When you ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up, you hear “I want to be a doctor.” “A nurse.” “A firefighter.” They want to help people. But do they really understand what we do?
Yes, we help people, but there is so much more. Most people’s point of reference for what we do is from television. House, Rescue Me, ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Emergency
and so on. They believe that we can save them all — that people can walk away with a mere scratch from the crash. But we know the ugly truth.
When people find out what we do, they have the same question. “How can you do that trauma stuff?” My question is: How can we explain it so you understand?
- Trauma is a passion. It's an intangible part of you, but it's there and very real. The adrenaline is pumping. You're in the zone. You know what needs to be done. You know what you need to do.
The next question is, “Do you ever cry?”
- During resuscitation, there is no time for tears. The tears come later. My usual answer is: "When I stop crying, it is time for me to stop."
The last question is, “What is the worst thing you've ever seen?”
- The majority of us have a particular patient that pops into our heads — the one you've thought about over and over. The what-if patient. The “should have, could have, would have” patient. The one that you dream about. The patient that haunts you.
One paramedic, who was talking to high school students with me, really summed it up well. Each scene, each patient, we give ourselves to them. Some take a piece of us that we'll never forget. We've all been there — telling patients to hang on, don’t give up. We held their hands as life slips away. We cried with the families. And we all have that one patient that we will never forget.
The “what if’s” will always be there. What if she had her seatbelt on? What if he was not on his cell phone? What if the child was in a car seat?
To pose it another way, what if there were no more senseless deaths? What if we didn't have to tell family members that their loved one died? What if...?
That's why we're all here, isn’t it? We all know in our hearts that we do it for the patient — the person in front of you. Not for the glory. Not for the recognition. For our patient. We know that this person in front of us is someone’s mom, husband, child or friend. Our patient is the passion for what we do.
There will be times when you think — why the heck do I do this? Then you get that one heartfelt thank-you. The thank-you that eases the frustration. The visits you get from the patients you saved. They are walking. They are smiling. It's because of what you did. And now life seems better.
And seriously, how many people can say “I save lives for a living,” and truly mean it? When you really stop and think about it, the kids are right. We do this all to help people, to help our patients.
Thank you for all that you do.