We are paramedics!

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ambulance

Sir: Every time I tell someone what I do for a living I get the inevitable “What’s the worst thing you’ve seen?” And every time I have to relive a bunch of horrible moments I was witness to. Why? Because I can’t choose.

Was it the time I had to pull a dead child from his mother’s arms in order to perform CPR?

Maybe it was the time I had to tell an elderly man that the love of his life has died. Yes, died. I have to use that terrible word. I can’t tell him she passed away or is gone or is with God now.

We are taught to use the word “dead” or “died” in order to not confuse an already emotional situation.

Or was it the time I had to look a family friend in the eye and tell him how vital it was he get to the hospital to see his father, without telling him why? Patient confidentiality and all.

Or maybe it’s the calls I do day in and day out in nursing homes. Paying witness to the forgotten. Men and women lining the hallways hoping that today is the day someone remembers them.

Or the blank stare on the driver’s face as he sat patiently waiting for his legs to be freed from the wreckage?

Or the time I watched the spirit drain from that young man’s eyes as his friend’s dead body was being hauled off on a stretcher, and he realizes this is his fault.

Or the man swinging by his neck from his garage rafters?

Or the time I had to determine if I was looking at brain matter or clotted blood?

This is only a handful of a thousand stories we as Chatham-Kent paramedics have witnessed. But that’s not the worst of it.

Then there is the not-so horrifying. How about the time I was attending to a child in the back of my unit and was struck by a car that did not heed the lights and sirens? I was in the hospital for longer than my patient.

Or that time I had to spend two hours cleaning the blood from the back of my truck from a head injury?

Or dodging blood from the rag the intoxicated man was swinging around?

Then there was that time a drug addict kept spitting at me. Fun times. I still don’t know what diseases he tested positive for. Again, patient confidentiality. Yet, still not the worst of it.

Being disrespected daily from patients who abuse the health system. Those that are under the impression that if they call the ambulance for splinters and paper cuts that they can get a bed sooner.

Or the patient who is yelling at you that he pays your wages and is badgering you to do your job his way.

Or being called to the same house almost daily for a patient who verbally abuses you because he thinks it’s his right.

Or being called an “ambulance driver” and treated like a taxi despite your college degree and medical interventions. Again, not the worst of it.

How about missing the birth of my nephew because I was working that holiday Monday?

Or not being able to attend my daughter’s dance recital because I had a late call.

Or having to call my grandmother to tell her I can’t make it to grandpa’s funeral because I have a mandatory test.

Or missing Christmas, yet again, because someone has to work the holidays.

Or maybe it’s being told you are “emotionally unavailable” because you’ve learned how not to get personally involved.

How about being told you are “cold hearted” because you’ve learned not to be affected by what you see or feel?

Or not being able to talk to friends and family about a call that’s really bothering you? There’s that patient confidentiality again. Then there’s the physical aspect.

“No, kiddo I can’t push you on the swing, I hurt my back lifting” a guy who was faking back pain so he could get his hands on some narcotics.

Or having to quit physical activities you love because your knees just can’t handle it anymore from carrying 75 pounds of essential equipment up and down countless stairs. Nope. Still not the worst of it.

The worst of it? Being disregarded. Not being appreciated. Being made to feel irrelevant. Being treated as though we are replaceable. By those who are suppose to protect and guide us, by those who manage us and lead us, by those who are supposed to have the citizens’ best interest at heart.

Being treated as though what we do daily is not important. Our value being determined by a dollar amount.

By those making us beg to be seen and heard and explain why and how we make a difference.

Listening to the paramedic “chief” say he can’t discuss his plan for the future of your paramedics.

Paramedics have always taken a back seat to other emergency services, and we’ve always been content not being in the spotlight. We don’t see ourselves as heroes, nor do we want to. Because being recognized is not important to us, our patients are.

But to be disregarded? Now that, that’s the worst of it.

We are not replaceable. We council each other, advise each other, use each other as soundboards. We trust each other with our safety, in each other’s knowledge and ability to do the task at hand. We vent, we laugh, we share, we eat, we drink, we celebrate and we mourn together.

My fellow paramedics are not replaceable.

Yes, we signed up for this. Yes, we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We knew we would see the good, the bad and the ugly. We knew we were going to sacrifice our families, our bodies and our sanity.

