. Slowly his hands moved up to my wrists, pulling me off his chest. His eyes were opening and that “what the hell just happened?” look was on his face.
I turned around to see his daughter standing there, realization dawning, unsure whether to be scared or relieved. She had been there the whole time. Waiting in the hall wondering why her dad wasn’t in a room. Watching over him when he stopped responding. Watching helplessly as things started to happen too fast for her to comprehend. She knew something bad had happened, but was it still happening? The only thing that was certain was that she was scared, and bewildered.
A quick discussion with the ER Dr followed by a transfer to the cath lab and everyone could start to breathe again.
A month or so later, and some sneakiness by my supervisor, I’m looking at the face of the patients daughter again. A smile, a hug and a “thank you for giving me my dad back”.
Anonymous from Canada wrote: We are often referred to as medical interventionalists and I guess to some degree we are.
However working in this job you very quickly realize that its actually pretty rare that you get to “intervene” in a medical sense, although depending on your temprement, there are many opportunities to intervene on a humanistic level.
For me, that is the most precious element of my profession.
I was recently asked by a colleague and former instructor, to write a positive story I recall from work, and so here we are.
For me this human element of my work was highlighted by as particular call I did working for a rural service in the North of Ontario.
Transport times can be long so It’s not unusual to be in the back for 60 minutes or more monitoring and Interacting with your patient.
On a hazy morning we were called out at 06h to respond to the far side of our coverage area. It took nearly an hour to arrive on scene and then another hour to the nearest regional medical facility.
I walked into a house to find an elderly gentleman in his 80’s , AOx3 but not looking too healthy, sitting slouched – sweaty and concerned, at his kitchen table. He had been out working on his boat yard when he began to suddenly feel weak and dizzy.
He was a strong, proud man. The kind that had worked more for the sake of others – than others had worked for him – but I could tell, despite his hiding it, that today he was scared.
I went through my usual routine, and packaged him for transport. A few questions, 2 aspirin and some strapping and my two years of college training was exhausted…
Then the real work begins.
As we sat in the truck discussing the patients medical history, I realized that both he and the road we were on, had the same name. So I asked:
“How come they named this road after you?”
And he began to tell me about how his father, after serving during The Great War, had been discharged and returned home to Canada.
However disillusioned with society and the sights he had witnessed on the battle field, his father had chosen to move North, to the woods to escape.
At that time the country couldn’t afford to pay returning soldiers, but instead offered them tracks of undeveloped land in the back of beyond in lieu of cash.
And so his father moved. Found love and together, built a very rustic log cabin. Etching a living from felling trees and manually chopping lumber in the back country.
It was onto this dirt floored world my patient had emerged some time later. And it would be there he’d make his life.
Continuing his fathers tradition of hard work, he had built a small but successful boat launch company, raising and supporting his family and eventually their families as well.
That’s what he was still doing that morning, well into his 8th decade – working for his family’s benefit.
As he recounted his story to me, I could see the tears forming in his eyes as he remembered his own fathers kindness and pondered each of their mortality.
It seemed appropriate, so I placed my hand on his arm, thanking him for sharing with me.
At that point, I wasn’t a medical interventionalist and he wasn’t just “my patient”.
We were two humans caught together in the rip tide of life.
Impotent, and unable to control the external situation, but united in our humanity, sharing an unspoken beauty.
It’s exactly these moments that I live for within my career. Actually if I’m honest, within my life.
They’re real, without pretension. Honest and raw. I feel privileged to experience them, honoured that these individuals allow me to witness it.
As we said our goodbyes and I transferred care over to the hospital, he took my hand and thanked me for listening. I could see the gratitude within his eyes as he asked me to ” Please, never forget those stories.”
I promised him I wouldn’t. In fact I’d share them with others…. (see told you).
In fact I doubt I ever will forget. At least not until the dementia kicks in… if i make it that far.
You see, in this job, sometimes all you can do is just be there.
A witness to the passing of events. A little slither of humanity within the darkness of another’s passing.
‘Dispatch Monkey’ from Canada wrote: The world of police dispatch is by nature a very stressful environment. Many of the calls received at any given time, are usually quite serious in nature. Most people who are calling the police, are doing so because they believe that they or someone else are in some sort of danger. Basically, it is not usually a “happy” environment. However, there are moments that are happier, or end on a happy note.
I have been a police dispatcher for just shy of 10 years (including my training period) and I am posted in a busy communication center in Western Canada. In those 10 yrs, some of the calls that I find affect me the most are ones that involve the children and/or the elderly. These affect me because I am also the father of four wonderful boys and still have two living grandparents. When I receive these types of calls, I can’t help but think of my own children, or grandparents.
I recently took one such call, involving a child, when I was working a day shift on a very busy weekend. The call volumes into the center were very high that day, so needless to say, it was stressful. I had just finished up with a simple complaint and moved quickly onto the next call. On that next call, at the other end of the line was a very frantic and emotional mother. This sort of caught me off guard, as I had just finished with a “routine” call and wasn’t “ready” for this crying mother on the other end.
