Tonight is the first of a three night run for me. 36 hours of paramedic fun out of the next 72. The ER was packed when I arrived, but things have slowed considerably since then.
Guilt sets in for me around the half way point on my commute to work. Hearing the Boyo say "Daddy, I don't want you to go to work tonight." Or "Daddy, will you play cars with me instead of going to work?" Breaks my heart that I have to go. Then I'll feel guilty later when a co-worker or my manager asks if I can pick up a shift here or there, help out as it were. Not nearly the level of guilt I feel about leaving my family, but still... I didn't start a career as a paramedic to NOT help out.
I was talking to The Wife about the trials of my job recently. The biggest problem is not the separation from my family, or the long hours for surprisingly low pay (we make less than teachers to start out), or even the catty co-workers. The biggest problem with my job is that I see just about all the scrudge that the human race can go through. Granted, it's not as bad as cops. Theirs is a job I could never do. But man, we see some real crud.
People who come in with a random pain, and we find terminal cancer. People enjoying a car trip home with their family, and they are hit by another car. (Other driver is very often wasted and unhurt, while family is ripped apart by death and trauma) The old, sick and dying who have nobody else but us in their final moments. You name it, every run I've been on has involved some sort of pain, some sort of bad human condition, some scrudge. And while I do my best to let it roll off my back, some of it still sticks.
Three month old SIDS case. Older couple who pulled in front of a truck. Three brothers out for a joyride who missed the turn and found an old oak. Only one survived. Random scenes of random people.
"Why me?" I've heard more times than I can count. Why not you? I think to myself. Who's to say why these things happen.
Sometimes the patient invites fate to step in. The guy who "has a thing" against wearing seat belts. His wife was in some time ago for a random sickness. He came in and died after a completely survivable accident...if he had been wearing a belt.
More often the patient is seemingly plucked at random by fate for some random crash or fall or cancer or pick your poison.
Now, as a hospital based medic, the majority of people who come through the doors are not really in bad shape. Most could/should have waited until morning and called their regular doc. But some people get a little panicky, and some just need to hear that there isn't anything wrong with them.
But the ones who come in with scrudge, well they leave a little bit on me. And it gets draining. My commute home is an hour, and that's a great time to decompress. Still, a little stays with me.
Today, remarkably, I am thankful for that scrudge. I am thankful for the times when in my head I am griping because my arms are tired from carrying Sweet Pea around for three hours, that scrudge comes out and says "Is it really that bad? What about the guy who..." and suddenly my arms don't really hurt that bad. I am pretty healthy, as are the wife and kids. And I am thankful for the people I have treated, however briefly, that have touched my life and made me appreciate what I have all the more.