So I saw a “contest” in an Emergency Medial site that I follow to write your story about when/how you knew EMS was your calling… that was an easy one for me to answer so I thought I’d go ahead and write a short version of it for that contest… I I sat down and wrote…. Well problem… it had to be 500 words or less LOL anyone who knows me, knows that’s next to impossible…. Well, I did submit a 500 word version, but I figured I’d share the unedited version here for anyone that may be interested as I’ve had people mention that they like my writing (Probably just being nice) so I thought I’d share..
I’m a Captain in an all-volunteer fire department, it’s the last all Volly department in King County, WA (Seattle area). I’ve been with the department for 12 years now. My Grandfather was a volunteer for many, many years in Missouri. Growing up, I’d watch him roll on calls when his monitor went off, he’d take me to the Buck Creek station with him to help wash rigs or just hang out. But he never really shared the depth of what it meant to be an EMT/Firefighter and as a kid I didn’t “get it”, it was just cool. Later in life after I became an Firefighter and EMT I finally “got it” and my respect for my Grandfather, while already a hero to me, grew even larger in my heart. I was able to help him at the end of his life using my EMT skills and I believe he passed being proud of me. Anyway back to my youth…I grew up and unknowingly followed in his footsteps as a Radioman in the Military, same as he was. After I got out of the military after a few years we moved out to rural southeast King County, WA. I had no idea that the Fire Department was all volunteer or that there even was such a thing anymore! Christmas Morning in 1999 a Firetruck (Back then I still called engine’s firetrucks) drove down our dirt road, lights going, blaring Christmas Carols with an actual Santa on the tailboard! WOW this was something cool, my kids were still little and were so thrilled to meet Santa and get a stuffed animal and a candy cane! Who were these awesome people? The next business day I contacted the Department and asked what it took to be a volunteer, the answer was basically 8 to 80 blind, crippled or crazy, if you have a pulse, clean record, lived in the district and had a driver’s license you got some gear and a voice pager… well I certainly met those requirements and in January of 2000 I became a “trainee” ! When I went to the station for the first time, all the memories of my Grandfather came back to me in a flash and it was akin to “coming home”. But that doesn’t tell you the story of how I knew EMS was my calling…after about 18 months with the department as a trainee and then a firefighter and only about 150 calls or so I volunteered to go to EMT school. I flew through the school and passed with flying colors, not because I was a good student, but because it was FUN to me, and incredibly interesting, but I still didn’t realize it was my “calling”…. yet…. In my “real life” I was a “phone guy” and the company I was working for went bankrupt. I got laid off. This is about 2 weeks after I had graduated EMT school and passed the state test. On THE day that I got laid off from my “real job”, I was driving home feeling sorry for myself, wondering what in the world I was going to do now… when out of the blue, my voice pager goes off! It’s about 10 in the morning and I’m nearly home, everyone else from the department is off working their real jobs… I had my gear in the truck with me so I stopped by the station and grabbed a radio ( I still wasn’t allowed to drive the rigs yet) and rolled POV to the location… UH OH ( not my actual words…) I’m the only one here, I’m the new guy and I just got out of EMT school. I knew I didn’t really “know” ANYTHING …just practice stuff! I was shaking like a leaf! The call you ask? It was for a 10 Year old girl in status seizure. HOLY CRAP…. So what’s that got to do with my “Calling” you’re still wondering, well I put on my “professional” face, I said my Mantra ( that is still my mantra today on hard calls) “this is not your emergency” , I think I learned it from the book “The Magic of 3 AM” by the late, great James O. Page . So with the mantra in my head and doing some of my best “acting confident and sure” while trying not to freak out, I did what my training told me to. I protected her head until the seizure stopped, and while she was postictal for a minute or two I grabbed a set of vitals, talked to the family, prayed that someone else would show up, called for ALS and forgot everything else in the world except for that little girl and her family. No one else from the department ever showed up and about 30 minutes and 5 or 6 full on seizures later ALS showed up, I gave them ( in my mind at least) a very professional short, hand-off with her vitals that I had taken between each seizure, her history and most importantly to me: her name, see to me the names are important, it’s all about them at that moment, the worst moments of their lives that we can help them. It was in that very moment when I was worried about myself that I was blessed with the opportunity to help that little girl and her family when I realized that EMS was my calling she was all that mattered, and I could make a difference even if I didn’t have a “real job” anymore… I still mattered and SHE mattered and I could make a difference. Since then, I went on to take the Instructors course and have been a CBT Instructor and an active EMT in our Department for the past 10 years or so still as a volunteer, I figure that if I did it for a living I wouldn’t be as passionate about it, and I would eventually forget the names and they would just become patients.. I don’t want to forget the names and I want to make sure that every patient I treat knows they are the only thing that matters to me in that short period of time that I get to help them in their life, or in their death if that is why I am there.
So thank you “Lindsey” (name changed for HIPAA..of course) for changing my life that day and being my first name , on my own as an EMT, you were my calling.