Through The Lens


wpid-20150120_164110.jpgI’ll be at my new job two months tomorrow! Where does the time go? It’s been interesting and a roller coaster ride. There have been many days I’ve wanted to walk for sure, but now I think I’m there to stay–for now anyway I suppose.

Initially I was told I had a three-month orientation period, but today my manager told me that I could swipe my badge out like a regular person–minus the orientation code. Hmmm? I thought I had one month to go? So I asked my front desk mate what he thought that meant…was I off orientation; was I doing a good job? He wasn’t quite sure, but he figured yes… Alrighty then, I’ll take it.

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Today I had asked for a second computer so I could have two screens to toggle back and forth so I could be more efficient. The gal who works the shift after me (we overlap about 1.5 hours), is very upset about this and is resistant to change. But my shift is busier and I know it will help. The big boss said: make it so! I was pleased. So two positive things happened, even though I know I’ll get some push back from the other secretary. Oh well.

Funny, but by coincidence I got a random text from my old Fire Chief today by accident. He forgot to take me off a group text for fire permits. So I wrote him back for kicks. Told him that working at the fire station was like working at a Buddhist Monastery compared to working in an OR! He said he knew I’d miss him. It was a good laugh for us both.

The days pass quickly in life for sure. Two months flew by and the weeks just slam by. It’s been 27 years since my oldest baby was born on this date… Life was a whole different world for me then. She and I both have been through some powerful life experiences since that day she was born: some hard where we both faced death in the eye, others where we touched the source of love.

Through it all, as the days have flipped past, I realize that in the end–my daughter has really been the one to teach me rather than the other way around. As it is through the lens of our children’s lives that we learn to grow.

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Last Day


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Eight years ago I began a job in a fire department in a small New England town. Today was my last day. Oddly it  could very well be my last day as paramedic altogether. I have not decided yet, but it’s likely I might  try something different.

More like 20 years I’ve been in the emergency services. It’s been a long and interesting path, with many potholes along the way. But the road also took me down some beautiful roads where I learned to become someone I didn’t know was inside me.

I’ve met many strangers who became dear friends and had friends turn their backs on me. But helping to heal the sick is a blessing that I have been fortunate enough to experience.

So maybe this life guard will no longer be on duty. And the day now may be done on this career. But my patients and my service will always be deep in my heart.

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Strange Path


Listening to a real-life drama unfold in the comfort of my bedroom last night was very difficult for me. As part of my job as a paramedic, we receive texts on our phone now for certain calls. And a friend of mine also set up an app of sorts where I could quickly check on what calls our department is on and who is on shift. So when I got the initial page for a motor vehicle accident with extrication, I knew it might be bad.

When I followed up on the Dispatch website on the app, I began to see sure signs that this was a serious call: another town was called, special personnel was responding and multiple apparatus from our department. But I was home, off duty 40 minutes away and helpless.

The next day I sent a friend a text to find out how bad it was and my fears were realized: a young woman had died in the crash. It had been particularly scary for those responding as there was children’s clothing scattered everywhere, but no children on the scene. They feared the worse until they could confirm no children were in the car. But the sad news was that this young woman was the mother of the children belonging to the clothes.

When I sent a text to another friend of mine, she hadn’t heard about it yet, but then later reminded me that we had been multiple times to this woman’s Grandfather’s home for calls. And that he had custody of her children. It gave me pause. I remembered this fact, but didn’t know her. I clearly recalled the three young children.

So my mind started to think along a strange path, one of choices we make, and the odd consequences that can sometimes happen. Are they related or coincidental? Do the things we do change the pattern or energy of the future and make outcomes different? I don’t know, but I did look back on my life and see some interesting parallels.

There was one choice I made that is too personal and painful to share here, but in looking at my life now, it hit me today a related part of my life may not be what I wanted because of it. One could look at it and say that the two are completely unrelated, and yet…in a sense I see them as the same. Is the choice one makes or the outcome on one’s psyche something that can change the rest of your life? We can only know if we lived in that alternate Universe if we had done it the other way.

The choice I made to leave three husbands has put me in a place where being alone is where I want to be. But this was not always the case. For many, many years I wanted to be in a relationship. Did I flip the odds against me shutting doors over and over again? Because I know that when I wanted that relationship, nothing seemed to work as much as I tried.

Coming back to my young woman, not that she ever figured to die in a car accident, but she had removed herself from her children’s life. Did somehow that change some cosmic energy and then she was really gone? Or is it the other way around? She couldn’t take care of them due to her immaturity? And the immaturity lead to her being in car going much too fast.

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but they are ones that I now ponder in the second half of my life. How many rash choices and decisions did I make that set unknown things in motion? Can I now really control certain things by being more mindful or is there really some other plan already written? Either way, now I try to be a bit more careful, thoughtful and slow in reacting, speaking and doing these days.

