Trigger Warning – Call details described.
Let me bring you into the chaotic world of a paramedic.
0630: Tones go off and you are dispatched to a young man who has crashed his car into a garage.
0640: You arrive to find an approximately 20 year old male slumped over the steering wheel of a house where his car has crashed into the garage. The car roof is holding up the remainder of the garage’s roof. You can see through the window that the driver is blue and not breathing.
0642: The fire department secures the remainder of the garage and you resuscitate the driver. He gets a pulse back. He requires medications for seizures and you do all of this while he is still trapped in the car.
0720: You off-load the driver to the hospital. (*You find out days later that he has survived and you visit him in the ICU – he gives you a thank you hug).
0800: You are dispatched to a potential domestic violence call.
0810: When you arrive the wife reports that he husband has hung himself in the garage. Police break into the garage and cut him down.
0813: You resuscitate him. He gets his pulse back. You put him on a backboard and transport him to the hospital. (*The next day you learn that he had a second noose in the garage…for who? We will never know because he was taken off life support and his organs were donated.
0900: You have to pee really badly.
0901: You are dispatched to a hardware store where you find a young pregnant lady yelling. She can’t speak. She is having a stroke and is 7 months pregnant.
0915: You transport her to a stroke centre. (*You bump into her husband months down the road and he tells you that she is recovering well and walking again and that the baby was born healthy).
0955: You still need to pee really badly!
0956: You are dispatched to a grocery store where a man has been found dead in a washroom.
1000: Upon arrival you find an approximately 40 year old man with vital signs absent (VSA). You attempt to resuscitate him. He has choked on food and you need to remove it.
1002: You remove the food with your tools, but the patient remains VSA.
1015: You are called to an accident on the highway. Drivers are telling 911 dispatchers that a motorcycle has crashed into a transport truck.
1016: You request that air ambulance meet you on scene.
1026: Air ambulance lands on the highway and you share that you have performed chest needles on him because he has two collapsed lungs. (*You never learn of the outcome of this patient).
1100: You finally get to pee.
All of this…before noon. Does that seem outrageous? Maybe. But this is the very literal life of a paramedic. I could insert hundreds of call types into this article – the point is that paramedics (and all first responders – however I am only speaking to what I know in this post as a retired paramedic) learn to understand chaos. They learn how to perform delicate tasks in such incredibly difficult circumstances. They save lives; and sometimes they don’t. But regardless, they impact their communities on such a profound level and they thrive in the ring with chaos.
Now imagine that you have days like this at work for YEARS.
Now imagine that you get sick and can’t go to work.
Now imagine that the chaos suddenly stops.
I believe it is so important to recognize that first responders need so much support when they leave the road (for whatever reason) because if they are not taught how to live without chaos…they may create it themselves. I know this, because I did…and sometimes still do.
I was comfortable in chaos as a paramedic! That’s all I knew. My peers and I welcomed adversity and challenge. It gave us purpose and direction.
Now imagine if that purpose and direction were suddenly gone.
Is it any surprise that first responders are having difficulty, and even dying, when they are no longer able to put their uniforms on? I think not.
Stopping the external chaos doesn’t necessarily stop the internal chaos. I totally understand this. If you are reading this and nodding your head – know that you are not alone. There is help for you out there. Peer support has come a long way. Here are some resources that may be beneficial to you:
Please feel free to share and add resource found in your community.
And thank you to everyone who runs towards chaos – I know that it isn’t easy. And I know that it’s even more difficult to stop.