Max, Frankie, and I just got back from our daily walk, and Frankie is just furious! Some little boy called Frankie a "Cha wah wah". Frankie wants everyone to know he's a Dachshund, not some "Cha wah wah".
The boy's misconception leads to the many misconceptions about what's it like to be a Paramedic. I get that question, from time to time, "What's it like to be Paramedic"? I've thought it over, and I have a few ideas, that might help for those not in EMS to understand.
"What's it like being a Paramedic?"
Well, it's sometimes like being a taxi driver. You are sent to a stranger's home to give that person a ride, sometimes the most important ride of their life. You go no matter when, where and what the weather is doing. Your passenger may be drunk, high, or even violent.
But unlike taxi drivers, Paramedics and EMTs don't get tips, and Taxi drivers don't usually have to write a long detailed reports for each passenger they pick up.
Being a paramedic is something like running on a treadmill. No matter how fast you go, or how hard you work, you feel like you aren't getting anywhere. People still drink and drive, do stupid things with dangerous equipment, still smoke, even when they are on supplimental Oxygen. Every day you go to work, you know that you'll most likely see the same product of stupidity that you've seen hundreds of times before.
Being a Paramedic is something like being a counselor. You sit, and listen to people as they are having the worst day of their lives. You hold the hand of an elderly patient who doesn't remember what day it is. You hear curses, ramblings, excuses, and you hear the wail of a mother who's child isn't coming home. You are the sounding board for those who have no one else to talk to. You are the visitor for the lonely, and the buffer for family fights.
It's also like being a Cardiologist, who must read and correctly interpret ECGs in just a few moments. You are a phlebotomist, who starts IV's and draws blood, but in the back of a moving and swaying ambulance at 75 mph. You must know how much of a drug to give, and estimate the weight of a random person off the street. You must know about the electrical system of the heart, and how to restore a beat to a heart that has lost it's own.
What's it like being a Paramedic? It's getting the responsibility of a doctor, but only a tiny fraction of the pay. It's getting all the danger of a police officer, but no bullet resistant vest, and no sidearm. It's getting spit on, kicked at, swung on, and threatned with lawsuits, all because you responded to a call for help. It's still making house calls, at 3 AM when someone has a headache. It's standing on a freezing Interstate Higway, in heavy snow, while tractor trailers whizz by, trying to remove enough twisted metal to remove a person from what was a car.
Being a Paramedic is a thankless, underpaid, and overstressed job, but it's one that gets into the blood. Although I complain sometimes, there's nothing else I would rather be doing. Despite all the trials and tribulations, there is nothing like saving a life. There's nothing like the feeling one gets from shaking the hand of someone who a few weeks ago was without a heartbeat, and now is with his family. There's nothing like getting a card from a child who apologizes for "trying to bite you" when you treated her dislocated shoulder.
What's it like being a Paramedic? Like nothing else on Earth.