Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

So Much More Than Just “Ambulance Drivers”

The Vast Lessons SARS Taught Us As Paramedics Are In Practice; Let’s Keep The Lessons Low This Time Around. Not Just For The Public, But For Paramedic’s Sake Too

I was hired in 2003 as a paramedic, during SARS.

Before SARS (while I was a student), these were normal practices:

  • Cleaning stretchers with water from a hose or paper towels when we KNEW they were dirty. (There were no Virox Wipes).
  • Washed and reused: airways (some were metal, some were plastic), BVMs, suction canisters (and we just poured “it” down the sink), head rolls (most were just rolled up towels, but were used many times before washing), and there are so many more examples.
  • Gloves? Well, if you were delivering a baby those kits had gloves, so you (hopefully) wore them then. We did have other gloves on the trucks, but you barely saw anyone wear them unless they knew they had to. (And when SARS began, we double-gloved…in the summer…with sweaty hands. Not an easy task. We double-gowned too).
  • I don’t even think we had hand sanitizer back then…
  • There were no mask fit tests for N-95 masks. We wore any mask really. And because they didn’t fit properly, glasses would fog up immediately…so medics would have no choice but to take the mask off. (Now first responders and healthcare providers are tested (these tests even improved rapidly as time went on) and have proper fitting masks).

Those are a few examples of changes since just 2003. What will the changes be after this virus? I’m interested to see.

It’s sad that in these difficult times we learn the most from experience; that experience in these pandemic situations often equals loss of life.

I want to say loud and clear, THANK YOU to ALL of you in the hot zones. In this great time of change, I admire you more than I ever have. And the best thing we (those who are not in these zones) can do is to listen to, and act as directed by our healthcare leaders. Our frontline workers are in the direct line of fire. Give respect to these individuals by lessening their load. More patients equals more chances of transmission to them.

Think of others first and don’t naively believe that it can’t happen to you. It definitely can. The less experience required during this pandemic, the better.


When You Were A Mom Hired During SARS…

Caroline Harris just texted me this: 🤣

“When you have a mom who was hired as a paramedic during SARS, you know you have good hand-washing skills!”

Also, me as a mom according to Caroline:

Hand sanitizer applied approx every 5-10 minutes children!!

When you’re going down the escalator DON’T hold on for safety.

Open the bathroom door with toilet paper!!!! And you better have hovered over that toilet seat!

(Lady coughing, some sneezes)

(Scratches face)
DON’T touch your face with your dirty hands!!!

Did you wash your hands? Adam: yes
K, let me smell them!

Mom can I get fake nail please?
Mom: NOOO too many germs.


Check to see if the family has a dishwasher … if not, don’t drink at your friend’s house!!! Take a juice box!


I Would Like To “Report An Error” – My response to the latest opinion column by Heather Mallick

Yesterday I was sent a link to this article. Many. Times. As soon as it crossed the path of anyone who has experienced PTSD (directly or indirectly) they were infuriated by this opinion column; and I can understand why.

I read the article, took a deep breath, shook my head, made a puzzled face (I’m sure of it), did a double-check to see that this was in fact printed in the Toronto Star, checked the author’s credentials (none exist on this topic), and instantly knew that I would use the 24-hour rule before sharing my thoughts on author Heather Mallick’s use of language surrounding PTSD. Phrases like, “story of the moment”, and “it’s (the abbreviation PTSD) so handy”, are not only offensive, they are life-threateningly ignorant. What’s actually so handy, is being able to write about a topic you have completely no expertise in because it’s your column, and it’s classified as “opinion”.

Stating that, (her view of what is the “story of the moment”) PTSD, “occupied busy minds without sparking new insights or creating permanent help” is a true insult to the years of research and dedication in which experts have contributed to helping save the lives of those battling with the symptoms of PTSD – and this discrediting action is where opinion columns get seriously dangerous.

