Monday, June 10, 2013

More Than Just a Job

Looking back, my path to becoming a paramedic started very early, even earlier than I can remember. It's always been a career that I was drawn to, and there were many events that pushed me in that direction.

I grew up in the country. pre-internet, with no close neighbours and no TV. There wasn't any money for summer camps or sports, so I read and rode my bike all summer. Actually, that's still how my best days off are spent. Anyways, since I was such a voracious reader, I simply read everything I could get my hands on. I don't even remember when I started, but it became my summer tradition to read an old St. John Ambulance first aid manual we had cover-to-cover. I also spent many long, boring days longing for excitement and adventure, and I decided early that my career needed to fulfill that desire.

When I was in high school, my physics teacher had a seizure in the middle of class. She froze in the middle of a sentence, eyes glazed over, and somehow I knew exactly what was happening. While the other girls in the class started screaming, I raced to the front to try to catch her before she hit the ground. As I rounded the corner of her giant lab desk, she hit the ground. I will never forget the sound her head made when it hit the floor, and it took me years to get over the guilt for not catching her in time. I was terrified and unsure of myself, but I did exactly what the old first aid manual said, removing the recycling bin, chair and garbage pail so she wouldn't hit them, protecting her head and yelling at a classmate to stop holding her legs down. When the teachers started flooding the room, we were all sent to the library, where I started crying from the adrenaline and pent-up fear. I saw the paramedics go by, looking calm and assured, and I swore then and there that I NEVER wanted to feel the fear of not knowing what to do in a situation like that. I signed up for a first aid course as soon as I could, and started reading everything I could about first aid, emergency medicine and seizures.

That Christmas, my big brother bought me Paramedic by Peter Canning, which I read in its entirety in one sitting. I fell in love with the world he described, and decided I would also become a paramedic. I also managed to score a 1-week co-op with the local ambulance service, and although it was during the SARS outbreak and I was forbidden from riding out, I learned a lot and loved it even more. I had one paramedic tell me that since I could fall asleep in a chair and stand up straight in the back of the truck, I was already qualified. How true that is sometimes!

Breaking my foot in university ended up being the final push. I was treated by volunteer medical first responders, and I was impressed and touched by their knowledge and compassion. I was also blown away by the fact that I could also volunteer in that regard - what a perfect way to test drive my desired career. As soon as my foot healed (almost 2 years later, sadly) I joined the same organization and have been with them ever since, now training the very volunteers I once envied.

I think I was born to be a paramedic. There is no other career I want to do, no other path I wish I had taken. As challenging, exhausting, messy and stupid as this job can be, I love it more than anything else I've ever done. I am a paramedic through and through, I was born to be.

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