EMS Week 2013: Knowing and Not Knowing

About three years ago, I carefully stepped down this short hallway, not all too certain what to expect. The hallway opened into a small, practically empty room. A dusty mammoth of a photocopier sat in the corner beside stacks of office paper. A few framed photographs adorned the otherwise blank white walls. The new summer sunlight streamed through a small window near the ceiling. An open door in front of me led into an even smaller room, lined with cluttered desks. To my right was an open door with a sign saying “PERSONNEL ONLY”.  I froze up, awkwardly standing in the middle of this room in a place I clearly didn’t belong.  What was I doing here anyway? Just as I turned to look at the now very alluring front door behind me, a voice asked, “Can I help you?”

I snapped my head back from over my shoulder, suddenly very aware of how out of place I seemed. I swallowed. A man with salt & pepper hair stood in the doorway, a quizzical but friendly expression on his face? Was he always there? How did I miss him before? He must think I’m crazy for just wandering into this station.

“Uh…hi. My name is Probie To Practitioner. I’m here to uh…see if maybe I could…work on an ambulance?” It was more of a question than a request. The words felt strange coming out of my mouth, and even stranger to my ear. You? On an ambulance? You’re afraid of your own shadow. You’re afraid of talking to this man here. And you’re trying to do what??

He grinned broadly at me. “Ohh, you’re the one who called earlier! Come on in! Let’s show you around, see how you feel, and go from there. Alright?”

“Hey, wanna show her around a little? Show her the ambulance or something?” This gentleman asked a short paramedic, with tired circles under his eyes and a welcoming half-smile on his face. The paramedic agreed, stepping into the doorway, and making a motion for me to follow him. He walked through the door that said “PERSONNEL ONLY”.

This was where I hesitated. I stopped, mid-step, and mentally told myself “No, you’re not ‘personnel’.” I spent a moment internally arguing this point. I just felt odd, barging into the personal space of a place filled with prestige, courage, and tradition. It wasn’t something I was a part of. I realized how stupid I would look, awkwardly posed outside the door, and how much more stupid I would sound trying to explain my reasoning to the paramedic. Quickly, I hurried through the door, catching up with him.

I followed out into the bay, smelling of cool concrete, metal, and rubber. The rest of that afternoon would be spent with an awed smile on my face, feeling like I was half in a dream, going through an ambulance check with this paramedic.

It was a peculiar moment of knowing and not knowing.

At the time, I didn’t know that this station would become my second home. I didn’t realize I’d walk these carpets thin. I didn’t know how many roaring laughs and gravely whispered conversations would reverberate off these walls. I didn’t know I’d be spending countless hours here. I didn’t know that the cool smells of the bay would become so relaxing and cleansing to me.

I didn’t realize that the paramedic who showed me an ambulance for the first time would go on to be my mentor, and one of my dearest friends. I didn’t realize that these same people I had held in my mind as heroes, would one day be held in my heart as family. Some would move. Some would leave. Some would die. Some would come and stay, others would come and go. I didn’t know how much they would do for me.

I didn’t realize the lengths to which I’d go when I was here. I didn’t realize what this job would ask, demand, and take from me. I didn’t realize how much of myself I’d give to this field, this lifestyle. I didn’t know how EMS would bend me, push me, and teach me. I didn’t know how much it would make me grow. I didn’t know how many lives I would touch, or to what extent.

Despite all that I didn’t know, I somehow knew one thing: I belonged here. It may not have been a conscious thought; even if it was, I’m sure it would have been drowned out with all the other thoughts of self-doubt and disbelief. But I felt it. I felt it in my heart, and in every fiber of my being.

EMS Week 2013. We have one mission. We are one team.

And I am beyond honored to be a part of yours.

Kids Say The Darnedest Things

Observations and opinions of one of my pedi patients…

Junior: Do you have any kids?

P2P: Nope.

Junior: Oh. That’s too bad. You’re nice, like my mom. I think you’d be a good mom.

P2P: (totally taken aback and blushing): Oh…Thank you, that’s very kind of you.

Junior: Are you married?

P2P: Nope.

Junior: Do you want to get married?

P2P: Someday, I think I would like to.

Junior: Why don’t you want to get married now?

P2P: Just haven’t found the right person yet.

Junior: How old are you?

P2P: Twenty.

Junior: Jeez…you’re running out of time.

 

Thanks, kid.

I gave him a sticker anyway. He still won the “Coolest Patient of the Day” award.

