Frank Pierce: "I realised that my training was useful in less than ten percent of the calls, and saving lives was rarer than that. After a while, I grew to understand that my role was less about saving lives than about bearing witness. I was a grief mop. It was enough that I simply turned up."
This is one of my favorite lines from a movie. Every paramedic, firefighter, police officer, ER doc, ER nurse, EDT, and rescue worker understands this line. Because that is what we do, we bear witness to the atrocities of human behavior, we soak it in, and it becomes part of our being. If you stay in this job long enough, you see the ghosts. I drove past the spot where a cyclist was hit yesterday. I haven't been back to that area since the call three years ago...and I started shaking. Now, he is not a ghost, in fact he is alive and doing quite well, but that call shook my entire being up. He was my one call, in which everything came together, my partner, my mentor and I worked to actually save this man's life. He changed everything I ever thought of EMS. Before him, I had never "saved" anyone. I thought our job was to just get the patient to the hospital in one peice, alive, but we don't actually save anybody. We postpone the eniveitable... And for the majority of calls, thats it. We give a little of this drug and little of that drug, maybe shock 'em back to life, but save them? No. We stablize and transport to definitive care, so that the MDs at the hospitals can figure out what has gone so teribbly wrong as to summound us and thats what saves them. But once in a blue while, and this is so rare that there are even some seasoned medics that can't say this. We actually "save" them. It was our hands, our skill, our years of training that are the reason that they are still walking around. Not the doctors, not the ER, but us, the Paramedics, EMTs and Rescue Workers. I have been lucky on that front, I got that realization early in my EMS career.
We get called, we show up, sometimes on the worst day of somebody's life. We take their pain and make it our pain as to lessen the blow, maybe. I have seen total and utter fear in some of my patient's eyes. Sometimes, I can do nothing but show up and the fear goes away. Sometimes, I can do everything in my control and the fear stays. On any given day, I can see life, death, sickness, sheer happiness, or total defeat. But I will always be there, even if all they need is somebody to listen to them. To convince them that they are not alone, that somebody, even a stranger, as I am, will let them tell their story. And so I might tell it for them when they are no longer able to.
Wow, this was a rambling post. But whatever, EMS isn't this deep all the time. Most of the time it's just a ride to the hospital. A really bumpy, uncomfortable ride to the hospital. So just advise and transport.