Yes, we love it. And no, not one of us would have done it differently. Why? Because we were made for this. We carry those burdens, those scars with pride. And when it gets too heavy, we hold each other up. We are each other’s family, friends, confidants. We are partners.

This is not our job. This is our calling. This is not what we do. This is who we are.

We are paramedics.

Belinda Keith

Chatham-Kent

Comments

comments

99 COMMENTS

  1. Best most thorough job description of first responders paramedic unit person I have ever read ! More worthy of Order of Canada than all the sports & entertainment & TV workers who crowd that list…

  2. Very,very well put Belinda! I hope this opens everyone's eyes to how important each and every one of you are to Chatham Kent! I truly hope that council makes the right choice Not based on money but on the lives of the people in out counties!

  3. I want to thankyou for expressing yourself so eloquently. I am sure your fellow paramedics appreciate your well written support. I have great respect for paramedics and all those that are front line in the health care system. I personally have experienced the knowledge and accuracy of paramedics within my family numerous times. Bravo and Thankyou!!!!

  4. Excellent letter Belinda, Like you I've given myself to this passion for 27 years. I've had great times, I've had bad times, but everytime, I've had my partner(s). Those who do, will understand, those who don't won't. Keep up the fight Belinda, we all have each others backs out there, no matter what jurisdiction we work in, we are ALL PARAMEDICS, and do what we can to make life a little easier for the residents of Ontario.

  5. Hi Belinda Keith! Great job on writing this…..hats off to you!!!! The paramedics (you) ALL do a great job. I`ve had you guys at my parents while I`m there and you (paramedics) do an awesome job with the public. The paramedics are very kind, respectful, talk nicely to the patient, and talk to family about info. On arrival, they speak to individual waiting to get all info about patient then start there job. Thank You for being a part of Chatham Kent Paramedic team!!!!!

  6. Thank you for sharing
    The people of Chatham Kent need to pay attention to what is going on and speak up on behalf of the Paramedics.
    They need YOUR support NOW
    You should not allow one man's (chief stubing) incongruous opinion put the emergency system at risk
    It will be to late when you have made a 911 for a family member that is truly having a medical emergency and NOT have someone
    Qualified showing up to TRY and care for them and certainly can't!!

  7. Full respect for paramedics! Appreciate all that you do and your service! I have had to use it for different family members and friends and always very compassionate, caring individuals came to help. You guys are awesome!

  8. Belinda, what a beautiful written letter. Your absolutely right that a lot of people don't understand the job of a PARAMEDIC. I spent twenty years as an ambulance communicator and I know what you go through on a daily basis. I truly respect and appreciate the work you do. Hopefully the public will too. Karen Hill

  9. If it weren't for the great paramedics out there, we would be stuck yes stuck in many ways, you people always go above and beyond when caring for patients especially when transporting from one Hospital to another like they did with me for heart surgery they deserve respect and so much more thanks to all of those who have been one to come to my rescue on a few occasions….

  10. this made me cry , how awful for you who work in this field to witness all the sadness and heartbreak this job can bring and not be appreciated , I hope somewhere in your memories there are a few that make you smile and let you know you made a difference . Thank You

  11. As I have previously stated I believe in Option 'B' – if anyone deserves to be Municipal employees its our Paramedics. I don't thing they will ask for the same pay rate as Firefighters or Police Officers and I'm fed up being told 'you have to add 28.9% to their pay scale to cover sick pay, pensions etc' – just read what this paramedic is telling you then reply to this comment telling why you don't agree 1

  12. a paramedics job cannot be replaced by a fireman or anyother job personnel that thinks they can do more than 1 job efficiently at a time. The reality of a paramedics job is enduring and heartfilling to say the least. Good luck with your teams battle. We as retired residence of Chatham-Kent hope you all keep your well deserved jobs. Michael & Betty Leslie.

  13. wow some people should read this to get a bigger outlook on really what a ambulance attendants jobs aspect really is and does, a very great article, thank you for sharing..

  14. You should be respected, not everyone could do your job. I know I couldn't. I love helping people but couldn't do or see the horrible things you do and see. Happy to have you around to help us

  15. There is no way that I could NOT respect any one of our medics. I had to use them 4 times when my husband was alive, and there concern was first for him and then me. best people i know working in ALL situations. My hat is off to you!!

