Expired 


Yesterday was my last day as a licensed paramedic. It’s with great melancholy that I let it lapse. But all things need to come to their logical end, and so it was time for me to step off the bus.

For all my ups and downs, it really was a great run. I had the great honor to be with people at some of the worst times in their lives and with them as they took their last breath. They invited me into their homes, even when they may have felt ashamed, because they knew I came only carrying oxygen, not judgement. There were many neighbors I helped, and some I couldn’t, but I cared about them all. It didn’t matter who you were, why you called me, how much you had to drink, how many times you called that week, if you woke me up in the middle of the night or I had to come in a raging blizzard, I came because I really did like being a paramedic. Sure, maybe we complained a bit about the hours or the pay, but really, there wasn’t any better job than that one.

Where else do you get someone say to you: thanks for saving my wife’s life? Or making a kid with a broken arm feel less pain…or even being with someone when they take they stop breathing  knowing that you helped make their journey easier. 

So, I have no regrets except maybe I didn’t find it when I was younger. I’m gratful for the lives that I helped save, but even more grateful that I never made any mistakes that hurt anyone. 

Thanks to all those emergency workers out there still busting their butts for us all–stay safe and we are truly lucky to have you. 

Like A Dummy


No-one like to feels like a dummy. But I think we all can agree that the first day of any new job can make any of us feel that way. Even if it’s a job that we may have experience doing, but especially if it’s something new or if we’re rusty doing it. Then, it’s easy to feel like we’re back in elementary school when the teacher calls on us and we don’t know the answer.

Today was my first day at my new job! And mind you, I made a conscious decision to get out of healthcare! So I totally understood that I could make myself look silly starting over at something completely different. I simply could not take it any longer in a field that I personally feel is rampant with unhappy, over-worked and often petty employees.

So I began to apply to anything that remotely appealed to me or where I thought I might have a half a chance of getting a job. I had certain criteria of course: Part-time was preferable for the pets; close to home if possible; if it had to be a big corporation again, then hopefully it would be decent or have good benefits with it; and if I was lucky, maybe be something I actually wanted to do! Another dream part of the job, of course, would be if I ended up working with great people….

Well, I’ve ended up in a sweet little position working as a cashier at a local Farm market. The farm itself is huge and specializes in sustainability, organic vegetables and fruit, locally grown also, U-pick on the property, all sorts of local breads and other wonderful items. What a difference working in a place that smells nice! It can’t compare to the smells on the ambulance!

They had a sign on the Cash register that said: Cashier in training, Be Nice! So they even have a sense of humor. As I bumbled along trying to figure out why they considered an avocado a fruit and which items were sold singly and which by the pound, my customers were very patient. And even though I thought I knew my vegetables pretty well having been a vegetarian for 40 years, a rutabaga looks pretty much like a turnip when you’re in a hurry.

A place that has a 21-year-old in charge because he’s been there since he got out of High School (he told me his goal is actually to become a fire fighter/paramedic–imagine that), can’t be all bad. And they even have an AED, so while the boss wants me to save him if he has a cardiac arrest, he wasn’t sure the batteries were working. Yikes. Stick with farming dude!

So while I was nervous and felt like pretty dumb at times, everyone was helpful and assured me at the end of the shift, I wasn’t fired yet. Even though I didn’t do a very good job wrapping the breads that came in either. Maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me? And this place seems to have my most/all of my criteria for jobs too? Time will tell…

But riding home in my car I thought: gee, I used to save lives didn’t I? I guess eventually I’ll get the hang of this won’t I? Of course I’m older now…but like we used to say in the back of the ambulance: just pretend you know what you’re doing and be nice. The customer/patient may not notice it’s not true…..

Who Knows/Who Cares?


Sometimes we know too much, sometimes we feel we know nothing at all. Being empowered with information can be a good thing, or it can make us crazy with frustration when we see things we feel aren’t being done correctly or at least up to the standards we believe to be right.

This is the case with me as an ex-paramedic. I’ve had more than I’d like with the health care system lately and am completely discouraged with it all. There are plenty of things I absolutely do know about, and others that may be out of my scope of practice, but that I surely have enough information to sense when something seems out of whack.

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So when my Mom called again today to say she was having left arm weakness and tingling, only three weeks post heart attack/stent, I told her to immediately call the ambulance. She was reluctant given the bad experience we all had, but did what I asked. Thank goodness.

