When EMS calls leave you with a feeling of emptiness
This job does eat away at me every day; there have been days that the toll is taken in one fell swoop
By Anonymous Paramedic, Sacramento, Calif.
Some days it's a lot to handle. It's a hard thing to describe. I've never been one for talking about my feelings. The more important it is, the more powerful the feeling, the less I will say about it. The best I can do is to say that it is a feeling of crushing emptiness.
There is always a lot of talk about how this job can effect us. People die while we try to keep them from doing so. That is definitely a humbling feeling. I have worn other people's blood on my skin. I have heard the last words of people I have just met. I have felt my paradigm shift, and my ego crumble when I realize that I cannot help my patient and I do not know why.
I have experienced many of the stereotypical, harrowing experiences associated with this profession. I do not mean to underestimate the effects that those experiences can have on us, but for me personally it feels a little self-aggrandizing.
Those are the stories people expect.
When someone sees me staring into space, lost in my thoughts, it's easy for them to imagine those things running through my mind. I wish that were the case.
Make no mistake, I am struggling.
This job does eat away at me every day. There have been days that the toll is taken in one fell swoop, with a fast-paced, high pressure, traumatizing call.
Most days that isn't the case. Most days I don't have such a convenient target to point at when those feelings hit me. Most days it comes down like a light rain all around me.
There is no big wave. There is no crashing and breaking. Just a slow, steady rain, soaking into everything.
I see death every day, but it doesn't always make for a thrilling story. I see elderly patients over and over, slightly worse each day. I see demanding, high maintenance patients who really only called because they needed someone to talk to, someone to focus on them for a while. I see patients ashamed of themselves. Ashamed of their size, their appearance, or their hygiene. Ashamed that they need us. I see so much sadness. Not the potent sadness of an acute pain or loss. Not the sadness that allows for catharsis. I see a chronic sadness. Less a sharp stab, more a dull ache. A sadness that I don't realize is there until I begin to bend under the weight. Now I'm left searching for the source.
I do look back on certain calls and feel the twinge of the intense feelings that they evoked. I feel regret. I feel guilt. I feel incompetent. At least I feel a sense of understanding. I can understand the hurt of those calls. I can paint a picture in my mind. I can quantify the pain.
Those are not the thoughts running through my mind when I am lost in it all. Instead, I am left here wondering what is causing this. Why am I feeling this way? Why do the highs seem so much lower than they used to be? When did my life become the sum of so many minor injuries?