This has been a truly bizarre month. Emotionally speaking I’ve been all over the place. This is what happens when you spend a lot of time pondering your place in the grand scheme of things or, where you would like that place to be.
For the last ten years I have been working with the ambulance service and have been qualified as a paramedic for around six or seven. The job has changed immensely to the point that I no longer recognize my role anymore. If you ask Joe on the street what a paramedic does he’ll probably tell you a paramedic saves lives. A paramedic goes to nasty car crashes to un-mangle people or appears out of the blue to resuscitate a dying loved one. I used to believe all that too and although these things do happen, it’s not very often and on the odd occasion I do get called to things like this there is rarely anything that can be done. Here we come to the heart of the matter. I find I’m asking myself ‘What good am I actually doing?’ more and more often. Sure, plenty of people are pleased to see me when I roll up to their house after they called 999 but, why wouldn’t they be? I get there super fast, listen with sympathy to their plight and then proceed to offer any help I can. Broadly speaking, I can categorize virtually any callout I go to and pigeon hole it into one of three automated responses. These are:
- I pick someone up off the floor that wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get up themselves. Chances are there is a big strapping relative nearby who could have done this himself but won’t. People are too afraid of moving someone for fear of aggravating any perceived injury. In reality it takes me just five seconds to assess if injury is present. I do this using a very sophisticated method of assessment that goes something like this. ‘Hi, so have you got any pain?’ If they’re not injured, I lift them. If they are and it needs more than a plaster, it’s off to hospital.
- I arrive to find the patient does not need an ambulance, never did and is either bemused as to why I am there or, more likely, is over the moon that someone has rushed to their aid for such a trivial thing. I will spend the next hour trying to refer this patient to the correct service.
- The patient/relative deliberately called 999 because the problem needs immediate attention. This type of call equates to about one in four. More often than not, we cannot treat this patient’s condition at home and so transport them to hospital. Rarely, the patient is very unwell/dying and there’s not a not a lot we can do anyway. Why not? Well, there are two reasons for that too.
- The patient has been involved in a traumatic accident. Invariably, their survival depends on the degree of injury and has nothing to do with the skill of the paramedic. We might buy time, but that’s about it. Fate is inexorable.
- They are unwell/dying because of the culmination of a lifetime of poor decision making. The morbidly obese, the sedentary sloth, the lifelong smoker, alcoholic, drug abuser etc. Included in this group are those who never had the opportunity to make poor decisions – those born with chronic conditions, or their genetic predisposition renders them a ticking time bomb.
This is a generalization of course but for the most part I believe it hold true. My point is that there is rarely a day when I feel I am making a difference because quite simply, fate or the patient’s life up until that point, won’t let me.
So, that’s why I’m leaving. I’m going to remain on bank and maintain my registration but it’s time to call it a day. Life is too short to spend a chunk of it miserable. Anyone who has ever had depression can tell you that. Sometimes you have to do what makes you happy. Money is not everything so long as you have enough to keep the wolf from the door.
Think of it this way. There will come a time when you look back at your life and examine what you’ve achieved. What do you want to look back on? Will it be the life of a man/woman who spent a significant chunk of their life miserable? Or will be one where you smile at those decisions that took you somewhere else and allowed you to live a more enjoyable life?
And remember, if you did take the leap and try something else, what is the absolute worst that can happen? Ask yourself that, and make your decision. I hope you’ll find that even if the worst were to happen, it won’t compare to a life half lived.