This is where my saga gets frustrating. Why does an ambulance take so long? Why can I take a shower and come from farther away and still beat them to the hospital, driving well within the normal speed limit? Seriously?

I mean I knew, having not even seen her, this could possibly be a stroke/TIA or another heart attack. A little speed on their part might be in order. I don’t get it. And don’t even get me started at the hospital. As soon as I saw her, the first thing I did was look at her face and asked her to smile. I noticed facial droop, but the nurse told me no she didn’t see any.

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Again I say: seriously? Who would know better? Her or the daughter? It’s nuts. Luckily the Stroke RN and neurologist (when they finally arrived, which wasn’t too fast), agreed with me. Wow, there’s a miracle. So the conclusion was, most likely a TIA (mini-stroke) which had mostly resolved itself by the time she had called me (which wasn’t right away) and they had gotten her to the hospital (they took their time).

Thank goodness it had resolved itself!

So why did it happen? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Most likely due to medication changes from her cardiologist because of the stent. Were these prudent? That I don’t know. This is where knowing too much/too little gets me in trouble. The bigger issue may have been being sent home from the 5 day follow-up visit after the stent because they didn’t think she was booked. They messed up there. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Who knows?

Does anybody know anything these days? Is it all a crap shoot? Does anybody care really when it comes down to it?

I’m really beginning to wonder.

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Everybody Hurts


Everybody hurts. Bullies are often bullies because they are hurting. I found that out at work today.

A young gal is out for some time at work. She always struck me as rather dark…and I heard rumors. I never pushed because it’s none of my business. But my assessment skills are pretty strong from years in the emergency business, so I guessed she had a difficult personal life.

When she didn’t show up for work two days in a row, then 3 months of her shifts got posted…I guess I knew there definitely was a lot going on. But no-one is really talking. That’s not exactly true: as some of the rougher crowd surely complained about her just cutting out of work like that…I mean how could she!? Doesn’t she have any compassion for her co-workers? How bad could it really be after all???

That’s when I spoke personally to one of the folks I consider a bit of a bully. She told me she just can’t really understand people with issues ‘like that’…considering herself a ‘very happy person’. Ha, I thought! A happy person? Someone who goes around making fun of everyone in the joint, talking behind people’s back at every opportunity, being unfriendly to many and nice to others, pretending to be nice after saying mean things…??? No, that’s definitely not a happy person in my book. She just can’t admit it.


But as she spoke to me, she told me that her mother was just like that young girl out of work. The mother checked out on her children (namely this happy person) when she was young and she always hated it. Determined not to be like her mother, she appears to be a wonderful mom, talking about her kids all the time and is very devoted to them.

Yet in her heart, the hurt and anger still lurk deep within.That’s obvious. These things, when they fester, always leak out. So instead of dealing with them head on, they become like stones in one’s soul making it hard to empathize or show compassion to others. Anyone who may remind her the pain her mother caused her, or who may put her in a situation where she is comprised, she then lashes out. And to keep ahead of the pain, she stays a step before it by making fun of others to build herself up.

It’s a fairly typical scenario. I just saw the root of it today, so now she’s easier to understand. Sad really. She sees herself as nice and friendly because I believe that’s how she wants to be. But like anyone she was caught in the web of circumstance. It’s blurry embrace gripped her and made her be something of which she is unaware.

So then, it is my job to be kinder and more aware of the situation. To try not to engage and get frustrated and angry back. It’s not easy when a bully is on the prowl. Maybe now that I know what she needs is maternal love and attention, I can somehow discreetly send those vibes her way.

Maybe this then will help to fill the gap and help her toward some true happiness instead.

Lest We Never Forget


On this September 11th, as I am remembering that day now so long ago, it feels rather odd to no longer be a part of the ‘family’ of emergency workers. It was a part of my life for so many years, and when that day ripped the world apart, it hit me personally, when so many of my brothers and sisters  were there in the chaos. It could have been me….


Now, I am so blessed, as I am settling in to my new home, to be living a different life. Not that it isn’t without its stresses. But in this new place, it somehow seems more tidy and peaceful, even when the world is now full of such unrest. For me, it seemed like it really started on the awful day. That’s when it ramped up. Yes, there was always hate, prejudice, injustice. Oh yeah…don’t get me wrong.

