I have first hand knowledge of being an EMT. I used to be one and for the most part, I really enjoyed it but it is hard, sad, rewarding and sometimes dangerous work.
I have been kicked, punched, spit on and called everything but a child of God. I have had my hair pulled so hard that it left a knot on my head. I have had people try to grab equipment out of my hands. I have had to get out of my ambulance and threaten a driver if they didn’t stop following me.
People are frantic and desperate when somebody they love is hurt or dying. Some of them watch too much television and think the magical phrase “clear” will bring somebody back to life with one shock.
As an EMT, some things make you laugh. Some things make you wonder what the hell somebody was thinking. Some things make you so incredibly sad, you wonder if you will be able to make it for the rest of your shift.
The first real trauma I ran on was a man who had jumped in front of a train. I won’t go into the blood and guts part of it because there wasn’t any. He looked like somebody who had just laid down to take a nap. Even after we cut his clothes off, there was very little evidence besides a few minor abrasions. The real damage was apparent when we tried to lift him onto the stretcher. It was like trying to lift an over-cooked piece of pasta.
I have run on homeless people whose blood pressure was at stroke level but they refused to go to the hospital so we had to turn them back out onto the street. We couldn’t make them go so we had no choice.
I have run on people who were mad because we were called and wouldn’t let me touch them. As long as they were oriented to name, place and day, there was nothing I could do. If I touched them, it would be assault. Later in the day, we were called back and right after I got them to the hospital, they died.
I was the first person who got to a man who was literally thrown out of a car at the emergency entrance. His meth lab had blown up and he was fried from head to toe. He was begging me for help. He didn’t make it.
Now that I think about it, maybe my oldest daughter got her driving and reaction skills from me. My partner and I were driving down a two lane road one day and it was pretty trafficky. I noticed that a driver coming toward us looked sort of distracted. It became obvious that she was going to hit us head on and it would most likely have been fatal for her. Somehow, I managed to maneuver that great big ambulance enough for her to sideswipe us instead.
After she hit us, she ran. I turned around and went after her to see if she was alright. We found her several miles down the road. She had pulled over and was crying. She was okay but she was trying to hide the bag of pot she had on her front seat.
When any public servant is involved in an accident, no matter who is at fault, they have to go get a “piss test” as everybody calls it. My partner and I were thinking “cool. We get to go hang out in the hospital and drink milk while we’re waiting for the urinalysis tests.”
NOPE. Our boss showed up and asked if we were okay and then gave me the key to another ambulance. Everybody was flabbergasted. We were the only crew who had never had to be tested.
But…think about it. We were the “A Team.” I was the one who was going to go pick up a man named “Richard Cranium.” My partner couldn’t drive the ambulance and run the lights and sirens at the same time without crying. We were the crew who sometimes got so lost, we couldn’t find our way back to base. I guess there’s something to be said for being….ding-bats.
My partner and I were never thanked by a patient or their family. The only person who ever said anything was some random man who just walked up to us one day and said “I just want you to know that I appreciate what you do.”
Medics are the stepping stone from your house to the hospital. They can bring a person out of a drug overdose. They can stop bleeding that would otherwise cost your life. Sometimes, they can shock your heart back into a normal rhythm. They can ease your pain with Morphine. They can talk softly and reassuringly to you when you are scared.
We didn’t expect thanks. We were doing our job, just like police officers and firefighters but I will say again. If you happen to see a medic, think about saying “thank you” to them. It would mean a lot and I’m sure they either don’t ever hear it or don’t hear it enough.