No Thanks Needed
“I didn’t become an EMT to have a front-row seat to other people’s tragedies. I did it because I knew the world was bleeding and so was I, and somewhere inside I knew the only way to stop my own bleeding was to stop someone else’s.”
There’s no possible way to accurately describe what it’s like to work as an EMT on an ambulance. It’s a career that requires split second decisions and those decisions can and are life changing in many different areas. This was a career that I had fallen head over heels in love with. Please keep in mind that anyone in the EMS system that gets called out is not because someone is having a good day. The same thing for seeing a therapist. No one seeks out a therapist just to go in session and say, “Hey, everything is going great. All I wanted to do was pay a co-pay.”
For me working in the EMS system only for a year still had big consequences. The things I saw in that short year still affect me today deeply. Companies that own this type of service whether they be hospital based or privately owned are suppose to offer stress debriefing after difficult calls. However, I worked for a company that was more concerned with getting shifts covered rather than the emotional and physical well being of their employees which I’m sure was pretty standard in the late 90s.
The year that I worked I developed PTSD as a result of everything that I saw. Some are effected deeply by this and some have less of these effects. Neither of which are right or wrong. PTSD is cold and heartless in its effects and can affect anyone at anytime. I and many others saw human bodies in conditions that no human eye should ever encounter. Yes I chose that career but anyone who enters a career like that are going to see the cruel ways that humans treat others and the consequences of poor choices. And then you also see instances where accidents have sometimes devastating effects. Who does this type of job? Well someone has to do it and I felt incredibly drawn to do this work despite the low wages, long hours and effects on the human psyche. Living in a very abusive situation at this same time left me with no one to talk to without judgment. I also never felt like I could talk with my co-workers because of the machoesque attitudes that were front and center most days. Maybe this was their own way of dealing with things but I needed a release and I never found it there.
Very seldom do you ever truly reap the benefits of such horrible scenes. But there was this one time where I felt that my hard work was done with an outcome that I could smile about. He was a young 7 year-old boy who was heading to his big brother’s birthday party about an hour away. His mom stopped to fill up with gas while he messed around inside the gas station store. Mom was busy with another sibling and making sure the car got filled up with fuel. But this day something caught the eye of this 7 year-old little boy. There was a mechanic shop right across the road. Whatever his reasoning was at the time is unclear but this little boy darted across the busy road only to be hit by a drunk drivers side mirror on his head. The child went down and we got the call.
We were told that the call involved a child and that it was serious. My own stepchild was also 7 years-old at the time so this one was going to be difficult. I just had no idea how difficult it would be. Upon arrival the mother was noticeably hysterical while her child was laying on the unforgiving road. My partner said, “Dana we’ve got to get out of here he’s bad.” So, load and go we did and his mom still hysterically crying was in the front with me. I think we made it to the hospital in about 3 minutes. But this call no matter what our efforts would be left in the hands of God and the universe. I couldn’t leave this situation until I found out if this child was going to make it. I stayed in the trauma room among all of the chaos of a severe traumatic injury. He was showing some very disheartening signs that this injury would be his last. They worked on him for a while but I had to leave prematurely because we had another call to take. I almost couldn’t think because I wanted to stay with him. I guess somehow I thought that if I stayed that he would have a better chance. Irrational as that might seem I just didn’t want to leave him.
A few days later I went back to check on the boy and his mother. The boy having a major brain injury was still in a medically induced coma to give his brain time to heal. His mother told me that he was going to be flown to a hospital in Jackson, MS to receive specialty services for his injury. In my gut, I just knew that the long term outcome would not be favorable. We lost contact but I never forgot this little family. This scene was one that I would replay many times over the next 10 years.
We would bump into each other only by chance maybe once or twice. I found out that he was in a wheelchair and that the medical bills reached approximately $1,000,000 but he was alive. I saw he and his mother she and told him, “She’s one of the people that picked you up on the ambulance.” His beautiful little face lit up and said, “You helped me?” Starting to get choked up but swallowing those tears into my soul I said, “Yes baby I was there.” That answer seemed to be enough and I said goodbye once again.
A few more years went by without anymore contact. And then at the 10 year mark I received a call from out the blue. It was his mother. In my gut I was thinking that he had died due to complications from his disability. But his mother said, “Dana this is_____. He wanted me to call you because he’s graduating high school now and wants you to see him walk for the first time.” Frozen my thoughts were, “Wait what? Walking?!!!!” The only thing I could say was, “I’m there!! Give me the time and place.” So she did.
I immediately explained everything to Mel since we were now together and asked her if she would go with me. She agreed and when the time came we both went to this event. She was taking pictures and I was down on the football field where the graduation ceremony was being conducted. I stood with his family and prepared myself for what I was about to see. What I saw was the most courageous 17 year-old boy who didn’t let a set of horrible circumstances stop him from achieving his goal of one day walking before a crowd of hundreds of people.
Chill bumps and emotion overcame me and a sense of pride that this little boy wanted someone who met him under difficult conditions to be there again for the most important day of his life. Honestly, there’s no way that he should’ve lived but that decision was not mine but was something granted from God. My life was changed that day yet again. He reiterated through his actions again the importance of never giving up.
After the ceremony was over and he was sitting back in his wheelchair, I walked to him to tell him how proud I was of him and to tell him goodbye. He told me, “Ms. Dana thank you for everything you did for me.” And I told that little warrior as I looked into his eyes, “No thanks needed. I would do it again in a heartbeat!” I gave both he and his mother hugs and a little kiss on his forehead and then turned to walk away. My heart was overflowing with joy and I concluded that all the images and calls that still bothered me was worth every penny to be able to have this God given opportunity to witness.
“Life is about making an impact not making an income.”