Saving My Life

I need to hear that shrill tone. The one that pulls me from my day and thrusts me into that of another’s. The one that orders me into my little car, and sends me to the station. The one that sits me on the bench of the ambulance, soaking in the smell of plastics and chemical cleaners. The one that captivates my attention for an hour or two.

I need the illusion that I belong. That what I do matters. To justify my reason for being. I need the excuse to keep me here another day. I need the time to think about something other than whether I should stay or go. Other than if my mistakes of yesterday outweigh my possibilities of tomorrow.

I need to feel like I’m part of something bigger than just me. Bigger than the emotional storm clouding my thoughts, raging in my head and my heart. I need to be given a few hours where I can stop worrying about yesterday and tomorrow. Where the only thing that matters is right here in this moment. The only thing that matters is the person whose hand I’m holding; the life that I’m caring for.

I need that tone to go off. Just one more time. I just need one more day to figure this out. Just get me through today.

EMS is saving my life. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to say it’s saved my life.

Interesting Patient Conversation

There was still 30 minutes left in our transport, and the patient was incredibly stable. Not knowing what else to really do, we struck up a conversation. He was an interesting fellow…one of these laid-back, intellectual types with a dry sense of humor and a fierce wanderlust. He made insightful remarks, and smiled these dashing crooked smiles that made me frantically wonder what subtle irony or quiet punchline I’d missed. We’d talked about weather, family, and the best way to make stuffed peppers. He told me about the traveling he’s done, and how he never stays in one place for too long. Sooner or later, the urge to find a change of scenery and pace plucks him from one community and pushes him to another.

“You know, way back in the day, I was a photographer. Well, I still am, but I did it commercially. I worked for this company, and I primarily went to schools and did school portraits. I like portraits. If you look at a good one, you can know the person without ever meeting them,” He told me, occasionally offering a small, knowing grin, or raising his eyebrows.

“But I was bored at this job. It was just one grumpy child forcing a fake smile after another. I was taking this young lady’s picture once…she was pretty, definitely. But she just wouldn’t smile. She wouldn’t even fake one. So I asked her why. What was wrong? Well, she rolled her eyes at me and told me she was bored. She was bored with school. So I told her, ‘Bored people tend to be boring.’ She took offense to that, I guess.

It just seemed so painfully obvious, really. You’re bored? Then do something. Find something that entertains you. Change something. If you’re bored, then you get boring. And then what are you doing with your life? And then it dawns on me…I was boring. I was bored with my job. Bored with that town. Bored with doing the same thing all the time. So I left. About a week later, I packed up all of my things, got in my car, and just drove. I found some little town in Wyoming, and lived there for a few months. I’ve been something of a traveler ever since. I don’t like to be bored.”

I Took The Red Pill

I went through a box of old pictures today, and took that trip down memory lane to happier and simpler times. There was one of my second grade friends and I sitting on a brick wall in the park, sticking out Kool-Aid technicolor tongues. Another featuring my eight-year-old sister and I, horrifically sunburnt, carefully sculpting our sand castle–no, impenetrable sand fortess–on a July day at the beach. Fast forward several years, and there I am at 15 with a sports medal around my neck, a boyfriend’s arm around my waist; laughing at something I can’t remember. Towards the bottom of the box, there’s one of  me squinting into the camera, with a 6-year-old toothy grin pushing dimples onto my freckled cheeks.

I know I’m looking back at myself in these pictures, yet I feel like an entirely different person. And I can’t help but wonder…Would these girls in these pictures still feel like such strangers to me if I had made other choices? Would they feel more like memories, and less like different lives? Would they be proud to see the young woman they would go on to become? The young woman that became an EMT?

Maybe, if I hadn’t been an EMT, I never would have left the sports I’d loved. Instead of fighting my way through a community college nursing program, maybe I would be a college athlete now at some university. Perhaps, I’d be majoring in English, pursuing my life-long dream of becoming a writer.

On my breaks, maybe I’d come home and work at the grocery store, or a diner. I’d watch the clock as I worked, counting down the hours until I could go spend the evening with my friends. Instead of having friendships consisting mostly of adults, all of my companions would be stressed, idealistic kids my own age. Instead of trying to find the words to say when hearing about divorces, children, and financial issues; my friends and I would groan about our papers due next week. We’d excitedly share the news of that internship we worked so hard for. We’d look forward to graduating, gazing through dreamy veils at the perceived freedoms of adulthood.