  16. Thank you to all paramedics everywhere for everything they do everyday. Those of us that have loved ones that make these sacrifices, need to take special care of our very special paramedics

  17. My name is Neville Gough I live in Windsor. l am Ninety years old . Paramedics saved my life Many times. every one should know how skilled and dedicated they are . be thankfull that they are there instantly , to in many cases " Save our lives ' Thank You

  18. Bravo. Well Said Belinda. I have so much respect for all of you! My son is a Paramedic and a lot of his TRUE friends are also paramedics. They are all amazing human beings! I get very emotional when I read articles like this because I know what long hard hours they work. Some days without lunches or breaks and a lot of times my son works 13 or 13.5 hour days because of late calls. I know! I also hate when an ambulance is in traffic trying to get through and the cars don't pull over to let them do their job; instead they try to outrun the ambulance by not pulling over. Some day it may be one of their loved ones in one of those ambulances. I respect all of you with all my heart.

  19. Wow Belinda! This is a truly amazing heartfelt article. It made me cry. I feel the raw emotion and love you have for your profession. You are a wonderful Paramedic and you all deserve recognition.

  20. Very well said & well done. Don't know how you do what you do & carry on through the rest of your shift. I totally agree & understand about those in charge who sit in their offices, get paid the big bucks & fire orders. They don't see your patients so they don't care! THANKS to all of you for caring.

  21. Well said, Belinda. You are very brave. It is not always easy to do or say the right thing. Your fellow paramedics must be very proud of you for speaking up on behalf of them all.

  22. As someone who has seen first-hand how the life of a paramedic affects them and their families, I have to tell you this is one of the most perfectly written accounts of the day to day life of a medic. I hope all of the paramedics in Chatham-Kent know how much they are appreciated, even if it doesn't seem that way. You have earned the respect of the citizens of CK again and again. Thank you for putting this so perfectly.

  23. Perfect…….you are 100% on point. I have been there, I have done that. Thank you for your honesty and putting pen to paper. You are not alone. Dean F Ruston ACP Toronto (Retired)

  24. Well said Belinda! In this day and age where health care has become big business, it's comforting to know there are still front line workers who value human life over the almighty dollar. Thank you for pouring your heart and soul into what you do! Job well done!

  25. I admire your strength , courage and ability to do what you do each and every day. Just know you are respected and appreciated even though there may be those that do not show it. Perhaps they feel inferior to your abilities. Thank you for all you do and all you have to witness. It can not be easy I'm sure.

  26. I want to say thankyou for your comments and yes for the things our paramedics do each and every day. The average person does not really understand what they do. Thank you again.and may God bless each one of you and keep you strong.

  27. Thank you for your service…….not just the Chatham-Kent paramedics, but paramedics everywhere. It takws a VERY SPECIAL ability to do your job. It is not one I would be able to do, but you are defiitely needed and appreciated by many. My mother-in-law had cause to call when she burned her face and other times when she couldn't breathe due to her COPD. Thank you one and all!

  28. My nephew is a paramedic in Chatham Kent, and I have the utmost respect for him, and when he comes home to his young family, he spends quality time with them. his job is never done and he wouldn't change his life.

  29. Well said Ms. Keith. Unfortunately I do not see it getting any better as more and more EMS systems are being run by office workers, bureaucrats, bean counters, and HR people who really do not understand what it is we do.

    Whenever I am asked this inevitable question, I just smile and say" my paycheque." Proud to walk the road with you.

  30. I first would like to say I have respect for some paramedics but mostly for the fire department that is a first response, they are the ones that revive these people but because of laws have to wait for paramedics to arrive so thank you fire fighters every where, thank you for saving these lives!

  31. Sadly, the public & your employer don't really give a shit. It's all window dressing …. It's similar to starving kids in Africa. It's sad, wish it were different. But in the end few of us (public) will actually step up & make/demand a meaningful difference. It's a similar situation in many, many ambulance serves across Canada.

  32. Beautiful letter. Paramedics have taken my kids to hospital at least a dozen times and I'm always in awe of their professionalism, competence, kindness and ability to keep everyone calm. Thanks for being there in our worst moments, and helping us live through them. Anyone know which level of government has proposed this decision? I would like to write to them directly as well.

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