Injury is something that anyone involved in EMS deals with on a daily basis. It is, after all, why we do what we do. When someone is injured we respond, intervene and transport. We are a vital part in a patient's chain of survival. The injuries that we deal with aren't always the patient's. We are often injured ourselves. We are routinely exposed to multiple hazards such as fires, chemical spills, combative and/or hostile patients, inclement weather, and dangerous accident scenes to mention a few. We are required to lift patients weighing 200, 300, 400 or more pounds (with assistance) on a regular basis. I love the (with assistance) part. That was added to our physical requirement guidelines after someone pointed out that no one can lift a 400 lb. patient by themselves.
In my 25 years in EMS, I have had my hand broken by a patient, my face kicked and glasses broken and had the breath knocked out of me by a roundhouse to the chest. I’ve been attacked by an intoxicated man in the back of the ambulance, had my knee cartilage torn requiring surgery and fell five feet off a porch onto a brick wall injuring my hip, again requiring surgery. My co-workers have broken bones, injured backs, had heart attacks in their 30’s and one guy lost both his legs above the knees when he was pinned to a guard rail by a vehicle while he was assisting accident victims on the side of the interstate.
Why in the world would anyone do this job? The answer is simple…I love it. Every time I drive to work, I love knowing that I have no idea what the shift will bring. I love the excitement and I love the down times. I love pulling up to an accident scene and quickly processing a ton of information at once. How many cars, how many patients, how fast were they going, how bad is the damage…and that’s all before I get out of the ambulance. I love making sure an elderly woman’s cat is safe and has food and water before we transport her to the hospital. I love knowing the homeless peoples’ real names and birthdays. I love when my efforts are successful and I am able to save a life, and I love being the one to tell the family when they are not, and a life can’t be saved, because I know that I am going to tell them with compassion. I love my job.
I know that there will come a time when the physical requirements outstrip my physical abilities. I am 53 years old and have been doing this for a quarter of a century, but it will be a sad day when I reach the realization that it is time to relinquish the position to a younger, more able bodied individual. When that day comes, I will hold my head high and leave with dignity…but I might just kick that whipper-snapper’s ass one last time for good measure!