Maybe, if I hadn’t been an EMT, I’d meet some great guy. Instead of constantly apologozing for and juggling my hectic schedule, maybe I’d actually have time to spend getting to know him. Maybe I’d have days to go out and evenings to stay in.  Maybe I’d have someone to say, “I love you” to before I hung up the phone. Instead of hearing, “I can’t do this anymore. We’re done,” maybe I’d hear “I love you” back.

Maybe, if I hadn’t been an EMT, I’d never read the obituary section of the newspaper. I’d pull over for the flashing lights of an ambulance, briefly wonder what happened, and then continue back on my way without giving it another thought. Instead of hearing the screams and cries of those involved echo inside my head when watching the evening news; the stories would only cause sighs of dismay and temporary grief, before drifting back to the dusty corners of my mind, soon to be forgotten.

But, maybe not. I will never know. Sometimes, I look into the pictures of my younger self and think, “God, the things you’re going to see. The things you’re going to hear. The things you’re going to do. If I told you, would you believe me?”

Three years ago, I made the decision to go into the emergency medical services. Unknowingly, I chose a life that would never be “normal” again. Sure, I could quit and change to a regular 9-to-5 job; but the experiences I’ve had will never leave me. Funny thing is, I don’t think I’d ever want them to.

I chose an experience, a brotherhood, a life like nothing else. It wasn’t expected or planned. But despite its occasional ugliness, I fell in love with this field. There’s no turning back now. I will never know what it’s like to have the “traditional college experience.” I’ll never know what it’s like to fumble my way into adulthood hand-in-hand with peers of my age. I will never know what it’s like to have a college sweetheart. I will never read the paper or watch the news the same way again. But, I will live my life knowing I made some small difference in my corner of the world. I will know, as tough as it can be, I did what I absolutely loved.  I will know a great many things about life, mankind, and the human spirit that most people will never understand.

It’s true…some days, I look back at my younger self and say, “What on earth did I get you into?” But I know, I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

tumblr_m25ab8ZcNv1qk3vnko1_500

(Image credit)

Healing Is Not A Linear Process

I’ve learned plenty of things as an EMT. I’ve learned what the top and bottom numbers of a blood pressure mean. I’ve learned how to splint a fractured bone. I’ve learned the proper way to talk on the radio. I’ve learned how to start an intravenous line. I’ve learned that real life is nothing like the textbook. In the textbook, you see calm, cooperative patients, neatly packaged in controlled, well-lit environments. Ask anyone who’s ever run an EMS call, and they’ll tell you the real world is nothing like that. But, there’s a quieter, more subtle difference between the textbook and reality; one that might not be realized right away. Once you experience it, however, you’ll never forget it.

You see, there are no pictures in the textbooks of EMT’s lost in thought, laying wide awake at night. There are no images of paramedics waking up with nightmares. There are no illustrations of providers crying, or torturing themselves with “Why?” and “What if?” These things are mentioned, though. But in real life, you only hear about it quiet whispers, if at all.

I’m willing to bet that most EMT’s and paramedics who truly love their work, and have some time under their belt, have had at least one call that stays with them. It could be a nasty trauma. It could be a medical call that got out of your control. It could be subtle details in an otherwise routine call that trigger something else. We don’t talk about it too much, though. Maybe we’re afraid, or we think we’re alone. Maybe we’re embarrassed. Maybe talking about it just isn’t helpful for some.

Everyone deals with their demons differently. Go do whatever you need to do to help yourself. Talk about it. Meditate. Write. Lift some weights. Paint. Run until you can’t feel your legs anymore. Shoot some targets. Spend time with loved ones. Play with your dog. Do whatever it is you need to so you can help yourself.

But, what if you’ve done that? What if you’ve done everything you can think of?

This is the other thing I’ve learned in EMS: healing is not a linear process. There are good days, and there are bad. You reach your peaks, and you think everything is fine…and the next day, you wake up to find yourself in a trough again. It doesn’t mean you are broken. All of your work is not undone when you find yourself hurting again. The ups and downs of your progress aren’t as important as the direction: forward. You may be down today, but you are further forward than you were yesterday. A straight line may be the quickest way to get from “unwell” to “well.” But there’s a reason why it’s called the “healing process” and not the “healing race.” There will be days where you will soar, and there will be days that you will falter.

