Open letter from Kelly Grayson

I didn't write this, but I read it and fell in love with it! I saw it in a post by EMT/Paramedic on Facebook.
 "Recently, I was asked by a colleague to write an introduction letter for her EMT class. I had read David Givot's excellent commencement speech for paramedic graduates, and I thought long and hard about what I wish someone had said to me on my first day of EMT class, before I even embarked on this career path. This is my answer.

Welcome to the profession whose entry-level practitioners — you, in a few months — rank 4th from the bottom in the Bureau of Labor Statistics salary rankings. The only people paid less than you are pre-school teachers, dishwashers and meatpackers. The guy riding on the back of the garbage truck, or holding a sign at a highway construction zone, makes more money than your EMT instructor. Likely, a lot more.

And none of those people are required to make life-or-death decisions. You will.

It is a profession where the line-of-duty death rate is comparable to firefighters and police officers. For those of you who aspire to flight paramedic status, that particular niche is by far the most dangerous profession in America — ahead of loggers, miners, and Alaska crab fisherman.

It is a profession whose divorce, suicide and substance abuse rates soar far higher than the general population. The average career expectancy of an EMT is five years.

Five years.

Some of you will go on to jobs in nursing or other healthcare fields. Those of you that don't move on to nursing or PA school will leave EMS with a career-ending back injury, or leave EMS healthy but not whole; jaded and cynical, your idealism burned away in the furnace-like reality of our profession, your faith in the innate goodness of man gone like so much ash and smoke up the chimney.

You'll be disrespected
You will be disrespected by patients and bystanders who don't know any better, and belittled by doctors and nurses who should. And many of you will endure the abuse for free labor, donating your services as volunteers.

So why do I tell you this? Well, they call it informed consent, a concept you'll learn about in the first few chapters of that EMT textbook you're carrying. Before you agree to the abuse you're about to suffer, it's only fair that you know what you're getting into.

And it's not what you think.

You will sift through broken glass and twisted metal, wade through urine and feces and vomit, weather heaping torrents of verbal abuse from the people you're trying to help, all for the prospect of a few dollars on payday, and perhaps…just perhaps…a show of gratitude now and again.

I'm here to tell you that what you've been promised is a lie, if only a little white one. When you're green and idealistic, the romance and thrill of EMS is powerful. All of us were adrenaline junkies at some point. Plus, there's a decent chance it might even get you laid. What's not to like?

You won't save that many lives
But you will soon discover the hidden truth, the one that drives most people out of our profession:

We don't save that many lives.

Lifesaving may be what we train for, but the opportunity to actually save someone comes all too rarely, and when it does present itself, the outcome depends more upon luck and timing than our skills. In my career, I've had my share of code saves. Some of them even made it out of the hospital alive. Others hung on just long enough for their families to tell them goodbye. I've made the critical diagnosis, gotten the tough airway, turned around the crashing asthmatic, and stabilized the shocky gangbanger with multiple unnatural holes in his person. I've needled chests, paced, defibrillated, and cardioverted, and given countless drugs.

But, other than a handful of exceptions, I can't state with any certainty that my actions were the difference between life and death. In that handful of exceptions, all but one or two were saved simply by applying the techniques that any John Q. Citizen with a basic first aid course could have done. Ask your instructor if you don't believe it's true. They'll tell you the same thing.

The reality of the profession
The reality of your profession isn't exciting rescues and cardiac arrest resuscitations twice a shift. Your reality will be dialysis transfers and people who can't poop. It will be toothaches at 3:00 am, and you'll have to maneuver your stretcher around five parked cars to get to the front door, and weave your way through five able-bodied drivers to get to the patient with a complaint so minor you can't believe they called 911 for it.

So why, if you're not going to save all that many lives, should you even bother?

You should bother because EMS is a calling. Even when you leave EMS, it never really leaves you. It's what Henry David Thoreau meant when he said, "Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still."

You should bother because, even if we're not saving lives, what we do matters. It matters in ways unnoticed by us, to people you may not even remember tomorrow.

You should bother, because EMTs are privileged to play in life's great game. Too many unlucky people watch the action thunder by, stuck at a desk, or watching it on television at home.

You should bother, because it's the little things that matter. Most of your patients are ignorant of your skills. Few of them understand the technology you wielded so expertly. But they'll remember the smile you gave them, or the way you tucked the blanket in to ward away winter's chill, or the way you stood in the rain, getting drenched as you held the umbrella over them as your partner loaded them in the rig. They'll remember calm competence, and gentle speech.

