May 25, 2011

I am writing this blog post this morning from my favorite bar.  Its 7am, and I’m waiting for them to start serving breakfast.  According to the sign, it’s the “Best Breakfast in the City” and I’d tend to agree.  I’ve put a lot of money into this place over my years working here, and it’s been well worth it.

Eleven years ago this week, I started my career with the service that I currently work for and it’s been quite the ride.  When I started I was 22 and had just finished my paramedic student time.  I was waiting for my test date to come around so I could get myself upgraded and start my career as a paramedic, something that I had dreamed of doing for a long, long time.

As I stated in a post last week, ten years ago this month, I also graduated college.  That marked the start of my career as a full-time paramedic.  My work weeks were 60+ hours long, and I had to work some shifts that was viewed as “less desirable” due to my lack of seniority.  My very first shift was 3p-11p on Mondays and Tuesdays, and 7p-7a on Fridays and Saturdays.  The evening crew on my 8 hour shifts were your typical group, nothing really special.  We spent our evenings running here and there, and really didn’t have too much contact with each other simply due to the sheer volume of calls that we’d run.  The group that I got to work with on the weekends though was a different story all together.

We were the younger crowd.  I’d dare to say that the oldest of us was probably in their early 30’s and most of us were between the ages of 20 and 25.  When we worked, we traveled as a pack from post to post.  Our trucks had hackee sacks, decks of cards, frisbees, and plenty of other stuff to keep us occupied.  When the calls started coming in though, we were quick to pack it up and get the calls done.

There was a strong sense of camaraderie between the crews.  If someone had a bad call in a shady area of town, chances are you’d have another truck pull up behind yours just so you would have someone watching your back.  If there was a crew getting slammed and they were first up out of the ER, someone else would step up and pick up their call for them.  It was a great, fun environment to work in.

That carried over off the clock too.  On Tuesday nights, we’d end up at the bar sometime after 10pm and would usually close the place out together too.  Saturday mornings, we’d all end up here too to enjoy that “Best Breakfast” to share tales of the night before.

One of my favorite stories though involves one of our techs who couldn’t find a partner on a busy Saturday night:

Kevin was an electrical engineer by day, and a part time EMT on the weekends, and he was definitely one of the gang.  On this particular Saturday night, we were short, but Kevin couldn’t find himself a partner, so his shift was cut from the schedule and he was told not to come in.  Those of us who were working were running our tails off.  ER times were short, and we couldn’t keep a truck available.

At the time, Kevin rented an apartment in the downtown section of the city, conveniently located across the street from a pizzeria that some of us frequented.  Knowing how busy it was, Kevin took a trip across the street and got a party sized pizza and a couple bottles of Pepsi.  A call was placed to dispatch, and he asked our dispatch supervisor to kindly slide a few trucks though downtown so he could feed them.

Every single truck made their way through there at some point, and was greeted at Kevin’s apartment door with a cup of soda and a few slices of pizza.  Food and drink: a few small comforts to help us get through our night.

In EMS, we survive on camaraderie.  The people that I’ve worked with over my career have always been viewed by me as family, whether it was during my volunteer days when my partner was family, or now, as a supervisor.  We see stuff that cannot be unseen.  We deal with people when they’re at their worst.  We see people leave the world, and we are present when others come into the world.  That’s all some pretty powerful stuff.

Well, I can hear my bacon sizzling, and I’m sure my eggs aren’t far behind.  Its breakfast time for me.  If you take one thing from this post, make it this: above everything else, take care of each other.