Trust me when I say that you will have good days. You will have calls that make you smile, fill you with pride, and lift you up. These troubles that bother you so much now, will one day serve to strengthen and teach you; not haunt you. We all have those calls that we will never forget, but I promise you, they will not always cause this kind of pain that worries you right now.

 

The Breakdown (And The People Who Helped)

My mind was swirling with a nauseating soup of questions and uncertainties. I felt this sickening pull in my stomach. Yet, it was all muted. I was manipulating red hot emotions through thick welder’s gloves. I couldn’t name it, I couldn’t identify it, but I knew it didn’t sit well with me. I quietly engaged in superficial and meaningless conversation with my partner as we backed into the ambulance bay. I was just politely filling in the silence, while simultaneously trying to figure out what was happening to me internally.

Numb, I climbed out of the ambulance, paperwork in hand. I returned the other crews’ greetings, and headed into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. An officer nonchalantly followed me into the kitchen, and quietly asked, “Are you okay?”

I looked at him, confused. “I don’t really know. I think so,” I mumbled. He patiently waited, watching my face as my eyes nervously shifted around the room. How could I not even know what was going on inside of my own head? I sighed, “I know I’m going to need one of the quieter rooms to write this report. There are phone calls that need to be made about this one.”

His eyes widened, almost imperceptibly, before nodding once. He set me up with a computer in a room away from the commotion of the common area. “If you need anything…let me know. I don’t care what it is…someone to talk to–”

“No,” I fiercely interrupted. “No, I’m fine. I don’t know what my problem is. I’m probably just tired or something.”

“I’ve seen you tired. That’s not it,” He said, looking me dead in the eyes. I broke his gaze, fidgeting with my paperwork. He knew me too well. His tone softened, “If you need anything. Someone to talk to…food…music…I don’t care what. Whatever you need, let me know, and we’ll get it squared away.”

He left me to take care of what I needed to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was already working on helping me–even before I properly understood myself. Those strange, detached feelings continued to stir in my head as I went through the familiar monotony of creating the report. And out of nowhere, I just started to cry.

What is wrong with you? I asked myself, disgusted. There was nothing on that call that should elicit that response. I’d run plenty of calls just like that one. This wasn’t some horrendous, gory trauma. This wasn’t a call where the patient was rapidly deteriorating before my eyes. This wasn’t about playing catch-up, or not being able to do a single thing right. Why this time? Why this patient? Why now? Why are you reacting like this? How can you see people horribly mangled and not bat an eye, and then lose it over something like this??? What is the matter with you?

My narrative was getting incredibly long and unruly. While blinking away tears, I wrote about every, single, last, detail I could possibly remember. About halfway through, I just propped my elbows on the table, and rested my head in my hands. I was giving up on holding it together, and figuring out why I couldn’t.

My phone buzzed against the table. Taking a deep, steadying breath, I tried to compose myself and answer it as evenly as possible.

“You sound like hell. What happened to you?” The chief officer on the other end of the line asked. Apparently it’s pretty hard to shake the sound of an unexpected melt down from your voice. Particularly at 1:30 in the morning. I stammered, dismissed, and evaded. He was having none of it. Finally, I got him to hang up. I figured I’d won.

By 2 a.m., there were three of the highest ranking officers at my department were sitting in that room with me–in their pajamas, no less. I offered smiles, thanked them, and tried to dismiss them. But they stayed with me for more than an hour. They told me stories of their distressing calls from back in the day, and the seemingly inexplicable breakdowns.

“That call, for whatever reason, touched you. And it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be confused. It’s the strangest, smallest details of a call sometimes that just hits you. It doesn’t have to be these obviously traumatic calls,” One told me.

I was given heartfelt compliments. I was given reassurance that this call didn’t make me weak or stupid. It didn’t mean the end of my career if I didn’t want it to be. They gave me their personal cell phone numbers, and was given instructions to call them whenever I needed to. They gave me hugs. But most importantly, they gave me their time–even in the dead of night. They gave me confidence, compassion, and understanding.

I don’t know many high-ranking managers that would go to the lengths that these individuals did. They went above and beyond. It’s something I will never forget, and will always be grateful of. Managers or officers, especially those that go out of their way to take care of their own…I can’t thank you enough.

Just An Ordinary Day

There wasn’t too much remarkable about that day, at least when it started. I woke up to a typical light overcast outside my window. I did my usual morning routine. I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into my ordinary “day off” attire…boots, jeans, a t-shirt and a jacket. I threw my worn bag into the passenger seat of my unassuming car, sang along to the radio in my usual off-key pitch, and parked in the supermarket parking lot. It was, by all means, an ordinary day.

