For about eight years, I worked as an Emergency Medical Dispatcher.
In short, I took calls from 911, assisted callers, gave calls a priority, and dispatched ambulances…
The Bag Lady dared me to look back on those years and remember my best and worst experience. I thought it would be quite a challenge, but surprisingly, both events came to mind pretty easily.
Working as an EMD was for sure the most difficult, yet also most rewarding job I have done so far. It takes nerve and empathy, in a perfect mix, which is hard to handle. But the feeling of making a difference in people’s lives was well worth the stress.
My favorite memory has to do with a 4 years old little boy who had choked on strawberries. When I got the call, both parents were obviously panicked. They had put me on speaker phone (which I still believe to this day, is a devilish invention… I hate to be put on speaker phone!) and both the mom and dad were screaming their hearts out (anyone would have gone nuts, I understood that).
I’m not known for being firm and cold… But as an EMD, I had an instinctive knowledge of how to talk to people to get their attention. And I just yelled back at the parents to get them to listen to my directions while the paramedics were on their way. After a few seconds, the dad calmed down, and performed the Heimlich maneuver while the mom sobbed in the background. I kept focused, giving step by step instructions. In no time, the ambulance was on site, and I hoped the little boy would make it.
Now, in eight years of working, I didn’t get news from many of my “patients”… But that day, one of the paramedics that had worked on the case called me from the hospital.
“Nice job!” he said. “Without your work with the father, this little boy would have been dead when we arrived.”
N.o.t.h.i.n.g matches that feeling. Nothing.
On the downside… I also lived every EMD’s nightmare.
On Christmas Eve one year, working, since I didn’t have enough experience to ask to be off, I missed the family reunion. Everybody else attended the party at my grand-parents’ house. Everybody, but me.
Around midight, I was checking the incoming calls… When I noticed a familiar adress. A co-worker was sending a team to my grand-parents’ home for an unconcious/non breathing, man.
It was a stormy night, and the paramedics had a hard time getting to the house. I was at the hospital before them. When they finally got to the emergency room, my grand father had suffered a brain aneurysm that quickly killed him in bed, after all the party guests had left.
I did all I could to help some people… And acccompanied people into death. I gave my best until it was too much to bear.
For better and for worse.