Who better than EMS to reflect the spirit of the season?
EMS providers bring comfort, calm and cheer to the lives of people who need us the most
We, the EMS providers, are truly blessed. We are messengers traveling through a difficult world, bringing with us hope, kindness and human companionship. How we act, and what we allow ourselves to believe has the potential to make the hours we work during the holiday season far more than time spent making money.
Who better than us to spread goodwill and peace on earth?
We fly through the snow-covered streets, our lights brightly flashing, sirens heralding our arrival. Inside the quiet home, a lonely person waits. He hears the sound from afar and knows that for him the wait is over. The anxiety and fear he felt all night and for several nights preceding this begins to melt away.
The only other person I know of that has access to every home on earth, as long as we are invited, is the big man in the red suit. Unlike that guy, instead of bringing toys and trinkets, we bring the gift of life, calm people when they are afraid, help them when they are sick, and treat them when they are injured. It is a tall task, but one we are perfectly capable of performing.
We land in front of his home and sling our bundles over our backs, our boots nudging the drifts of snow aside, and trudge along until we are at his doorstep, and then we step inside. He’s an old man, but not without wit, but he’s not laughing tonight. His heart isn’t powerful enough to keep his blood flowing and fluid has built up in his lungs. He is struggling to breathe.
Who better than us to set an example of kindness and compassion when the world and time we inhabit it is full of negativity and division?
EMS does not, never did and never will discriminate. The young, the old, the rich and the poor, black and white and everybody in between begins anew whenever we make their acquaintance.
The only history that matters to us concerning our patients is their pertinent medical information. It matters not what our patients were before our encounter or who they become when we leave them. During the time they are in our presence, their present condition is all that matters.
We open our sacks, fiddle about for the things we need to get him back on his feet; a blood pressure cuff wrapped around his arm, a non-rebreather on his face and a nitro tab under his tongue.
In a few moments, his cheeks go from white to rosy. He laughs a little then, in spite of his pain, but we are not done yet. There is always more to do. He wheezes and sneezes and we know that albuterol will help.
Who better than us to show the people in our communities that competence, caring and professionalism still exist and those gifts are only a phone call away. The gifts we bring do not come in boxes wrapped with ribbons and bows. Our gifts come from a place where none of the trimmings matter. We give a big part of ourselves into the lives of the people we treat.
Who better than us to be something bigger than an individual who puts on a uniform and goes to work?
Off with the oxygen mask and on with the nebulizer. He breathes deeply and feels better. We say not a word as we get the monitor to work and are relieved to see a normal sinus rhythm, a little tachy but tackiness is part of the season, so on we go, and establish a line. He winces a little, but lets us do our thing. His pressure is strong, so we slip another nitro tab under his tongue. He says the pain is still there, but not all that bad, nothing that he can’t handle.
We consider administering morphine, but see that he is better. So we bundle him up, in his socks and a sweater, and carry him from his home and into the snow, locking the door as we leave.
Each and every one of us represents the rest. Every time we do things right we give a gift to everybody in EMS: the dispatchers, the first responders, the EMTs, the paramedics, the emergency room docs, nurses and techs, the firefighters and the cops.
By giving our best, we get back far more than we give. Every person who shines as a caregiver is a direct reflection on all of us. Every act of compassion and courage performed by one of us finds its way into the rest and EMS as a whole benefits.
"Leave a light on, fellas," he says with a grin.
He’s breathing much better now and begins to relax. Every second that passes his condition improves, but we know all too well that what we have done this night won’t last forever. He needs help that we cannot provide.
He rests on the stretcher and breathes in the air of human companionship. That alone has made a difference. The trip is a short one, but not without cheer, for the person who needed help has received it, and the ones giving that help got far more in return.
The spirit of Christmas — giving to and care for others — is alive and well. The spirit resides in each and every one of us. It is up to us to let it in, and more importantly, to let it out.
Read next: Silent night: A paramedic Christmas story
This article, originally published Dec. 8, 2015, has been updated with current information