If I was not quite versed in the psychology and physiology of PTSD, I may have read this article and felt ashamed of my diagnosis. I may have felt that I was crazy (for lack of a better word, and to carry on with the theme of poor terminology) when my debilitating PTSD symptoms, which caused my inability to go grocery shopping without preferring to die by suicide, were something I was just supposed to accept as “life”. I may have withdrawn even more from society and stopped seeking life-saving treatment because according to Ms. Mallick, I’m just over-thinking my “natural stressed state”. Sigh. Her opinion could actually lead to untreated PTSD symptoms, which could lead to death – and that is never the, “story of the moment”.

We should all be concerned when opinion masquerades as fact. I think that the only way to stop the potentially harmful effects of this article is for the Toronto Star to recant it, and allow the experts to weigh in on how, ironically, it was Ms. Mallick who, “stretched (PTSD) far beyond its meaning”.

Last Minute Tickets Available! Valentine’s Night – SET!

Come on out and join us on Valentine’s Day, 2020, for a hilarious night of comedy for a great cause. Paramedic Nat and the not-for-profit organization Brainstorm Revolution are teaming up to bring you an evening you won’t soon forget–and you can feel great knowing that proceeds will benefit RVH’s Mental Health and Addictions Program.

Entertainment will include comedian and actor Deb McGrath, followed by the incredible improv troupe The Yes Men, which consists of Neil Crone, Kevin Frank and Patrick McKenna! Second City Mainstage veterans and household names in the Canadian Television and Film biz, the Men collectively bring over a thousand years of Improv Comedy experience to the table…in dog years. Playfully interacting with the audience throughout their show, an evening with The Yes Men is completely improvised from start to finish. Fast paced, energetic and always hilarious, no two Yes Men shows are ever alike!

Vendors, cash bar, and an optional pre-show Valentine’s buffet, and special hotel rates are some of the extras you can also expect.

Suggested Attire: Business – Formal

The Smallest Things Can Have The Biggest Positive Ripple Effect – Addition Get-Well Cards Stories

Some of the latest addiction get-well cards sent to me by friends and residents.

As the addiction get-well cards campaign grows, I wanted to share some of the amazing experiences and stories I have had and been told as people deliver and create the cards. They are truly beautiful and I am so happy that such a simple activity can have a ripple effect of kindness – because let’s face it, what we definitely need more of in the world these days, is kindness.

Codrington Public School grade 6 teacher and Barrie Police special constable making addiction get-well cards.

I went to a grade six class yesterday to help make some cards along with the Barrie Police VIP Special Constable, Devon. The topic of Constable Devon’s VIP class was, ‘mental health’, so the cards fit in perfectly! She chatted with the students about different types of mental illness and how important it was to talk about so that people didn’t feel afraid to get the help they may need. Some of the students shared their own experiences with bullying, depression and anxiety. They were SO wise! It was easy to see that mental illness had affected most of them in one way or another (directly or indirectly).

While one student was making his card, he told me that his mom, “used to be addicted”, but that she was better now. My heart melted. I was so happy that he felt comfortable enough to share this with me! I told him that I used to be addicted too, and he looked at me with wide eyes. I said that I was better now as well and that I was so happy that his mom was too. I hope that our little conversation helped him to see that his mom is not alone – and neither is he.

Lots of fun making addiction get-well cards and talking about mental health.

Another boy came over to me several times to tell me how happy he was that we were taking about mental health and making cards because he had been depressed a few years ago when he was bullied in school. Tears welled up in his eyes, so I listened and made sure that he was doing well now. He assured me that he was, but that when he thinks back it can still be painful. I told him how proud I was of him that he was talking about his feelings and that if he ever needed more help to always ask his teacher. He said he knew and he would. He was very proud of his card. And I gave him several high-fives!

Several of the students told me that they were very happy that their cards were going to people who may not have gotten a card otherwise while they were sick.

I also received more beautiful hand-made cards in the mail today from my friend Rebecca and her daughter Takayla.

The messages are ones of hope and love. My favourite message said, “Your life matters to me”. So powerful and true~

The person who received one of these cards made my Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman was so overjoyed. At first he didn’t believe that the mayor actually made it – until the Director of the Rapid Action Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic confirmed that he indeed did.

