“So we’re thanking EMT’s now?”

(Two posts from me in one day? Something must be wrong.)

This post is sort of a follow-up to my post earlier today. (By the way, this mess is really annoying me. Ignorance and stupidity are not becoming traits.)

In case you missed my first post, the basic idea behind it is that we, as EMT’s and paramedics may have the basic training to deal with tragedy but it’s still exceptionally hard on us when we see a devastating scene. Just because we “respond to stuff all the time like that” doesn’t mean we are in the least bit immune to it affecting us. And the second we stop being affected by it is the day you want us off of the rig and no where near anyone to treat them. Being human is what makes us good at our job.

Now, a coworker posted a link on his Facebook page to a blog post (written by someone I don’t know) entitled: “So we’re thanking EMT’s now?”. My first reaction what that the post was a joke…but as I read it, I discovered it wasn’t. If you want to read the actual post, you can find it here. I will also post it below in the event that you want to read a cleaner language version, poor punctuation and all.

So I was getting my morning coffee this morning and there was an EMT in front of me in line and some random dude behind me. As the EMT is walking out of the store the random dude says to the him “I just want to thank you for doing what you do. I know if you save me I probably won’t have time to thank you, blah, blah, blah” Really dude? We’re thanking EMT’s now?  Don’t try to be a hero and show me up.  I get thanking soldiers. That makes sense. Those guys risk their lives for our country. But EMT’s?  They just drive around taking coffee breaks waiting for old people to fall down stairs and give CPR and such. You don’t thank this guy for doing his job. What kind of precedent is that? I mean if you’re going to thank EMT’s you might as well just thank everybody.

While it is always nice to hear “thank you” for the hard work that we put into every call that we go on, it isn’t expected. HOWEVER, I hate this person’s logic that soldiers are worth thanking because they risk their lives for our country (and, don’t get me wrong, I am exceptionally grateful for their service and sacrifice…and they do deserve our thanks!) — but EMTs and paramedics don’t do the same? I know I have been caught in many dangerous situations where I seriously questioned my safety. Additionally, I (and every other public safety officer in this country, for that matter) put my life on the line each and every time that I travel to a call. We travel with lights and sirens, going through red lights (after clearing the intersection, of course), roll through stop signs and travel at speeds above the posted speed limit to get to the patient in an expedited manner so that we can give them every chance to survive whatever injury or ailment they may have.

The problem is not the method of which we travel, but the idiots on the road who don’t pay attention, who are yakking on the cell phone, have the music turned up too loud, don’t understand the laws (pull to the RIGHT and SLOW DOWN…or just plain STOP) and just plain think that where they are going is far more important than where we are going. After all, those lights and sirens mean absolutely nothing. We drive with them on just for the fun of it. And if you think that’s bad, try traveling to the hospital with a patient going emergency traffic (lights, sirens…the whole gig). You are working in the back to perform these life saving measures on our sick or injured patients…and, unlike our journey to the call, we aren’t belted in. We are standing up and moving around the vehicle to get to things that we need so that we can do our job…and save our patients from further distress or harm. Now, this is what is so dangerous. It is a pure miracle that there aren’t more fatalities than there are. However, every month, there is a new fatality in the EMS field. There tends to be at least one LODD (line of duty death) in each of the public safety arenas each month.

So, to say that we don’t risk our lives…please, spare me. Every time someone calls 911, I and every one of my coworkers risk our lives. We don’t expect your thanks. We gladly accept it…but it isn’t expected. And, to be quite honest, many of us don’t know how to accept thanks that may be rendered to us. Regardless, it is always a nice thing to run into a nice person who appreciates what we do, who is thankful that we are there when they need us. We are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a weeks and 365 days a year (or 366 if it’s leap year). We work weekends, nights and holidays. For what? Thanks? No. For money? Hah…not even close. We love our job. We want to be there. We want to be with our family more, especially on those holidays or during family events, but we want to be there. Just like soldiers, it is a choice we make to be there. We chose the profession. We enjoy grasping people from the jaws of death. We enjoy seeing new life born. We enjoy seeing patients after we have transported them…realizing that without us, they would not be there.

Please do not misunderstand me: we are not out to seek thanks. We welcome it when it comes. When someone wants to thank me and offer me a cup of coffee after I pick up their husband from the floor, it is a welcome thing. I appreciate that other people appreciate what we do. No, it’s not for everyone by any stretch of the imagination. If it was, no one would pass by a wreck or someone who fell without stopping to offer help. And it’s not just any husband or wife who can tolerate such a schedule or worry. It takes a special person (and, I must say that I have an amazing husband who is always supportive of me in my professional choices). It is not a glamorous job. But it is a vital one.

If you see an EMT or paramedic who looks weary first thing in the morning as they are in line to grab a cup of coffee, I encourage you to thank them. The weariness is likely from being up all night helping those who call 911. They weren’t able to kiss their spouse goodnight or tuck their children into bed. They were performing a public service. And, if they are on my schedule, they will be going home soon thereafter and coming back the next morning to spend another 24 hours on the rig.