What we’ve done in this very country for hundreds of years has been disgraceful. The inequity of people based on color, gender, disabilities or anything different for that matter, has always been an issue here. But the hate now seems so palpable. And no, I don’t think it’s just that we hear about it more through media. There is just more of it!

As I walk through my new community, one that is neat and friendly, I feel it is easy to become insulated. I want to become insulated some days. It’s exhausting listening day after day to the killing, the terror, the devastation of the planet and the hatred. One just wonders what happened to simply winding one’s life down and beginning to relax?

At work I sit and hear people talk. The constant whining, complaining, the mocking tones and downright meanness. What came first? Were people always like this or has our country turned sour because of all that’s hurting our world and therefore our souls? Maybe it’s simply decomposing us from the inside.

I ask every day in my daily meditation for peace: in my life and for the world. Trying to touch each person I meet with a sense of peace. How can I have a ripple effect?

My simple, small and quiet apartment is my sanctuary. It’s easy now to feel like I never want to go outside.  But there are good reasons to do it… Pushing against the beast of lurking depression, caused by bombardment of the seeming global demise–I do my best to remain positive. This home is my recharge point where I plug-in to be able to go out into a world that drains me of resources.

So, lest we never forget: that day September 11, 2001, changed the world. It tore us apart and we haven’t figured out since then how to come back together. The only way to honor those lost that day, and those who are still suffering, like the rescuers who continue to lose their lives because of the toxins they took in from 9/11–is to learn how to love again. To love each other, the earth, the animals, the trees, the air, the water….
And no walls, either outside or in, will help. Only learning to understand each other on the deepest level. And truly caring for our fellow human like we are one family.

Welcome??


“Live free or die!”–this was the refrain I was used to hearing from where I just moved. A war cry I often made fun of when I was there, especially as a paramedic. We would change the saying to: Live free AND die when we’d arrive on scene of a motorcycle accident, no helmets, the person dead or dying. Ayup, no helmet laws…that’s right folks, do whatever you like for sure. It’s your life despite best practices and safety information! Go ahead: live free and die for sure…keeps me in business.

It was all a big joke, but many there took their freedom very seriously. And, I suppose, with good reason. In a world, where Big Brother seems to encroach upon us in so many aspects of our lives with all the rules and regulations, I kind of get it.

I, for one, have never been so good at following all of the rules. The ones that didn’t make much sense to me, or seemed unfair or unjust–well, yeah, I definitely went outside those boxes. In that way, I related completely to the above sentiment. It makes me nuts when someone tells me to do something that I deem as irrational or I simply know to be incorrect because I have proof. It gets all my hackles standing on end.

And I must admit, I’m not very good at being quiet about it. I’ve always had a rather big mouth–for as long as I remember. Pressing the boundaries and getting myself in trouble. Not exactly self-righteous, but willing to go against the establishment.

So here I am facing The Establishment like I never have before: buying a condo! It’s a whole new experience for me. I was always afraid I might not be able to do it and to ‘fit in’ and follow The Rules of folks telling me just what I could and couldn’t do with reference to how to live. But I had no idea to what extent it would happen until I went to my ‘orientation’ meeting today. There was reams of paperwork and boxes to check off. It was nuts.


Already a bit crabby missing work because they only have it during the week, something I felt rather archaic–maybe I was already a bit prejudiced I admit. Sure, it’s ‘an active adult community’ (this meaning 55 and over), but that means many of us work for goodness sake!! So why not run some of these after hours or on weekends?? I suppose because the office lady doesn’t want to come in then…but sheesh.

This meeting is mandatory, even though I had already met with someone from my particular building. One can’t close until you go and get some paper from them for the title company!! She didn’t want to overfill the class, meanwhile (if you include a couple) I was the 5th person. Really, 5 is too many? She’s afraid someone would ask too many questions. But instead, SHE talked in redundant circles, about nothing. Garbage, what colors to paint your house, where to park your cars… Are you joking? An hour and half later, I thought I might scream.

