I am not immune

I’m going to make an announcement:

I am not immune to the things that I thought I was immune to.

You see folks, I am human, and as a human I am fallible, faulty, and flawed… Just like everyone else. I have emotions, thoughts, feelings, vibes, good stuff, and bad stuff that I carry with me inside this noisy brain of mine. I am not immune to the events that affect my psyche, nor am I immune to carrying the baggage that I obtain or the sadness that splashes on to me in my daily travels.

Of course you know that, right? Because for the longest time, I sure didn’t seem to.

I’m a long-time full-time professional EMS person and as such, I thought I was immune to so much of the stuff that I see on the streets every day. I’ve always said that I will jump right in and work in whatever conditions the job and my life seems to throw at me. I just tried never to get any of it on me personally. Death, destruction, abuse, trauma, pain, sadness, loss, grief… all that stuff seems both very real and yet still surreal to me.  I thought that I could bear witness to unfathomable human tragedy on a daily basis without any problem. For many years I still seemed to myself to be able to function normally. I thought I was ok with all of this.

And no… no I wasn’t that’s abundantly clear to me now.

You may have noticed that the blog’s been silent lately, and well… that’s for personal reasons. If you’ve been following me on Twitter and Facebook you probably know why I’ve been silent, but on the blog here I’m just going to say that I’ve had quite the personal upheaval. This, combined with a huge change at work has left me little time to sit and think about writing. It’s not that I didn’t want to write, because I truly love this blog and all of the fantastic people it has brought into my life. I just didn’t want to write crappy or say something I’d regret… so I remained largely silent on here.

I have, however, learned some things and have some things to say:

First of all, to my guys at the Rescue Squad: You are more than my coworkers, you are my brothers. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I wouldn’t have gotten through this without you. Family doesn’t begin to describe it. Thank you.

Second of all, to my local friends and Family: Ditto the above. I’ve gotten the chance recently to reintroduce myself to all of my old friends. I’ve missed you guys. Thanks for being you and thanks for being there for me.

And Third, to my blog followers, fans, and interweb friends:

I chanced to look at some of the facebook profiles of the people I’ve been talking to online lately. It’s amazing to me how many mutual friends I have with people I may have never met in person or have only met a few times. The names I see out there on the web are common names in my daily life. Since I started this little place on the interwebs the relationships I’ve been able to make with hundreds if not thousands of fantastic EMS people are amazing. You’ve all been there for me as well and I am literally so appreciative of it. You’ve rejuvenated my EMS career and shown me that there is indeed a future for us all in this business. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it… it’s amazing.

It’s too common for us EMS people to ignore the crap in our own lives and simply drive on towards the next call. We shake off whatever is going on in our personal lives, shake off the sadness and grief that splashes onto us from the streets, and drive on like nothing has happened. We are mission-focused and are confident in our abilities and our immunity. I sure was. I ignored the bad stuff in my own life and focused on my responsibilities. Just like I would have gone on to the next job after a tragic call, I ignored a lot of things and kept my eyes forward. All EMS people tend to do that… we probably have to. The thick shells we develop are most probably a defense mechanism. Personally, psychologically, and physically we ignore what we need and focus on meeting the needs others place upon us. The long hours, the hard calls, the low pay… they do take a toll on us and we have to do more for our own well being than simply paying it lip service. None of us are immune. All of us are human.

It is shocking to me when I look around me at my EMS friends and coworkers and see how much strain they place upon themselves and yet are still able to take the next call. Nobody I know in EMS takes care of themselves like they should. All of them ignore their own well-being. I did that too, and even when I say that I’m going to focus in on taking care of me for a while, I feel selfish.

Well take it from me, you’re not selfish for putting your own needs first every now and then. It will make you a better person, and a better provider. If I could do things over again, I would have met some of my own needs and I bet that things might have changed for me… but I didn’t, and I can’t… and that’s ok. We all have new beginnings in our lives and this is my opportunity to do just that.

To my EMS people out there: Evaluate yourselves right now. Refocus on what’s truly important… don’t play SuperMedic because you’re just as human as I am. I also am issuing a challenge to everyone out there: Just as my coworkers became my surrogate family after my issues and watched me to make sure that I was ok, you all have to do that for your coworkers and friends as well. We depend on you, you should depend on us too.

Stay safe out there.

  • Great post, and so absolutely true. I recently remembered this myself after a major personal life change.

  • I follow you on Twitter and read the blog – I know what you are going through and can see that you are fighting your way put the other side. Well all power to your elbow EMS brother!

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention I am not immune | Life Under the Lights -- Topsy.com()

  • Hvpemt75

    Very well written. This hits home especially in the wake of the tragic passing of our co-worker on Monday.

  • Squeak571

    We were always taught to take care of our crews and our rigs first. Perhaps we should add ‘take care of ourselves’ to that list during the EMT/Medic classes. Good luck my friend.

  • Pvemt

    I know where your coming from .Having personal experience with what you wrote and an instructor , i always put aside room for the very same topic .Funny at least 1 person who has had some type of ems experience comes forward and tells me they know what im talking about and thanks for bringing it up ,now they know they are not alone .Thanks for sharing !