A local optometrist office made 100 cards the other day as well! They shared with me how important this activity was for them because they all knew of someone who battled with addiction. They delivered the cards to our local detox.

Cards made by Dr.Schell’s office in Barrie, Ontario.

If you would like to make some addiction get-well cards, all you need is some craft supplies and positive words! Post them on social media with the #addictiongetwellcards and I will add them to the Twitter page @WellCards and Instagram @Addiction_Get_Well_Cards

Share your stories about your conversations around the table while you make the cards. That is equally as important as giving them to your local detox, rehabilitation centre, hospital or friend/family member experiencing hard times with addiction.

Thank you Lana!

I will be heading to Ottawa at the end of February to make cards with MP’s from across the country. I know that this won’t stop the opioid crisis. But PART of the reason for the crisis is stigma. And opioid strategies across the county have anti-stigma pillars, so this simple project really fits well into that agenda. I will also be making cards soon with the Barrie Colts OHL Team, MP Doug Shipley, MPP Doug Downey, the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy, “Orillia Talks Opioid Event” (Feb 19th), and more! Thank you.

Great time making addiction get-well cards with MPP Andrea Khanjin, Deputy Mayor of Innisfil Daniel Davidson, Barrie City Councillor Gary Harvey and so many amazing Barrie citizens!
Cards at the downtown Barrie Library! You can go in and make some at anytime! Just ask staff and they will point you in the right direction.

Thank you Barrie Chamber of Commerce and SO MANY MORE… Check out gallery below.

Time For The NEXT Event!

I can’t believe that it’s been 2 years since my last Paramedic Nat’s Evening For Mental Health! What a night it was! If you missed it, don’t worry! Along with the Brainstorm Revolution team, I am having another event this February 14th ❤️

The theme for this event is LOVE AND LAUGHTER, so we have an amazing line-up of talented comedians and writers. The night will benefit the RVH Addiction and Mental Health Programs (which I was a student of in 2014 – Chapter 1 of “Save-My-Life School”).

This night will make the perfect Valentine’s evening! Follow the Eventbrite link to add-on a buffet dinner and/or a special rate hotel room.

We are always looking for sponsors and swag-bag items. So let me know if you are interested!

I really hope to see you there!

Disappointing Comments Seem To Be The Norm On Social Media Nowadays

Barrie Public Library CEO and I

I knew it would happen…sigh. Sadly, it always does with any positive mission shared on social media. Somewhere along the way, someone thinks that a mission solely focused on helping others is, “a pet-project”, “insincere”, “focused on gaining celebrity attention”, “arts and crafts – not services” and so on … (actual feedback I received via social media).

I was hoping that those comments wouldn’t head my way about the addiction get-well cards call-to-action. But in my experience, when media attention picks up… so does the stone throwing. And any disagreements with my past voting choices residents may have (informed or not) reignite and get linked to my current actions.

Side note: I am grateful for the media attention for this call-to-action; it is a blessing! Not a result of a need for “celebrity attention”. The GOAL is to get the most amount of people aware of a call-to-action, be it for legislation changes, improved healthcare, social awareness, and so on. So, I tweet the heck out of things, and am grateful when media wants to share an educational story; thank you to every who has. It’s what you want for a call-to-action! Anywhoo…

Now that I am a City Councillor, I do understand that my actions are under much more scrutiny – which in many ways is fair! And I fully understand that (in most cases – not only in this instance) negative comments about a positive mission often come from a place of hurt and sadness. And if I’m truly honest with myself, I have made comments like this in the past when I felt those emotions – before I knew better. So, while the remarks I mentioned above certainly made me disappointed, I have learned that giving these comments space before I reply is best, because if I reply with harsh words out of disappointment, well I’m really just perpetuating the problem, and being hypocritical.

Ok, so where am I going with all of this?

