“All the people I once looked up to are gone, my friends at the hospital have moved on, the new people don’t know who I used to be. They just see what I’ve become.”
I was fortunate, I had the ability to find the positive in a sea of misery for most of my EMS career. The last two years were unbearable though . . .
EMS in Providence.
The calls were relentless, and most of them completely unnecessary. I could go weeks without an emergency, just non stop need and very little gratitude. The people who called 911 knew they could get away with using what we provided to make their lives easier. We were little more than a free ride for free medical care for small problems. Medicaid, Medicare or simply nowhere to send a bill allowed the abuse to go on. Everybody knew that if they were sick, or needed something most people paid for at CVS to call 911, and the government would pay.
It was soul crushing for us, the people doing the work. Day after day, night after night we ran nonstop. The city leaders didn’t care, the administration didn’t care, the union didn’t care and the people themselves cared the least. Most of us lasted a few years before finding a spot on a piece of fire apparatus, the few of us who lasted ten or more years left the job far earlier than we had to, broken, disillusioned, burned out and bitter.
The problem is epidemic. If a service exists, people will abuse it. Not everybody though, which makes it even worse. Once in a blue moon the reason we trained, and studied, and showed up appeared and we responded, and managed to rise to the occasion, and put the baggage of a thousand drunken fools away for the moment, and do our best to save a life. Sometimes we did, and sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes, deep down, we knew that maybe, just maybe if we weren’t so tired, and so mired in misery the person who died on our stretcher just may have survived. And we put that little bit of devestatiing information away, bury it, and try not to acknowledge that we are far from our best. And that information never stays hidden, it eats away at our confidence, our happiness, our sanity and our lust for life.
And then it was back to the grind. Indifferent people who could barely be bothered to give you their history, their medications, date of birth or even their name getting a free ride to the emergency room so they could get in faster, and not have to pay for parking. Or the cops dumping their problems on us. Or the psych patients who would attack without warning. And the drunks. Always, the drunks.
Overdoses were rampant, some lived, some died, suicides, murders, child molesters and rapists made their way inside our ambulances, and we took them.
And when we finally cracked, we did so in silence, and put in our papers, and nobody cared that the reason we could do it no longer was because our bodies were broken, our spirit gone, our families in shambles and our selves nothing but a shell of what we once were.
I spent an hour on the phone yesterday with a friend who has finally reached the end. “It’s sad,” he said. “All the people I once looked up to are gone, my friends at the hospital have moved on, the new people don’t know who I used to be. They just see what I’ve become.”