I grabbed a shopping basket, and meandered through the aisles. The other patrons milled around in their usual way. An older lady with a blue scarf was sorting through the produce, trying to pick the best tomatoes of the bunch. A boy in a Spiderman t-shirt was fruitlessly pleading for his father to buy him the big bag of Reese’s. Some woman with glasses was spelling out her coworker’s name for a baker to write on a cake. I was making that time old decision: chicken or beef. There was really nothing to take notice of. Which is why I’ll never be quite sure what caught my eye and redirect my focus.

It was just a man, chatting with a friend he happened to bump into. I returned to deciding what I was going to do for dinner, when my memory started to stir. I glanced back at the man out of the corner of my eye. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t immediately place it…no…it couldn’t be…I tried really hard not to stare in disbelief.

I remember everything about the last time we’d met. I remember the weather, the time, the place, and everyone that was there. I remember the furniture, the pictures around the room, and the clock on the wall. I remember someone dancing from foot to foot, deciding whether they wanted to watch or not. I remember someone trying not to cry. I remember trying to speak lowly so I wouldn’t cause even more emotional trauma to everyone there. Funny thing is, I doubt he remembers our encounter, even though I treated him kind of roughly.  See, the last time we met, he was dead. My partners and I were pounding on his still, pale chest. We were squeezing each breath into his lungs. All in the hopes of converting that rhythm into something more life-sustaining.

His skin glowed now with a radiant life. His cheeks were much rosier than in my memory. He had a quick mind behind his sharp eyes, as evidenced by the laughter of his friend. A deep chuckle came forth from the man’s wry smile.

The feeling that built in my chest was one that defies words. The man that stood only a few yards away from me was so alive. He was doing normal, every day things. To anybody else, this scene was average. Just an average man, wearing plain clothes, running ordinary errands, talking about typical things with his friend. And yet, there was something so extraordinary about it. Just the whole notion of being alive is such an incredible thing all of the sudden. Every blink, every breath, every heart beat was such an amazing thing. Every movement, every chore, every interaction, every joke…it all suddenly carried so much more weight. He was a man who’d beaten the odds. And, in my small way, I had helped him do it. And that just felt…incredible.

I wanted to savor that moment, that feeling, forever. Where the gravity of the things I do for a living really sets in, but in the most surreal way. Where suddenly everything was brilliant, and nothing was taken for granted. I walked past him, offering him a big, genuine smile. He smiled back at me, a little confused as to why I’d be grinning like that. He would probably  never know, and oddly, that is fine with me.

I continued on down the aisle, back to my every day life. He carried on with his. And that makes all the difference.

Little Tape Chevrons

My IV skills are slowly but surely developing. Everyone who’s new at starting an IV gets so excited about getting flash, that there’s kind of that “Oh crap…well now what do I do?” moment after you withdraw the needle. I’m starting to nail more and more IV sticks, so the “OH MY GOD, I GOT IT!! YAY! Oh, wait, I’m not done?” feeling isn’t quite as strong. I’m actually thinking ahead a little bit more before just diving right in. That includes focusing on the less glamorous parts of starting the IV. Such as, oh, properly occluding the vein as you attach the extension set, so the patient doesn’t bleed out freaking everywhere.

"Uh...well, I think his blood pressure was high enough to handle this..."

“Uh…well, I think his blood pressure was high enough to handle this…”

(Image credit)*

 

I don’t really have that down 100% either, but I’m getting better at it.

The other big piece is securing the line in place. I tend to be pretty decent at that. One day, a paramedic showed me something I hadn’t been taught in class–the chevron. It looked pretty neat and handy. I liked that you could secure it more firmly in place if the loop of the chevron was pointed distally. And, if you pointed the loop proximally, you could pull the edge of the catheter off of the inside of the vein wall just enough so that it flows better. Pretty sweet, huh?

Oh, except that I saw it done in the nice, quiet, controlled environment of the hospital with a cooperative patient. And that the tape had already been ripped for me.

The next time I started an IV, I gleefully thought to myself, “I’m going to make my preceptor so proud! I’m going to surprise him with this cool little chevron trick! He’s going to just beam with pride!”

Oh, you ignorant, ignorant AEMT.