Apparently, this mother’s three year old son had disappeared from the house. One moment he was playing happily in the living room, while mom was busy in the kitchen and the next moment he was gone. Now some people will say “How can a child disappear like that?”, or “Shame on the mother, she should have been watching more closely!”. However I have never thought that, because as a parent of very active boys, I know how fast and sneaky children can be. So I did not scold her, nor did I get upset, because the last thing that this mom needed was a police dispatcher getting mad at her and telling her “what for”.
After my initial, “Gee, I’m not ready for this call” moment (which realistically only lasted a few seconds), my training took over and I got down to work. I calmly assured this mother that I would do my best to help her and send officers right away. Then I walked her through my questions: What does her son look like? What was her son was doing last he saw her? Where he was when last seen? Etc. She also informed me that when she noticed that he was missing, she started looking and had her neighbors join in the search. After about 45 minutes with no success, she decided that it was time to call the police.
As I was finishing the gathering the information, the mom suddenly exclaimed that her neighbor had found her son. I could here the relief in her voice as she began to cry. At that moment, I asked her if he was alright and when she confirmed that he was, I also felt a deep sense of relief.
With these types of calls there are so many scenarios that run through my dispatcher’s mind and none of those end well. So, when this type of call ends the way this one did, I consider it to be a “happy” call, knowing that the outcome could have been very different.
Kate from British Columbia wrote: It was a hot summer night in August. I got called to work a night shift at a station I don’t usually work for. It was a total fluke and I just happened to be available.
The call came in at 01:30. Gun shot wound to the head for a 16 yr old female. I recognized the area we were going to. A small community down a small country gravel road notorious for weird things happening. We pull up to the house, and there’s no electricity. A place full of squalor. Where you can feel the sadness and despair the moment you walk in. We package and treat our young patient the best we can and go lights and sirens to our local trauma centre. I was driving that night and all I can think about on the drive is my own attempt at my own life at her age where the paramedics saved me. I couldn’t help but feel like I was trying to pay them back for saving my life. In the end she didn’t make it. We watched her take her last breath at 0430 and went back to the station.
I watched the sun come up, sitting on the gravel leaned up against the bay doors outside. I couldn’t help but feel the sadness that the sun wouldn’t come up for her that morning. I drove home at 0800. I walked in the door to the sound and smell of sizzling bacon and pancakes. My husband making our 3 year old son breakfast. My son came running to me with bright eyes totally unaware of the nights events or where I had been. Kissed them both and had to cry. At that moment my heart was filled with so much love and appreciation for my own life and those who had saved me. I’ll never forget that sunrise or that morning coming home. I have this beautiful life . I got a second chance. And I love that I can one day give a second chance to someone, the same that someone else did for me.
Jeff from Canada wrote: My partner and I got a call for chest pain/sob after a male patient went out onto the ice to rescue his dog. En route we get an update that the pain is getting much worse. When we arrived in scene, fire was there, kneeling beside the patient who was laying down on the front porch. My partner looked out his window and said “oh that’s not good, they just out pads on him”.
We make patient contact, and confirm he is VSA. One shock, and about a minute or so of CPR and the patient opens his eyes, and then a few seconds later sits up fists clenched and swinging! We are able to get him calmed down, and onto our stretcher. We start transporting and while doing all that I had to do, I start chatting up the patient about everything. Asking what he last remembers, does he still have chest pain – particularly in the area where the defib pads are, what he was doing on the ice etc. I was amazed that this patient was VSA, we shocked him and within a few seconds he was talking to us as if nothing had happened. This is the first time I had ever seen someone regain consciousness post arrest, especially that fast.
Fast forward a few months when our base hospital hosted their annual Survivor Day. This patient spotted my parter and I from across the room, and ran over to us, giving us a hug and thanking us time and time again. He remembered everything that happened, everything we talked about, remembered the re assurance I gave, and was so happy to be there with his family.
I often get asked, as I’m sure ALOT of paramedics get asked, “what’s the worst thing you have ever seen?” and I reply with “let me tell you about the best day of my career”
Steve from Toronto wrote: I’ve been fortunate in my short career that my exposure to death and trauma has been somewhat limited. I appreciate that it’s a number’s game and eventually my time will come, but for now I try to appreciate the limited number of haunting images in my mind.
I was transporting a palliative patient to hospice, and he was barely concious during the transport. In the back he started to feebly grasp at the buckles as he seemed to have become slightly distressed by it. I took off my glove and held his hand, and he instantly relaxed. Judging by the way he stroked the back of my hand he was holding his wife’s hand. He didn’t know he was dying in the back of an ambulance, and the look on his face said he was remembering better times.
That look of peacefulness on a dying man’s face is why I do this job. Sometimes you get to genuinely be there for somebody when they need you the most. It isn’t always trauma, tubes and drugs. Sometimes it’s just holding somebody’s hand.