And even though she told us to hold all questions until later, she snipped at me with the one question I had, which was never answered. Ahhhh! It was crazy. And there were so many rules! I’m not sure I can go to the bathroom without checking with someone first. Or at least…the color of the toilet paper I buy…


No, but really, it all seemed rather silly, but I’m sure once you move in nobody even cares. And when she said there’s a woodworking club that the MEN are in (I asked if woman can join…yeah yeah, I was being smart)…I thought: maybe I’ll start my own club. Like the rebel club. Or the people who use weird toilet paper club. Or those who never listened during meetings in high school club. Or the live free or die club….

Or maybe I’ll just go into my cute little new condo, shut the door and mind my own business.

Hermit


Someone asked me recently if I was happy that I made the move here… It was a complicated question, well, maybe more a complicated answer.

In thinking about it, I realized that I’m in a transitional stage in my life. While I’m surrounded by so many more people living here than I was in my small New England town, I am now much more alone. And in my work place, it’s loud and the energy is intense–yet I feel in this odd impermeable bubble. Or want to be anyway.

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Loving my weekends, by myself either at home or walking outside quietly (avoiding the busy dog parks), it made me realize that this is a hermit stage in my life. At first I thought I might be missing something not gathering lots of new friends around me, but then it suddenly came to me, that there’s something very right and comfortable during these passing moments of gathering solitude.

In my recent past, I’ve been a Mother and care-taker in my job. These both took lots of energy I didn’t mind giving. Now, just rebuilding my own resources and not helping anyone else is a welcome gift. The peace of silence is necessary and rejuvenating.

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This realization came as a surprise, but as I settle within my lone hermit archetype, life feels less stressful and more content. Maybe the next stage will be about community, but for now, in answer to the question if I am happy that I moved here: I’m blessed to have this opportunity to have the time to experience this contemplative phase.

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Ripples


For much of my life, especially in the last years, I’ve had a strong longing to want to help people. Yes, in my years as a paramedic I did help people, but that was a job so I didn’t really feel that counted deep down.

It’s hard to express, but I guess a part of me felt called in some way to do more: to give back to humanity or the world in a greater way. My heart always just felt pulled and doesn’t seem fulfilled unless I’m giving in some way or another.

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This leaf shines with joy!

Back where I used to live, I tried a number of times to join volunteer organizations, but lack of time or the unbelievable red-tape (surprisingly) to simply give one’s time to places usually just ended up turning me off. Why can’t someone just help? It was nuts. That happened here too when I called a the central volunteer place. I would have had to take a whole day off from work just to go to some ‘orientation’ to learn to sit with an elderly person so I could read to them? Seriously?

It seems nowadays someone’s good intent gets mucked up with liability and other bureaucratic nonsense that makes it unpalatable for someone to even want to give time. Or the volunteer expectations are too demanding, so it becomes discouraging.

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Too much red-tape!!

And how does one even decide who is really more deserving of time? What constitutes need in someone else to help them in some way?

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Waiting for passing bee to help…??

Today I had a bit of an epiphany about that very question.

Every day I go to work in a stressful and often unhappy place. It’s filled with overworked folks who complain, grouse about each other and can be extremely negative. They often have crabby looks on their faces, appear tired and run-down, talk about each other and generally don’t always seem to like what they do. Not everyone is like this, but the atmosphere could make Mother Teresa have at least one bad day a week in this OR.

So I thought: these people are in need much of the time. Anything they may have going on in their personal lives (and I happen to know many of them do), is only amplified by their misery at work. The pressure and stress at work wreaks havoc on some of them, even the best of them.

They get hurt physically, they get sick, have headaches, yell at each other, are depressed…it’s a mess. It’s actually quite sad to watch, I thought. It struck me today that this is the perfect place to do some positive work! I needn’t go any farther than my work place to do some good!

Actually, I started a while back by providing a big, huge box of candy for anyone who wants it throughout the day. Sometimes they have a hard time grabbing food in time, so this helps getting a quick snack. I also have a ‘medical’ stash of Ibuprophen, Tums, eye glass cleaner etc.

But the most important thing I am now concentrating on is being cheerful, kind and nice to people–even the most crabby. Taking into consideration what may be going on within their personal lives, piled with work stuff—it can’t hurt to try. I’m also doing a special feature in the newsletter where I will premier one person a month: Surgical Services Star.

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We are ALL stars in our own way!

No, I’m not going to Africa to save the world or even down the street to a nursing home, but these folks need something too. We are all human beings no matter how big or small our need. Touching someone else’s life in a positive way is simply a ripple that can’t be bad.

