Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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.


Natalie Harris

Barrie City Councillor – Ward 6


What Do YOU Love About Your Career As A First Responder?

Alright first responder peeps! I have an idea that will hopefully get everyone talking about the things they love about their career. Share a pic of some kind of work equipment you use (stethoscope, firehose, badge, headset…etc), then share what makes you love your career. Let’s talk about the positive for a while, rather than the negative. Let’s move our collective energies to gratitude. And even if you are no longer in that career (for whatever reason – no need to share this though), find something that makes you smile.

*Tag 3 other first responders you know so that this wave of gratitude can keep going. 🙂

I will start: I loved the comradery while on off-load delay at SouthLake. (See what I did there? Made a positive out of a difficult part of my job).

Your turn!

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 – Call For Submissions

On this episode of BrainStorm I share about my new upcoming book, “Putting The Hero On Ice” and will be doing a call for submissions from the public.

Check Out These Books Written by Natalie Harris

📚 Brainstorm Revolution: Here

📚 Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

📚 Save My Life School: Here

This episode of BrainStorm is brought to you by The Homewood Health Clinic Mississauga 

➡️ BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by

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 ( 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!

“After The Sirens” Award Nomination

After The Sirens

I am so happy to announce that “After The Sirens” has been nominated for Best Documentary by the Canadian Academy Screen Awards! Congratulations Kevin Eastwood and the whole production crew. Also a huge congratulations to Don Devine and Clive Derbyshire who were also featured in the film. I am honoured to have participated in this amazing production; it has been a major component of my recovery.

The event date is March 26th.

Myths About Addiction

On this episode I share myths about addiction and how to get through St.Patrick’s Day as a recovered addict/alcoholic. 

Check Out These Books Written by Natalie Harris

📚 Brainstorm Revolution: Here

📚 Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

📚 Save My Life School: Here

This episode of BrainStorm is brought to you by The Homewood Health Clinic Mississauga 

➡️ BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by

Misconceptions About Addiction (My Opinion)

I have realized that there are still many opportunities for education surrounding misconceptions about addiction. As a recovered addict myself, I would like to share some of these with you.

  1. “Success” looks the same for addicts and non-addicts. As a non-addict, you may believe that success to an addict is recovery. When in fact, success to them may look like, having a shower, eating food, finding a clean needle, not overdosing, keeping their children safe, finding safe shelter, finding work, making it to work, not dying. We shouldn’t impose our success labels on others.
  2. Addicts just need to go to detox and they will get better. In order to be able to get a bed at a detox centre, several things have to occur. The addict needs to call themselves and ask for help (no one is allowed to do this for them), there needs to be a bed available (just today I witnessed a friend have to call back six times because there were no beds available), they need to not be intoxicated (detoxes require individuals to be clean to a certain extent, this may mean that the person requires hospitalization or withdrawal time prior to going to detox).
  3. Hospitals provide long-term addiction treatment. Hospitals are meant to provide emergent care and often do not have enough beds for patients requiring addiction related treatment. This can often lead to long wait times in waiting rooms, and with paramedics. When the patient is seen by a doctor, they are not necessarily admitted (this depends on many factors decided upon by the doctor and patient).
  4. Addiction is a choice and is not like other diseases. Addiction is a disease like any other disease. Addicts become such for many different reasons, (just like people acquire other diseases for many different reasons), one such reason being past trauma (physical and psychological). No one chooses to be an addict, it is a manifestation of physiological, psychological and social factors.
  5. Safe injection sites will encourage people to become addicts and only enable addiction. I know that this point is a touchy subject for many, but in my experience, and through listening to many lived experience stories, these sites are most often used by longterm drug users and do not encourage drug use – the use was already going to happen – just possibly not safely, and safe injection sites prevent the transmission of viruses such as hepatitis, HIV and bacterial infections that may cause heart inflammation, and localized and systemic skin infections.
  6. Addicts are dangerous and cause crime. I never broke a law as an addict. My drugs were legal and often prescribed (that’s a whole other topic of debate in itself). Yes, many drugs are illegal, but that does not make every addict dangerous. Yes, addiction can lead to illegal actions and crime, but many addicts do not fit into this category.

Do you have any points to add? I would love to hear them. Let’s all work together to educate one another and share lived experiences so that stigma can be smashed and acceptance and love can be promoted. We are all in this together.

You Deserve An Abundance Of Joy


Did you know that you deserve an abundance of joy in your life? If you said, “no”, you probably haven’t forgiven yourself for something in your past. Guilt is a good hider of joy. You may feel like you don’t deserve happiness when you have harmed others in one way, shape, or form. Well, what if I told you that if you learn how to forgive yourself, you will be able to accept the all the joy that this life has to offer you. Rather than smothering yourself in self-pity and shame, you can forgive yourself and cultivate joy.

I know what you’re thinking – easier said than done Natalie; and I agree. Forgiveness requires patience and kindness to form an intricate dance together; a dance that represents freedom and acceptance. And sometimes patience and kindness wait along the gym wall, nervous to ask one another to dance. But when they have the courage to do so, the music of peace gets played all around them.

It’s not until you forgive yourself that you can truly be able to be happy. You are worthy of forgiveness. You are! Don’t let the liar mind of guilt convince you otherwise! When you look in the rear view mirror, all that you should be able to see is how far you’ve come. You are not supposed to be looking back in regret.

In my 12-step meetings we talk a lot about making amends – cleaning our side of the street. If we left a tornado of destruction all around us while we travelled down this road of life, we should apologize for it and then move on; not letting guilt convince us that we need to continue to carry it around like a ball and chain. And the more you practice to make amends quickly when you do wrong, the smaller the tornado will be and therefore the smaller mess it will leave behind.

Making what we call a ‘living amends’ means to live your life doing the next right thing. We can’t always apologize for our actions face-to-face at times, but we can live a better life and wish love to those you have harmed.

I make a living amends everyday to my kids for what I put them through when I was first diagnosed with PTSD. My actions are what keep them having faith in me, not my words. The rear view mirror of my life, as well as the road in front of me, are filled with joy because I choose to forgive myself and to not ruminate in toxic guilt. My kids want to see me happy, not miserable and filled with regret. So I work hard on my recovery every day and show them that they can trust that I am always doing my best to heal and to accept joy into my life. This in turn teaches them how to do the same.

What a beautiful gift recovery can be. I now know that I am deserving of an abundance of joy now, and it feels wonderful. Joy and forgiveness in, sadness and guilt out – one day at a time.



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