I am hoping to educate so that people may pause before they they throw stones at a positive mission.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media because while it is an amazing resource for community information and connection, it also provides this peculiar forum for people to lash out at someone before even doing any research into why that person is doing what they are doing. If we were always made to share our feelings face-to-face, like we did for the most part before social media, (unless you were a very angry penpal 😉), or forced to do some research prior to typing, I don’t think so many hurtful remarks would be shared, because before even making it to the face-to-face encounter, or mean tweet, the questions that caused the anger to arise in the first place, would be answered.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: would you like to have a coffee and chat about it? Let’s build bridges together. Not burn them before you even step foot on it.

Thankfully, the happiness that this simple call-to-action is bringing won’t be lessened by disappointing remarks. Love always wins! In fact, after the sick feeling in my stomach subsided after reading those comments, my desire to do MORE emerged.

These cards may not solve the opioid crisis – I never claimed that they would. But I do know that the person who received the get-well card from Mayor Jeff Lehman was so overwhelmed and grateful, and definitely felt connected to the community. And that the women in the detox who received them were in tears. And that individuals have messaged me and requested that I send one to a loved one. And that a wife messaged me and said she understands her husband more more now. And that organizations are making conversations about addiction in the workplace less filled with stigma. And that police officers will be connect one-on-one even more with youth while they make cards in our schools. And that even some doctors are looking at addiction differently. And that at the end of the day… I tried.

One Last Ride

Off to a book signing at a Chapters in Mississauga. The day was dreary. Sleet was covering the roads and threatening to freeze as the temperature read 2 degrees …then 1 degree. Ok, good, back up to 2 degrees. To be honest, and at the risk of sounding ungrateful, I wished I could have stayed in my pyjamas and blocked the cold outside world out. But, Heather and Matt were waiting for me. So, I salted the walkway and stumbled along what was left of the ice from the day before in my high heeled boots.

I got to the Chapters happy to find everything set up already – Heather is great like that. I was even happier to see Matt’s, “A Medic’s Mind”, banner and his books on the table. This moment was very full circle for me – sort of a proud mama moment. I had been introduced to Matt via a mutual friend several years ago, and we connected on Twitter. Instantly, …and I mean INSTANTLY, I was so impressed by his writing and creativity; this guy had talent – and I was happy to retweet what he shared. We became fast friends for many reasons: our love of writing, our dark humour, but mostly because we were both former paramedics now battling PTSD. Matt was a military medic. And I was a medic in Simcoe County, but the colour of our uniforms were irrelevant – we were the same.

Back then I was a bit further along in my recovery than Matt, and could tell from our conversations that he was still working through an early anger and frustration phase. (I could remember being there myself very well.) So, I was a friend and helped as much as I could while he navigated his emotions. (Once again, I could remember being there myself very well.)

Deep down, I knew there were big things in Matt’s writing future. He just needed a bit more time to get healthy enough to rip open some old wounds. He eventually did – and, “A Medic’s Mind” was born.

I was honoured to be at a book signing beside Matt today.

After I put up my, “Save~My~Life School” banner, we sat beside each other to await the interested book-lovers. Little did we know that what would ensue would be a healing and amazing moment for both of us.

With Matt in the figurative, ‘driver’s seat’, and I in the ‘passenger’s seat’, we became paramedic partners, reminiscing about the good ol’ days. It was like the clatter and busyness of Chapters disappeared, and we were back in the truck again. We instantly chatted in our paramedic lingo. And laughed so hard about some memories that will always make us smile! I had tears running down my face as he described an impromptu zombie apocalypse plan that needed to make happen on a call, and when my partner accidentally made a hoarder house, ‘a mess’. Without even noticing, we were back there, in the truck, remembering what we loved so much about being paramedics, and then, with a blink of an eye, a person wanted a book signed and Chapters had returned.

It was a magical day; I’m so happy I didn’t stay home. Being able to reminisce and smile together was super healing. We both reminded each other that we were ok with what our new futures held; were ok with that being our last ride.

We got to roll up our banners at the end of the day, and go home to our new futures. We had an opportunity to see that we were really only a moment away from laughing at the good times – all we needed to do was sit beside each other, like a driver and a passenger… and we didn’t have to do a night shift to get there.

I’m proud of you Matt! The future is so bright for you! And of course safe with your zombie apocalypse plan 😉

Video By Matt

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