8.04.2015

Look for the Helpers.

I didn't become an EMT for the glory and super hero-ness.  I'm not naive enough to have an ego in the field.  I got the certification after a long while spent moping and thinking, "What can I do to help? What skills do I have?"  Once I actually started learning those skills, I was so happy with my choice.  I felt it was right.  I still do.  If growing up traumatized taught me to jump in and act when things go south, then it was not wasted time.  Becoming an EMT meant, and means, so much to me.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"                                         
    -Fred Rogers 


Most of my experience has been very small scale, both at work and in street situations. I show up as a first responder and do what I can until more advanced medical personnel take over.  Such is the way of the EMT when they're not traveling in packs on ambulances.  And that is fine with me, to work alone or with another officer as backup, and hope for a less injured/ill patient than a more injured/ill patient.  Again, I'm not really in it for the showy effects, I just want to help people, and doing so is usually a lot less dramatic than in the movies.  Not always, but usually.

It's also fine for me to work alone because I am always alone.  Even in a room of crowded people I exist so wrapped up inside my head it's amazing I have a single social skill.  I without a doubt function better on my own than as part of a team, and I'm okay with that.  There are worse things in life than being the lone wolf.  Just the idea of shacking up in a fire house and getting cozy with coworkers makes me anxious, haha.  That's not to say I don't get lonely, because that just comes with the territory, doesn't it?  I'm alone and I am lonely, pretty basic and accurate description of my social relationships.

I have to say now, that I would much rather be alone and lonely than not know how to be on my own, to be dependent, to be constantly afraid and second-guessing.  Loneliness is a price I am happy to pay in exchange for independence, strength, and all that other crap the lone wolves get as gifts.

Anyway, the point is, an accident happened.  I was the first to respond.  It was a serious situation.  I did what I do and began working--of course, I called for backup first, but then began the long usual process of focusing on helping.  I admit I got pretty tunnel-visioned.  I knew things were bad, I knew there would have to be a lot of backup, I kept an eye and ear on my surroundings just in case things became unsafe (luckily they did not.)

But after some time, I had a chance to break away.  EMS had shown up, and were with my patient.  For the first time in however long, I stood up and took in my surroundings.  I'm sure it looked like chaos: fire truck, ambulances, police car, flashing lights, shut down entrances, screaming, glass and bits of cars sprinkled over the asphalt, the victims, other EMS workers, my partner, our coworkers, traffic directors, bystanders, the works.  I definitely didn't, and don't, see glamour in any of that, but I was shocked at how it made me feel.  I think before becoming an EMT I would have seen a lot of chaotic destruction and disorder and confusion, a whole big mess, but that's not what I saw today.

So many people there, all of them doing their best to help.  I was shocked when I saw that one of our coworkers had put down cones over the road to direct traffic away from the area.  Seems like such a random thing, but something I would have never thought to do, with my patient-oriented tunnel vision.  Firetruck and a squad car shielding us from road traffic.  Strangers who under normal circumstances would maybe force out a hello to each other, communicating with ease how to best assist, who had called who's family, what hospital they were going to.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." -Helen Keller


For the maybe twenty seconds I stood up and looked around, checked in with my partner and then went back to my patient, I took in a sensory overload of people helping, people who were a team.  I had been working on a (pretty big!) team while being completely unaware of doing so--because even though my job is helping people who are hurt, there's so much more to helping than just patient care.  I've always known that but today I saw it on a much grander scale than ever.

And I had two immediate inner reactions.  The first was more a passing thought that made me smile: being part of a team isn't so bad after all.  The second reaction was the realization that it was something I had wanted, without even really knowing it.  I think we all want to be a part of something, human nature and tribal instinct and all of that jazz, but I have never put myself in a vulnerable spot or accepted assistance since becoming an adult and shoving my life into a dark box of horrors and monsters because it felt so alien to me; a lone wolf from a family of lone wolves that at best barely tolerate each other has no place feeling sappy and thankful and humbled by all of the caring people in the world, a few of whom being people I have the privilege of seeing every day.

So, that's a good feeling and I am glad I had it.

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