  • Romansten9

    Enjoyed the article. The sentence: It’s too common for us EMS people to ignore the crap in our own lives and simply drive on towards the next call.” made me think of something else. I’m amazed how many EMS people are involved in the vary things that cause much of what we hate in EMS. We hate to see the destruction caused by alcohol (and other drugs) yet how many EMS people participate in these destructive habits? It clearly goes beyond just an unhealthy way to cope with our jobs. Many in EMS choose to use drugs like alcohol as a “recreation.” I entered EMS over 20 years ago after my dad was killed by a drunk driver. My dad was also an alcoholic himself. I wanted to make a difference. It would be unheard of for me to call myself a professional, yet drink myself. The two (EMS and drinking) are completely incompatible. People often kid themselves and say, “well, I don’t drink and drive” Well, alcohol still destroys marriages, friendships as well as organs in the human body. The only time alcohol is healthy is if it is limited to ONE drink a day.

    So why do we allow drinking to be connected to EMS events? How does this look to the public? How unprofessional can we be? We pick up your loved one killed by alcohol one day, and the next day, you see us drinking at the EMS conference. When are we going to wake up to our hypocritical ways?

  • Piishii

    Well said. I used to work in a busy 911 system, for a company that didn’t believe in helping their crews after a bad call(s). Now I wish I had sought help on my own, but like you, I thought I was dealing with it just fine. Turns out, I wasn’t. Now I’m on that long road back…trying to get my head screwed back on straight.
    Thank you for saying what every one of us needs to hear.

  • rat115

    Thanks for bringing this out. We’ve all got to learn and remember that we’ve got to take care of ourselves or we can’t help others.

    I’m learning that hard lesson right now, too. We all joke about being terrible patients. That’s because we don’t take that time to take care of ourselves. We look too much forward at times to think about what the mild looking injury or illness can do to us down the road.

    We all need to remember that our safety is critical to our team and our patients. That doesn’t matter if we’re talking about scene safety, debriefing and getting help after a bad call, or taking the time to rest and recouperate that we need from an injury or illness.

    God bless and help you with the things going on in your life!

  • Nodak

    There is a current anti smoking ad on midwest tv using live monkeys on your back. I feel we all have some good and some bad monkeys that we all carry. Some days we feed the bad ones more (last drink august 18 1986, the death of an EMT partner while interfacilty transfer went you are the medic) than the good ones (toooooooo many to list). There are days that the two bad ones want to control and my wife gets the brunt of it. I can’t tell her what it is as it would not be fair. After nearly 30 years in EMS I can not see the world and who I am in any other way. I am involved in multiple communties also public elected office and state advisory boards. I plan to retire from this secondary world, as I am retired from the Federal Government, just don’t know when. I have had back surgery in the past and keep hoping the another injury will be the end. Until then Everyone have a safe day!

  • Amandalemt

    Great post.Selflessness is a necessary qual for good EMS providers but too often there’s 0 balance & we give everything to others w/ 0 left over for ourselves & then, as you mentioned when we are forced to take care of ourselves we feel guilty. Thank you for the reminder. Thoughts & prayers are w/ you my EMS brother.

  • “It’s too common for us EMS people to ignore the crap in our own lives and simply drive on towards the next call. We shake off whatever is going on in our personal lives, shake off the sadness and grief that splashes onto us from the streets, and drive on like nothing has happened.”

    You know, Chris, that comment really stood out to me. When I get stressed, or when my personal life goes bad, or has gone bad, what have I done? Growing up, I went to the station and hopped on the rig. Now, with where I am in life, I just simply turn on the pager and wait for that inevitable open shift page to come out.

    While my full time position is VERY stressful, there is no place I feel more comfortable, more at peace, or more at home than in the chaos of an EMS call.. This career produces sacrifices. We put our personal lives, and our personal dilemmas aside for the needs and well being of complete strangers.

    I know you have been going through some hard times, my friend, but stay strong, stay the course, do the right thing, be the better person, and all will become clear…

    Have faith.. and know that you’ve got friends who will listen and support you..


  • tammy

    Hello, My name is Tammy. I am a 52 year old career Paramedic and Paramedic Instructor who was put out on Disability in 2009. I live with my 22 year old son. We live in North Carolina. I write this in the hopes of getting help from kind, more fortunate people. I spent 20 years helping and teaching people as a Paramedic before I had to go out on Disability. I make $933.00 a month on Disability. My rent takes over half that. My electricity takes another $250.00. I make ‘too much’ to get Medicaid, so I have Medicare which still costs a lot for Doctor’s visits and Medications….and I am on a lot. I am not eligible for food stamps because I make ‘too much’. I have exhausted every avenue available to me and cannot find help anywhere. My son is desperately searching for a job, which is all we would need to make it, but has had no luck. No one is hiring. He has applied for work everywhere in our city, nearby cities, and online. It’s just impossible in this economy to find a job.
    I am asking for ANY donations anyone could make. I am trying to get enough money to pay my rent up a few months in advance so that we can eat and get my medications until my son can find employment. Any amount that anyone can make would be a blessing and greatly appreciated!! I am not used to asking strangers for help, and this is very hard for me to do, but I am desperate. I have no family that can help me financially, and the Government will do nothing for me beyond my Disability check…which I worked very hard for all my life.

    Please, please help me if you can…any amount will help.

    Please mail any donation to:

    Tammy Peaden

    2509 Charles Blvd., Apt. 72

    Greenville, NC

    Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please pass this along to anyone that might want to help me…Thank you!

  • Guest

    The 12 lead comment is ludicrous. Valuable time on scene for a 12 lead for nausea and vomiting as your system requires (trust me I know) is valuable time you don’t need to spend on scene acquiring a non-diagnostic EKG that will be repeated the second you walk into one of your three receiving facilities. Unless a presentation has a legitimate chance of being cardiac related, a 3 lead will be sufficient. Your region doesn’t want you to cure your patient, drive them to the hospital like the big red taxi wee are.