They'll remember the joke you made to lighten the tension. They'll remember those things and more, and they'll remember your face long after you've forgotten theirs.

You'll be remembered
They'll remember you because, even though they were just another call to you, you were a major player in a defining event in their lives. They'll come up to you, years after the fact, and say, "I remember you. You take care of me when I had my heart attack."

And likely all you did was apply oxygen and take them to the hospital. Maybe you helped them with another dose of nitro or encouraged them to take an aspirin — really nothing they couldn't have done themselves. But you're the one they remembered, and you're the one they thanked.

You should bother, because in the tapestry of human existence, you get to contribute your own unique stitch. You get to make your mark in ways that cannot be quantified on a spreadsheet or a profit and loss statement. Not everyone gets to touch the life of another, but EMTs do.

You should bother, because when people are at their most vulnerable, they will invite you into their homes and tell you things they won't even tell their priest. And they'll expect you to make it better somehow. I'm not sure you understand now how profound an honor that is, but hopefully one day you will.

The question is, can you be worthy of that honor?

If you think so, then welcome to EMS. Do us proud.

-Kelly Grayson"


Verbal vomit in 3...2...1... Let the wandering thoughts begin!

So I'm talking to one of my best friends, whom I have known for 20+ years (good Lord...) and we're answering that age old question: how's it going? I tell her how it's going and she says "I'm sure that's a tough place to be, but you're gonna grow from it." I responded with "Dude, I can't take anymore personal growth. I'm like, Dear God, please, no more character building experiences."

That got me to thinking about character...

char·ac·ter [kar-ik-ter]
1. the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
2. one such feature or trait; characteristic.
3. moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.
4. qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.
5. reputation: a stain on one's character.

Helen Keller said "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
Lawrence G. Lovasik said "Strength of character means the ability to overcome resentment against others, to hide hurt feelings, and to forgive quickly." 

All that being said, or read, rather, is there such a thing as too much character building? I mean, let's say someone has a really rough life. Just blow after blow after blow. They're kicked when they're down and when they get up the rug just gets pulled out from under them... But they keep a good attitude, stay positive, keep working hard. They have "character" up the wazoo. When is enough enough? 

I suppose life really is just a series of ups and downs. Sometimes there are far more downs. And I suppose that since beauty is in the eye of the beholder (I wonder how many more cliches I can fit into this post...), perhaps ups and downs are different for each individual person. 
Suddenly it all becomes clear to me

I was reminded of a conversation I had had with my mom earlier in the week. I was commenting on how people say "I don't have money for [ _____ ]" or "Man, I am broke" and in my mind, broke means, well, broke. No money. Nadda. Zip. Nil. Not "my bank account dipped below $2k, man I'm broke." 
My mom pointed out that people have different definitions for things. Broke to me means something completely different to a lot of my friends and family.

Along that same train of thought, a trial for someone else might be easy for me, and vice versa. 

I think this is why sometimes I lack sympathy when listening to others talk about their troubles. If it isn't something that was/is difficult for me, it's tough for me to not think "Suck it up, you pansy" or "life isn't fair, I suggest you stop whining about it." 

Buuuuut this is something I'm working on. 
YAY for personal growth! WOO character building! (said no one ever...)

I Am Happiest

I am happiest

                              with a good song,
    a hot bath,
and a warm cup of tea.

I am happiest
                          When I can be alone
                And be completely happy
Being me.

These are the times I am happiest.

When The Fog Lifts

It's an amazingly free feeling when a funky mood lifts. The past few weeks have been so great! And not because any situations have changed, but because my attitude has.

I've been spending a lot of time thinking lately. Really examining my choices, actions and motivations. I've also been thinking quite a bit about the people that have come into my life and left or come into my life and stayed. I'm grateful for every single person. Without those experiences with those people, I wouldn't be who I am today.

Passive aggression is something I've always struggled with and I'm learning to let go of my anger and the hurt I have allowed others to cause me. It's enlightening!

That being said, I still think about, care for and miss a few of those people that have come into my life and left. But dealing with those thoughts and the missing them is helping me to grow even further. One person in particular is dealing with family stuff right now, and that's exactly where they need to be. (If you're reading this, you know who you are and I'm so proud of you for doing what you're doing... I still miss you though!)

I've been dragging my feet long enough about the medic stuff. I might be terrified to mess up, but it's time to face the fear and conquer it. I simply can't deny the calling on my life or the love I have for EMS.

Slowly but surely, I'm getting there... One step at a time. Next step, AMR and Rural Metro. :) I just keep reminding myself that life is NOT about the destination and I'm learning to find joy and appreciation in the journey.