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The accident that ended my EMT career

I walked away with a huge hole in my heart and tears in my eyes; I felt as if I had left a piece of my heart behind

By Uniform Stories

The following story is from Deborah Frediani. Be sure to check out her Facebook page here.

I worked my last shift on the ambulance on September 14, 2012. We had a busy 24-hour shift, so time went by relatively fast. As our relief crew began filtering into the station, it all hit me — I was done. I had to turn in my radio. I never dreamed this day would come, not like this.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to help people. It was my calling. I took pride in being able to care for and calm people on the worst days of their lives. I never wanted to be thought of as a “hero,” but as a person who wanted to help those in need. Even on the most horrific of scenes, I found I had a gift of calming and comforting those who needed it, even though deep inside I was terrified out of my own mind. No matter how bad it was, I NEVER let it show.

Afterwards, the details of the scene run through your weary mind like a neverending tape, sometimes for days or months and like ghosts, they suddenly reappear without warning. True, this job as an EMT is a difficult one physically and emotionally, but it was all worth it, at least to me.

My team became my close-knit work family, people I had to rely on. That became apparent following my own tragedy when my car was hit by a drunk driver fleeing the scene of a robbery at high speed.

I was in a turn lane waiting to turn left into a theater when I looked up to see a white Ford pickup barreling towards me. From that moment on everything went into slow motion. I felt the impact — sharp instant pain. I felt the debris and dirt swirling around me, heard the sound of crushing metal and glass, felt my car being propelled backward.

I closed my eyes and held onto the steering wheel for dear life. I told myself that this is the end, that I may die today. The impact seemed to last for an eternity, then suddenly stopped. I opened my eyes to see the grill of the truck sitting on the hood of what was left of my car. Panic began to set in, along with severe pain throughout my body, but my training took over and I began to think like an EMT.

I knew the accident had been reported, and then I sat quietly assessing my situation as help came. My primary concern was fire — I am terrified of fire. I looked around the compartment and saw no flames, so I knew I was OK. I glanced down at my injured legs. My right leg was wedged between the dash and my seat while my left leg had been pushed back and was pinned just under my seat in an odd position. I knew I had to keep calm and just wait for help. I heard sirens in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief.

The crews that were on-scene worked like a well-oiled machine, quickly opening up my car. I happened to be wearing one of my work shirts with our agency name on the front and back, and they took extra care in taking care of me. I was extricated and transported to the local trauma center with bilateral dislocated shoulders and hips, multiple facial lacerations and leg injuries.

Recovery for me was very slow and painful, but after many months of rehab I went back to work. From day one, I knew that it would be difficult and challenging for me, and it was, but I pushed through. In 2006, I was diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis throughout my body and herniated, bulging discs in my lumbar region. I worked until it got to be too much for me in 2012. I was in constant pain and it got to where I could hardly get in and out of the ambulance.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I had become a liability. I loved my job, but I knew I had to walk away from it. That was the most painful decision I have ever had to make.

The end of my last shift on that rainy September day came. All of our relief crew was accounted for, so I quietly turned in my paperwork and my radio. I walked away with a huge hole in my heart and tears in my eyes. I felt as if I had left a piece of my heart behind.

Since that day, I won my disability case and continue to live with moderate to severe pain every day of my life. Some nights I can’t sleep because of the pain, and that is when I write. I write a lot.

The man driving the stolen pickup was never found.

Every day is a battle for me. But I do my best to stay positive by going to the local gym to swim, working on upper body strengthening and of course, soaking in the hot tub. That helps keep my mind and body healthy. I also help local agencies with fundraising events and classes if they need help. My favorite thing is to share my stories and work experiences with the newbies. There are just some things books don’t teach you, especially working in a rural community. I think those experiences made me a better EMT.

Still today, as I hear sirens or see an ambulance en route, a brief sadness sweeps over me and my heart aches. But I am doing what I can to help others in any way I can. Although I can’t be out there in the rig going call to calls, I can sit on the sidelines rooting for my EMS family. Even though I had to walk away from something I loved, it will always be a part of who I am, part of my heart and soul.

I will forever be an EMT.

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.