And then hope that some simple luck is on my side too.

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Don’t Be Silent


Recently I did something I’ve never done before. I listen to public radio, both the national one and our local public radio station. In fact, it’s basically the only radio I turn on. I spend lots of time in the car and alone at home, so it’s my constant friend. I love it. The other day, driving to work, I heard that a show that includes public interaction. This particular show was the Friday news roundup that includes pertinent stories from the previous week.

One story that had a deep effect on me was about a century bike ride where two women riders were killed by a young woman driver who plowed into them with a car. As the story unfolded, it became clear this woman had been stopped earlier in the day, was driving without a license, was impaired on a prescription medication and was ‘borrowing’ the car that hit the cyclist. Two others, the person that loaned her the car, and the person giving her the medication were also implicated.

Later in the week, I responded to a call for a young child who was struck by a driver while walking on a sidewalk with his mother. They had just stepped onto the sidewalk from his daycare. This driver was also impaired by a prescription medication. He, luckily, was fairly OK, although eventually was flown to a level one trauma facility to be observed for a head bleed. It was a miracle he wasn’t killed. The driver of the vehicle was on the way to pick up her own children from school.

It struck me as I was driving to swim, that I needed to address this issue of prescription drug abuse in this state and country given my experience as a paramedic. I see it constantly–much more than illicit drug overdoses. We all think of drug addicts as the punks on the street in the dark alleys waiting for their next fix. But in reality, it’s more often your neighbor who may have been hurt at work, then prescribed some narcotic and is now hooked. Or someone with depression or anxiety, who just can’t get out of the medication cycle because western doctors are too lazy or don’t have the time or knowledge to help them find healthier ways to get well. Sometimes sadly, they simply get kickbacks from the drug companies if they push their products.

So now we are a society of walking zombies. Real zombies that plow into innocent people riding their bikes or ripping children out of their parent’s hands! They might as well be zombies! They stand on the scene, deadpan in a trance-like state with no idea what havoc they have just created in this families life! And maybe, at the time, they don’t care because they are under the influence of the drug.

It’s all too easy. Too easy for kids to get ahold of these medications also. They have parties and dump a bunch in a pile and just take them, having no idea what will happen. And then end up in an emergency room after being driven there by their friends barely breathing. They don’t want to call an ambulance because they are too afraid. Believe me, I know. Someone very close to me almost died just like this from a Fentanyl overdose. They don’t have a clue how powerful these drugs can be. They think it’s a game.

The media talks about heroin, bath salts, crack, synthetic marijuana. And I’m not saying these aren’t bad too. But more attention needs to be paid on the stuff right in our medicine cabinets. Benadryl, oxycodone, Ativan, even all the cardiac drugs. Just a few days after my email was read we responded to a call for a 62-year-old female who overdosed on about four of her medications, including Atenolol. That’s just a blood pressure medication. But in fact, that was the most dangerous one as her blood pressure was plummeting because of taking too much.

Sixty two years old! This is not a kid. New onset depression brought her in to see a doctor and what does he do? Give her lots of anxiety and depression medications. What does she do? Overdoses on them and tries to commit suicide!

Something is drastically wrong with our system! We need to look at it and soon. Before more people kill themselves and others. At least that’s what I think. Here’s what I wrote and was read on the air:

Hi,

I’ve been an avid cyclist/triathlete, but more importantly I’m currently a full time paramedic in Fire Department. I was on a call recently for a young pedestrian hit by a car. The common factor in these two stories is that the drivers were impaired by prescription medications: Fentanyl in the case of the cyclists and Ativan in the case of the pedestrian.  While the media coverage seems to bring much attention to drugs like heroin, we in fact respond to more calls to prescription overdoses. I personally feel there should be more attention paid by primary care doctors to dispensing these medications, more education to our children and finally more media coverage to this abuse. It’s not just about blaming the addict, we as a society must take more responsibility. Thank you.

      Maybe someday Primary Care Doctors will take the time to do more than just give a pill. We are thinking, feeling, physical, soulful creatures. We need to attend to all parts of ourselves. Thank goodness when I went through many years of depression (never diagnosed), I never went to see anyone! Many pushed me to go. But I knew as long as I could workout I would probably be OK. I hit some very low spots, but somehow I made it–with a little help from my friends.
      I truly believe there are other ways out besides just a pill. At least be mindful when they are dispensed and have a system that tracks someone’s use. Hospitals talk to hospitals–doctors offices talk to each other too! Once hooked, these people are smart and will find their drugs and go looking from one doctor to another. We have to make it harder.  Lower the dosages, lower the pill amounts dispensed. Don’t give it out like candy.

Until then, we all must be diligent and help the people we know that may be over using medications. Help them to understand that it becomes as dangerous as heroin. Don’t stand back and be silent. You may end up saving their life–or someone else’s.