Someone said this to me the other day. Again, a few days later, the same thing was said with slightly different verbiage, but the message was the same.

I'm not cut out for EMS. I'm not the right "caliber" of person to do this job. I get "wonky" after bad calls. I'm not the one for the job.

Wait a second? Then what was up with that baby in 2009 who stopped breathing? Why was I able to walk into that house, take that small, precious child into my arms and without doing anything other than lifting his arm to feel for a brachial pulse before beginning CPR, have that baby let out a wail that deflated the tension out of the room. Did I cry after leaving that call? Yeah. Did I feel a little shaky for a little while after that call? Yeah. Is that normal. Yeah!

If I left the scenes of calls not feeling anything, you would be right. If I was calloused and unfeeling, I wouldn't be right for this "job". Every day there is a chance that you will see something that will change you forever. You go into EMS knowing that. You get it. It doesn't mean that it's easy when it happens. When someone in EMS breaks down or has emotions or even physical symptoms after a particularly tough call, they are having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. This isn't stuff that people see on a regular basis. This isn't stuff people WANT to see on a regular basis, and EMS people are included. We don't want people to get hurt. We don't want people to be sick. We don't want people to die...but we sure as hell want to be there to make all of those situations better if we can, and if we can't, we want to help the people left behind. We see death. We smell it. We feel it in our hearts. Someone who was a stranger moments earlier, becomes a part of our life quickly and when their time is up, that's not always okay with us. It's okay if we cry. It's okay if we react. It's normal. It's when we don't feel a pang of sadness or even anger that there is a problem.

If I wasn't cut out for EMS, I would know it. I wouldn't have hung around for the last 6 years going on calls, honing my skills, learning as much as I possibly can to make myself a better responder. I wouldn't become filled with adrenaline upon hearing sirens. I wouldn't perk up when I see an ambulance and say a silent prayer for the crew on it and whoever they are going to help. I wouldn't curse fate for not letting me be at a call that my brothers and sisters are struggling with.

I'm not the right caliber of person for this? I've rolled out of bed at 4am and I've calmed the wife of a man having a violent reaction due to a low blood sugar. And by calmed her, I mean I sat on the bathroom floor with the door shut next to her while she cried as the rest of the crew worked to elevate his sugar and get him into the ambulance. She was scared. He was violent and he's never been like that with her. The man she was married to for 40 years became a monster in a short time and it left her reeling. I might not have had much to do with patient care on that scene, but I know that I helped a person that early morning.  I've left my family at the dinner table on Christmas day to go administer high flow O2 to a COPD patient who I've been to many times and refused to ignore because it was Christmas.

If you think I'm not the right "caliber" for this job, then please, tell me what it takes to be considered the right caliber. If I have to be heartless, I guess you're right. If I have to have such a thick skin that nothing I see can penetrate, then you're right. What I do need is a good support system to help me through the hard calls that wake me up at night. I need someone I can talk to when I'm sad and rely on when I need a friend. Maybe you are the one who isn't quite the right "caliber" to be my friend. Maybe you aren't cut out to love someone who's heart belongs to EMS. Maybe you are where the problem lies.

As far as I'm concerned, when the tones drop, I'll be there. This is what I love. This is what I'm good at. You can have my pager back when you pry it out of my cold dead hands. So what do you think of that?

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Comment by Timothy John Dodson on August 5, 2014 at 7:16pm

Well-stated, Glena. I have no idea who accused you of not being cut out for EMS (nor do I want to know), but THEY are the ones who should take a look in the mirror and ask THEMSELVES that very same question. Because it appears that they have some serious personal issues that need to be resolved. 

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