My whopper of a mistake and how it changed the direction of my life

My whopper of a mistake and how it changed the direction of my life
See that open cabinet just over my Lt's and my head? Stay tuned....

I am human. I make mistakes. Most of the mistakes I make are minor – inconsequential in the grand scheme of life.

There was one mistake I made, and although no lives were lost, and no humans or animals were harmed, it changed the course of my life.

From the time I watched my first episode of EMERGENCY! with Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto, I knew I wanted to be a paramedic.

After graduating from college with a completely unrelated degree, I finally decided to pursue a career as a paramedic.

EMT school, then paramedic school, ride time, private ambulance companies, emergency room technician and transport paramedic was the path I took all while testing for the fire department.

I wanted to be a paramedic and be on a rescue team, just like Johnny and Roy.

I tested and tested for departments, and finally, I was hired by one. Oh my word, I’d made it!

I was a firefighter/paramedic. Wow! Eventually, I became a paramedic trainer.

What’s that, you ask? When paramedics come out of school, they need lots of ride time to apply for their actual license.

So, much like police officers that have come out of the academy, probationary paramedics have to ride with other, more experienced paramedics to learn what it’s really like outside the classroom.

Then, I became part of the technical rescue team (high angle, confined space and trench rescue), and soon after, I took the class and obtained my Fire Apparatus Engineer certification.

The FAE certification means you’re qualified to drive the engine and run the pump that feeds the hose line or the foam line. It was SO cool!

The captain started rotating me out of the ambulance so that I could drive the engine. (Nope, I haven’t made the life-changing mistake yet…)

During this same time, I met my to-be husband. We were planning for and paying for a wedding, while both of us were working as many hours as we could.

Also, by this time, I’d seen my fair share of the dark side of the world – suicides, homocides, elder abuse, child abuse, domestic abuse, sudden accidental deaths, shootings, stabbings, drug OD’s, car wrecks, weird accidents and even a couple of car vs. train’s.

That’s all in addition to the the ones that were plain old sick. I was less in love with being a paramedic than I had been when I started many years prior.

It was shift day, and I was assigned to drive the engine.

My first duties of the day were to pull the engine out of the bay, check all the equipment and make sure everything was in working order.

So, as I wandered up to the engine, I was terribly distracted thinking about my new husband, a police officer, who was working that night, the house we were building and closing on in a matter of weeks and so many other things that were not job related.

I loaded my boots, pants and coat into the outside compartment for the engineer, climbed into the driver’s seat and started that powerful, noisy diesel engine.

I put my window down, and carefully started to pull our brand new fire engine out of the bay. There were only inches of clearance on the driver’s side, and the mirror practically skimmed the overhead door track as I pulled out.

Checking the passenger side mirror, I looked away from the driver’s side for just a second, or two, then, “BANG!!! CRASH!!!”

What the heck?!!? Oh no, what did I just do? Was the first thought that ran through my brain. Then, I thought, oh man, I hope I didn’t hurt anyone!

Fortunately, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same about our brand new fire engine.

Somehow, some way, I missed an open cabinet. I don’t know if it was open and I didn’t see it, or if someone opened it after I walked by it, but there, on the apparatus floor was a cabinet door completely sheared off it’s hydraulics and hinges.

CRAP, CRAP, CRAP. My stomach lurched and my heart sunk. I knew my chief was NOT going to be happy. My captain looked at me, stunned, shook his head and walked away. Uh-oh.

On top of damaging the engine, the door from the compartment had sheared through the overhead door track, and now, we couldn’t close the apparatus door.

That was the longest, most tortured shift of my life. Public works had to come out and fix the track, so we could secure the building. A new door had to be ordered for the compartment, so the exposed axe and haligan bar were a constant reminder of the stupid mistake I’d made.

I also earned a suspension day for wrecking stuff.

This incident got me to thinking deeply about this job I was doing. To be good at this job, you cannot get distracted, or bad things happen fast.

I also started paying attention to how my size (5′ 3″) could be helpful to get into tight spots, but was really challenging in many other ways.

I was a good paramedic. I’m sure that I could have been a great rescue medic on the technical rescue team. I was never going to be a great firefighter, and I realized didn’t really want to be.

Having seen enough and done enough, I left the fire service. I have no regrets about being a paramedic. I have no regrets about having been on the fire department. I made life-long friends while there, and saved a life or two along the way.

To be honest, making that mistake made me evaluate and redirect my life, and I’ll be forever be grateful. My life is full of love, blessings and friendship. I was able to live my dream of being a paramedic, and even lived the dream of being part of a rescue team.

I made a terrible mistake, but I learned from it and moved on, and my life is better for it.

Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV)

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 

1 John 1:9 (ESV)

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


Have you ever made a life-changing mistake?

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This post is part of Blogapalooza here at ChicagoNow. We are given a topic at the top of the hour and have one hour to write and publish. Click this link – April 2015 Blogapalooza – to read the other stories!

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