Its 3 am and cold. No, not cold, frigid. The ice has crystallized on your moustache every time you’ve gone out. After a night of handling everything from intoxicated college students to acute chest pain, you’re pager is going off again. This time it’s a motor vehicle crash and remember; its cold outside. But you once again find yourself leaving the warmth of your bed, pulling on your boots and heading out. It’s been a long night, and there’s a long ways to go before the shift ends. There isn’t enough coffee in Columbia for a night like this. As you walk across the bay floor, you ask yourself why you’re doing this. How did you get here, and why do you keep putting yourself through this ordeal?
We all have different reasons for why we started out in EMS. Some from personal experiences, some from role models, and some for reasons they will never know. I grew up in a home full of emergency responders. My mother and grandmother dispatched emergency services from an office in my house. After a tour in Korea as a Navy corpsman, my dad came home to Maine. He found that soldiers on the battle field got better care for their injuries than the family living around the corner. Working as a small town funeral director and a part time Assistant Fire Chief, he had the right vision, the right vehicle and the right training. From the time I could walk, my family responding to people in need of help was the norm. I literally grew up in the fire service and early ambulance work. When the series “Emergency!” aired on television, my future became permanently chiseled in stone.
I am a self admitted “whacker”. I own DVD copies of every episode of “Emergency!”, “Mother, Jugs, and Speed”, and pretty much every EMS book ever written. If “Whackers Anonymous” existed, I would probably be obligated to attend meetings. I would no doubt be pushed through some divinely orchestrated steps to cleanse myself of this affinity for running towards death and danger when others are going the other way. Despite aggressive counseling, I would ultimately fail the program and certainly would have a lot of company. Great company. Company I am proud to stand with side by side.
There is wonderful comradery in EMS. Whether you find yourself in a local area, the commonwealth, country, or even elsewhere in the world, wearing the star of life immediately places you in a special group. We are the individuals who deal daily with the pain, suffering and trauma. We have chosen to do more than stand and stare helplessly at the macabre distortion of the ejected victim at a motor vehicle collision. We are the ones expected to react when nature’s normal mechanisms to breathe and pump blood fail miserably. We are the individuals who are supposed to grasp some reasoning for the unexpected loss of a child or family member. It’s not an easy job, and certainly not a task suited for everyone; but not everyone wears the star of life. Most importantly, we deal with it together. We work as a team to make the world a little better, one patient at a time.
If asked to why we started in EMS I think each of us would offer an interesting and unique reply. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, because we all ended up here. We watched, took the bait, and got hooked. Whether we intended or not, EMS has become as much a part of our lives as breathing air. The pride we extract from this work is deeply rooted far beyond the capacity of non-emergency responders to truIy comprehend. I for one have never looked back. This is a wonderful life and I get to share it with great people. Why do we choose EMS? In the words of Dr. Kelly Brackett, M.D. “Because it will save lives. Maybe a dozen lives, maybe a thousand, maybe just one. And who knows which one?”