The Gums of Misery
A man I respect very much said something tonight; he isn't often prone to many words or unsolicited advice, so when he gives it, I listen. Some of the folks I am privileged enough to call my shift mates and myself were all standing around solving the world's problems by the light of the bay as usual, it is catharsis for EMS, talking...sometimes we don't do it enough. He said "We will sometimes pry people from the jaws of death, but more often we pull them from the gums of misery".
We laughed, of course, as we always do. But I am not sure I've heard a more true statement about this line of work. It is a calling, it truly is. It is service, it is sacrifice, it is all those things you think of when we collectively as a people take a step back and appreciate on the holidays that remind us we are supposed to respect certain roles in society. We joke often, but never forget that we are called to duty, that our hearts and minds are in service to our fellow humans, it just isn't something we sit around and audibly remember. To do so would seem arrogant, I am sure, and even more so it would be taxing, tiresome...we are already fatigued, often in ways more profound than constant shoulder and back pain and a nagging inability to sleep normally.
But, if you think about it, we are that razor's edge between life and death and that is certainly what they put in the pamphlets for this career. More often, though, we are a kind word, a smile, a ride, a gesture of care, a listener, a safe place, a warm bed, a short vacation, a hand in the darkest of nights that does nothing more than simply reassure because, medically, that's all that’s needed a lot of the time. But there is so much misery in the world, so much suffering, so much pain and loneliness, so much fear and worry, so much emptiness.
That is EMS. The essence of what a paramedic is not those lifesaving interventions, though we are some of the most skilled, highly trained and dynamic medical practioners in the world. The essence of what we do lies in the caliber of care we provide that doesn't come at the tip of a needle. We have the unique chance to walk into your life as a stranger and are trusted with your most precious thing - life, the life of your loved ones. And then we have an even greater opportunity, a responsibility even, to ease whatever suffering we've been given to manage. There is no other career that is quite the same. EMS, though it is cruel to us, is a wonderful chance to ease some of that ache in the world. Nothing like it.
About the author:
Marissa Newby is a graduate of the Eastern Kentucky University Paramedic Program. Marissa is a paramedic with Madison County EMS in Richmond Kentucky and is regularly tagged as one of the most respected preceptors for our students.
Published on September 19, 2016