I Used to Love Her

Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes
Shakespeare In Love
Do you remember what it was like when you first fell in love?
Something about that person piqued your interest.  Your brain perked up, bright and alert.  You couldn’t wait to hear from them or see them again!  Even the briefest encounter or conversation was played over and over in your head until the next time you could interact with them.  Time went on and the relationship developed.   You learned about each other’s idiosyncrasies, patterns, ideas and started to plan a life together.  Then one day, without warning, your love ripped open your pericardium and tore out your heart!  “Why!?!” you wailed while envisioning every moment in a torturous movie reel playing only for you. Some time passed and you saw your lover, beautiful, invigorating, beckoning you to love them again.  (This is where the movie audience screams, “NO!”)
Yeah, EMS is like that.
EMS has broken my heart several times, and yet I keep coming back for more.  I’m caught in the Siren’s song like a fisherman in the Aegean.  I have left EMS before, two or three times, declaring never to set foot in an ambulance again.  Damn the Man, Fight the power and all that.  I planned to have a lovely, wealthy life in marketing until I found out most marketers make less than EMTs.  Shortly after this discovery, my old partner came around for coffee one day throwing out the line, “Come on, you can work with me!”  I’m not here to sell you some ad space so you know what happened next.


Australian Ambulance Headquarters turned coffee shop.
I suppose the question is, “Why keep coming back if you know you might get hurt again?”  The risk of not doing something meaningful with my life was greater than the risk of having my feelings hurt.  Deborah Mills-Scofield wrote an article called “Are Entrepreneurs Really More Comfortable with Risk” in the Harvard Business Review that addresses this theory.  While she is comparing large companies and entrepreneurs, I believe this theory is very applicable to the practitioners within EMS as well.  Long term EMS providers, five years or more, define risk and satisfaction with work differently.  We all knew after the first few paychecks that this was not the job to get wealthy with, but our riches lie in other currencies.  Our wealth is measured by stories told by veterans or old, seasoned souls, secrets people entrust to you about their deepest sorrows or fears that they cannot tell anyone else, a thank you from a young patient’s family weeks later at a chance meeting in town.  When I was a new EMT I relished being able to “fix” people with my hands, now I relish holding someone’s hand and listening to the gift the patient is imparting to me.
There are several kinds of people in EMS.  There are those that are here for a stepping stone into Police, Fire, or another medical profession; they get their experience and move on.  There are those that find EMS is not for them or isn’t exactly what they bargained for and leave shortly after they start.  Then there are those of us that weren’t looking for it, but we fell in love with this job and all that it entails.  We just can’t leave it alone and even once we get that nice office job with a thick carpet we still have one foot in the truck working a shift a week just to keep our chops and to keep the withdraw at bay.  I never thought I would become a dinosaur, but the experience, compassion and knowledge amassed in this group is staggering and I am humbled to be on the fringe.  I don’t think I will ever leave EMS, I don’t think I can.  This is what I know how to do, no matter how many degrees I might obtain or how high on the ladder of life I climb.  She may break my heart every now and again, but I will always come back around.



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