There is just so much negativity these days: on the news, on the blogs I read, in our work place, within families, driving down the street…  I for one just would like to change it in myself. And if I can help change it in others, then I’ve helped change the world a little bit and I’m OK with that for now.

And maybe someday down the road I’ll change the world a lot.

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There is need everywhere you look! Just help how you can….!

For My Work Newsletter


So this is the article I am submitting in response to my decision to being asked to reconsider my resignation at my job:

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My April Fool’s Day

When I moved here in September, it was for a few reasons. The main reason was to be close to my Mother, but it was also to be away from the brutal New England weather and to retire from a stressful career where my co-workers often did not care about one another.

It’s been a blessing living near my Mom and the weather is sublime.

Applying for jobs was exhausting, and when Bethesda called I was very excited. I actually had applied for a different position than the one I am currently in, but with my experience, they felt I would be better suited for this one.

They were forthcoming about the stress of the job, which made me a bit nervous at the time because of my hopes for coming here mentioned above, but assured me about teamwork among colleagues.

It’s been three months, and yes indeed, it’s stress on steroids! I’ve seen how the stress reveals parts of people that probably, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t bubble to the surface.  Some of these parts have directly affected me and, I won’t lie, this has been difficult.

For years I’ve been told ‘you are too sensitive’ or ‘have a thicker skin’ and often it made me feel there was something wrong with me. But as I grew older, I realized that I embrace this part of me and know that this is what makes me a kind, compassionate and loving person. I don’t want to keep people out with a thick skin and I prefer being sensitive to the world around me.

So I had to make a decision about the stress once again in my life and if I wanted to (not could) deal with it. And after much soul searching I decided to resign on Friday, April 1. Even though it killed me because there are so many wonderful people and I actually really like the job and am not ever a quitter. But I had also promised myself not to live a stressful life anymore.

Amazingly though, something happened. I was asked to reconsider. And many people, including some that had been stressed out directly at me, came to me and were very kind.

This made me think about some things.

  • We all have our troubles, so trying to be conscious that another person may be suffering personally may help us to be more patient
  • We all are tired and over worked, but acting as a team will help us all in the long run
  • A smile and a kind word goes a long way
  • Someone we think may not care, really might in the end but just may not know how to show it in the moment
  • Be the first one to extend a helping hand, or even consider being social with someone
  • Try to talk directly to the person first if you hear something you don’t like—remember: don’t assume
  • Let’s accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative in regards to people, how we say things and our attitudes

I guess this all sounds hokey and maybe I’m being unrealistic. But my feeling is that if we reach high than maybe we may obtain at least just short of our goals. And this is better than not reaching at all.

The decision then about reconsidering? After so many great people asked me to, and because I am hopeful and positive person…

The answer was absolutely!

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I’m not sure how my co-workers will take it. They are a mixed and motley bunch. Some may be sympathetic and find it inspiring and others may find the words insipid. None the less, I am choosing to put them forth, just like I put myself forth every day in my blog to my blogging community. Many here hail me, some have walked away. Hey, it’s a free country and freedom of speech is regarded highly and we must be brave when we put ourselves out there to a new audience.

So shall I do when this gets published in our Surgical Services Newsletter. And then let the commenting commence….

 

Cactus


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I heard two sad things today.  One was that a 31 year old fire fighter in a town that I used to serve as a paramedic back where I used to live, was killed in a freak accident. He was driving his truck when a strong gust of wind blew a tree on it and killed him.

The other was about one of our 36 year old patients today in surgery. He was going in for what was expected to be diverticulitis because of pain and some bleeding. They put him under anesthesia and opened him up only to find massive amounts of cancer everywhere. He will wake with a colostomy bag, much less of his insides and about a year and a half to live.

I reflect on these stories and share them to remind myself and us all that things may be tough: our jobs, not enough money, someone is annoying us, the kids on our nerves or some other thing making us crazy.

But when we get true perspective on what is important, and we suddenly see how others are dealing with real hardship — somehow our load seems lighter.

So instead of feeling sorry for ourselves,  let’s instead send our thoughts, prayers and all the energy we use being upset, and use it instead to care about those who really need caring.

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Because, like a cactus, even beauty can come from pain.