First off, I had an EMT-B tear my tape for me. I’ll be the first to admit that when I was a Basic, and a medic asked me to tear him tape, I never really knew exactly what he was looking for. How long? How wide? Well, turns out this Basic did exactly what I used to do…just take off huge hunks of the 1″ tape, stick it against the cabinet, and assume I’d figure it out. The paramedic preceptor I was with was busy sticking on EKG leads, so I went ahead and tried to quickly whip together my chevron. I was hoping he’d look back at me after he was done, and grin at my cleverness (even though he’s been in the business forever).

Have you ever tried to make a neat little chevron using 1″ tape while bouncing down the road? Because it comes highly NOT recommended.

This is what a tape chevron is *supposed* to look like. Just admire that textbook perfection.

This is what a tape chevron is *supposed* to look like. Just admire that textbook perfection.

(Image credit)

And this is what mine looks like.

And this is what mine looks like.

(Original image credit…I just added some Paintbrush magic.)

This is the newbie, frustrated, stubborn, bouncing-around-in-the-back-of-an-ambulance version.

When I finally smoothed down the last crinkled piece of tape, I looked up at my paramedic preceptor. He was watching me from the captain’s char, with that sad, “aw…that’s so cute,” patronizing, “good effort, kiddo” smile on his face, complete with the “your earnest innocence is so endearing” raised eyebrows. I returned the look, and sheepishly smiled.

After we transferred care of the ball-of-tape-with-the-patient-trapped-inside, the paramedic chuckled and patted my shoulder.

“So, next time?” He started, stifling a good-hearted, bemused giggle. “You tear the 1″ tape in half. And uh…chevrons are…well…”

“A textbook thing?” I offered.

“Kind of. Yeah. Not so easy or practical in real life, huh?”

I shook my head, smiling just a little.

“It’s okay…at least that line isn’t going anywhere. For, like, the rest of that patient’s life.”

*By the way, it’s not real blood in that picture. Promise.

How’d You Get Into EMS?

Like most of the best things in my life, I came into EMS completely unintentionally.

Prior to EMS, I had a particular fondness for swimming. At 17, I was preparing to start my 10th season of competitive swimming, and my fourth season of 10-&-under coaching, when I got a phone call from my head coach. Enrollment was down for the upcoming season, and it looked like I won’t be coaching the little kids after all.

Well. That greatly opened up my summer schedule.

To most people, that would hardly be a bad thing. But I had spent my adolescence as one of those annoying over-achievers that burnt the candle at both ends. In high school, I spent my afternoons, evenings, and weekends darting around to my 13 extra-curricular activities. If I had down time, I was in a panic, trying to remember what project, assignment, meeting, practice, rehearsal, game, meet, or activity I was supposed to be doing. I couldn’t relax during my “time off.” It actually made me more anxious.

So I began my job hunt. Unfortunately, it seemed that every attempt to find a local job ended in “Thanks, but no thanks.” Each small store already had their seasonal adolescent workers hired. Not giving up yet, I figured if I couldn’t get paid to do work, well, maybe I could volunteer. Seeing how I was starting college in the fall for my biology/pre-med degree, I decided I’d give the hospital a call and see how I could volunteer there.

“Sorry,” I was told. My heart started to sink. “We only take volunteers in the ER if they’re EMT students.”

EMT student, huh? That sounds kind of fun. I could learn more about healthcare, get some practice actually treating patients, and ride around in an ambulance. There’s no harm in at least seeing what it’s about, right? And if it’ll be a gateway to get me to work at the hospital–even better!

I set up a meeting with a fire department officer later that week. He had a paramedic take me to do a truck check on one of the ambulances. I sat on the bench seat, and listened intently to his explanation of the equipment, what EMT’s can do, and the EMS culture. I was awestruck.

By the end of that hour, I was so completely in love with EMS. I don’t know what did it, but sitting in that truck just felt right. I didn’t want to leave.

It didn’t matter how much I had to learn. It didn’t matter how long it would take. It didn’t matter that I had no idea how I was going to deal with things like guts, gore, and death. I would figure all of it out in time. For the first time in my life, I knew I could do something. I mean, just knew it. On the days I had my doubts, there was always this determined little whisper in the back of my mind that said that I could get through this.

That night, I researched EMS blogs, almost desperate to find someone’s story or opinion that would take this dreamy glow off of my newest and strongest aspiration. As it turns out, it only deepened my love for the field. The next day, I was enrolled in a local First Responder class, and began my EMS apprenticeship at the fire department.

And the rest, as they say, is history.