Paul from Arizona wrote: A long time ago …
Early after sunrise, responded to a “check deceased subject.” Arrived to find an elderly man having died peacefully tending his vegetable garden. Nature was already doing her business, as the ants made their way about the nose and ears of the body. This man’s wife of many years awoke to find him as such, and she was standing alone out of the way, quietly watching responders go about their duties. I asked her to sit on the garden bench with me, close to where her husband lay. I don’t remember what I asked after I had information for the report, but I let her talk. We sat together for a good while, chatting about her and his life together. Before we cleared, I gave her a hug, knowing how radically her life was changing.
After we cleared the scene, my veteran partner said, “I have never seen a paramedic do that before,” taking time to slow down and have a family member talk about recently deceased loved ones.
Looking back at that call, it took me a while to appreciate the most important skills of an EMS provider in the proper order. Communicate. Alleviate suffering. Once in a great while, save a life.
We can be that calm in a storm – kinda awesome, really.
Been through some rough patches over 27 years in the field. Took a while to mindfully appreciate life.
And last but certainly not least… I wanted to share a blog post from a good blogging friend, Tim from Chicago, about his experience with PTSD, the lessons he’s learned, and how, in his word’s, “if you can move yourself from the dark back into the light, nothing will be impossible. Life will no longer seem impossible”.
A Year of Healing Gracefully
It has been over a year now since I took the first step towards healing from PTSD, and I want to share with you some lessons learned. I will start from where I was, to where I am now. I can most certainly say that this has truly been an amazing year of healing gracefully. Here are my thoughts as written during the magic of 4 a.m.
It was in April of last year that I hit my low point with PTSD, although I did not know it was an issue I carried with me for over 16 years. Once I was shown the light it became very clear that I needed help to heal. At the time of my epiphany (so to speak), I hated mankind in general and it was a real struggle for me to sort out or recognize the good from the not so good. It did not matter to me because most people were being lumped into the bad category, and this ran counter to the oath I swore to serve others in need. This inner turmoil is what I believe caused me the most pain.
I have extensively chronicled my healing journey in this blog so it does not bear repeating. After a combination of counseling, acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, exercise, nutrition response testing, meditation, and now Kundalini yoga; here are my greatest lessons learned:
1. PTSD is something not to be taken lightly as it can be an all-consuming social anxiety disorder. In order to effectively heal from the wounds, one must make the concerted effort at creating a self-care (wellness) plan. An individual must take this first step forward because no one is going to do it for you. My advice is to seek treatment before you are compelled to by either the courts or an employer.
2. Once one makes the decision to become well, know that recovery is not an easy task and will require daily effort on your part. It takes great courage to make a trip around the dark side of the moon and face the demons of your past. More than likely you will find out that it was not just one specific incident, but rather a lifetime of micro-traumas that lead to the erupting volcano inside your mind.
3. Seeking help should not be viewed as a sign of weakness or social stigma. In fact, the more you share your story with others, the easier it becomes to tell with poise and dignity.
4. PTSD is not going to just go away, and it will be a life- long journey to maintain this peaceful state of mind. I realize that I stand on a very narrow ledge between a balanced life and jumping back in to the throws of PTSD. Hence, why I continue with acupuncture and have added meditation, yoga, and nutrition response testing to my regimen. Just when I think I have faced everything that has caused me pain, something else seems to creep up from the basement of my mind. However, I now tackle these issues one at a time, on more rooted ground.
5. As a first responder, I still work within a stressful environment that can exacerbate the symptoms of my PTSD, and these hits will keep on coming as long as I wear the uniform. The only difference between then and now, are the arsenal of tools I possess that help me to cope.
6. It is paramount to journal your healing experience (s) for two reasons. First, it helps you to purge the most painful moments in your life. Second, you have a written record of these events that can be shared when you pay it forward and help others in kind.
7. This last lesson is not really a lesson at all, but rather a gift. After a year of healing I am once again beginning to recognize who is a good soul in this world (my healers would fall under this category). To me, a good soul is someone who uses their God-given talent in the service of others, with no other agenda other than to do just that-serve others. This applies to not only wellness practitioners, but also the general public-at-large. If I come into contact with someone who runs contrary to this belief, I now show compassion rather than contempt, because they may be suffering from his/her own inner struggle(s) that are not recognizable to me. I must constantly remind myself “Who am I to judge another?” This type of inner dialogue will also take a life-long, thoughtful effort
Today, on this Memorial Day let us pause and remember those who have given their lives in the service of others, because it is their sacrifices that have led to our freedom.
In closing, know that living with PTSD is not the end of the world, and some suffer more greatly than others. However, with treatment, a detailed wellness (self-care) plan, and a solid circle of support, you too, can navigate life’s obstacles with grace while firmly grounded to this Earth. If you can move yourself from the dark back into the light, nothing will be impossible. Life will no longer seem impossible.
Find Tim’s blog at http://abalancedlifeselfcare.blogspot.ca
Thank you to everyone who contributed! If you keep sending them…I’ll proudly keep posting them!
With Deepest Gratitude ~Nat xo