I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas and was able to spend time with their special persons. I just want to thank everybody who has played a significant role in my life. Without all of you, my life wouldn’t have been half as amazing and fun.
I had the best Christmas present this year. It has been something I’ve been working hard towards for the past eight months and had been dreaming about doing for the past two years. And what is this you might ask? Well I think the blog speaks for itself: To work as a paramedic.
I had my first shifts with the ambulance service. It really did feel a little bit like Christmas when I got to the station. My coworkers handed me five cardboard boxes, four large ones and one smaller one. The boxes contained my uniform and I was told to try it on to make sure it fits. And that was how I started my first shift, with snow drifting outside the window I opened all those boxes and tried everything on.
Boots, jackets, shirts, pants, belt, and toque. There wasn’t a mirror in the room, but I saw my reflection on the blank tv screen in front of me. Everything fit, except for the pants (and no, I was not standing in my underwear, I brought my own pants just in case that’d happen). I had the patches on, the paramedic label all over the jacket…I felt funny donning the uniform. I think at that point I was still in disbelief. I looked like a paramedic, but I didn’t feel like one. I needed my first patient to make it real.
The four shifts up there was a really good learning experience. Unlike Primary Care Paramedic (PCP) graduates, Emergency Medical Responders (EMR) don’t have precepting as part of their course. I think that’s rather unfortunate. So although we are trained to know what to do during a call, we really don’t have any concept of station life and the daily tasks. The ride-alongs that I had done did help a lot, but of course, there were still a billion things I still have yet to learn. Luckily my partners and the other coworkers I had on my shifts were amazing. They answered many of my questions (and I asked quite a bit), took the time to show me the ropes, made me feel comfortable, and I really felt like they got my back. I was well taken care of, and I can’t be more thankful for that.
I can’t list all the things I learned the 48hrs I was up there, but I did get to know the area I’ll be working in and a little bit of the area’s history, got a tour of the hospitals we mostly transport to, learned how to swap cars, how to fill out and scan a bunch of different forms, washing the cars, giving patient reports, to name a few.
That evening, I had just finished eating my dinner and was thinking of taking a shower. However, we were up-car (the car that would go out next if there was a call, as opposed to down-car), and knowing how my luck runs, I had a bad feeling that I’ll probably be in the shower when a call comes in. So I trusted my gut instinct and instead settled into my bed with a laptop on my lap and started watching a documentary. Sure enough, ten minutes later, we got called. This was my first “real” call (a call where I actually had a patient).
As I got dressed I wondered what it was going to be. I hopped into the ambulance as my partner revved the engine and radioed dispatch.
Partner: “99 Kilo2”
Dispatch: “99 Kilo2”
Partner: “99 Kilo2, we are 10-8.”
Dispatch: “99 Kilo2, please respond to a vehicle rollover off an embankment, 5s and 6s will be en route, helicopter is on standby.”
Me: Shit! Seriously?!? You can’t be serious? This can’t be my first real call?
In my head I saw the flashing lights of PD, Fire and Ambulance. I envisioned myself doing a spinal roll with the patient collared. I didn’t have time to imagine much more as I jotted down what dispatch had to say. Ironically enough, earlier in the day I had a conversation with one of my partners where he mentioned he hadn’t had a rollover in a while.
The roads were really slick and slippery. I felt like we were trying to ride down a river of ice. We got there as safely and quickly as we could, and the rest was history.
The call didn’t end up being as crazy as I had imagined it, thank goodness, but it was a really good learning experience. The call taught me about the grays of real life, whereas school mostly taught black and whites. The patient taught me that as a paramedic, our concept of what an emergency is, is quite different from what a patient’s idea of an emergency is. Think about it, if the patient is stable, I think that’s very good, but to the patient, they’re in an ambulance, going to the hospital and it’s Christmas time. It may not be an emergency to me, but it is for them.
My partner said something really valuable to me on our drive back from the hospital:
Partner: “On my convocation day, an Advanced Care Paramedic gave the valedictorian speech, and what he said I really kept with me. He said that ‘be it your skill sets or just placing a blanket on your patient, you’re always making a difference and having an impact’. Tonight, you made a difference, and you can go home and tell your mom that.”
I thought a bit about that and what he said was true. I can recall the fear in my patient’s eyes, the anxiety, the thought that he was going to die and how he worried about the two others in his car and his family. I remembered as we bumped and slid our way to the hospital, I was able to make my patients laugh and relax despite all that has happened, and I remember the smiles they had when I wished them a Merry Christmas and said my goodbyes as I left the hospital. That was what was important and what really mattered.
And so with this call, starts my career.