We make decisions every day that have the potential to weigh heavily on the course of our lives. Most of the time these decisions are made without much debate. Sometimes, they gives us that knot in our gut that no amount of antacid will solve.
There are those few choices we make that are not so much a decision, but the process of making a dream come true.
Now I have written and talked about many of the choices and decisions I have made over the last few years. If you haven’t already, you can go back and look through the archive of my blog posts and read up.
But there is one choice I made nearly 30 years ago that is no I will always put at the top of the list of best decisions I have ever made in my life. It was not only a decision that literally saved my life, but has helped countless others.
What decision could be so important you might ask? Well. It was when I signed up for the Emergency Medical Technician course at the College of DuPage. Through that class, I became certified and ended up working for a private ambulance service in Chicago, becoming a paramedic and eventually being a paid on call fire fighter.
I can recount a multitude of instances where my training was put into practice in medical and trauma situations both while working on the ambulance and while off duty. Everything from cardiac emergencies to traffic accidents, the memories are rushing back even as I type this out.
There is one situation that probably ranks above most. I was driving home from the job interview with TEK ambulance in McHenry, Il.. It was a dark and cold December night as I passed a business intersection in Bartlett when the tones on my scanner went off. Bartlett and Hanover Park fire departments were being toned out for a accident with injuries at the intersection I just passed. I made a quick u-turn and blazed my way up the median and to the crash sight. Local P.D. and I arrived at the same time and I identified myself and an EMT and they let me get to work.
There was not much I could do with out extrication tools, but I accessed the victims and gave the paramedics a merger report when they arrived. As they extricated two of the passengers from one of the cars, I noticed the male driver staring blankly as he watched his wife and son being treated. Something inside me said his look wasn’t normal, even with the mental trauma he was in.
I sat him down on the curb and began an assessment when I noticed his pupils didn’t react to light. When asked if he remembered the crash, he couldn’t.
At that moment, one of the battalion chiefs came up and asked if I needed help. I told him that my patient had a potential severe head injury. With the help of a paramedic, we packaged him as another ambulance was called to transport him.
I never found out what the end result of my actions were, but I know that if I hadn’t been there, things could have been drastically different.
Training of any sort kicks in when sometimes you least expect it. I know when I find myself in an emergency situation when someone else is involved, my training all those years ago is still there and I will put it in to practice. But when I am the patient, the story can be a little different. But that training and all the time I spent working on patients did save my own life.
In January of 2004, I was diagnosed with atypical bacterial meningitis as a result of a massive infection that had spread from my throat to my inner ear to my brain in a matter of 48 hours. Both my doctors and I agreed that if I had not had the training I had, recognized the seriousness of my health and had not gone in to the emergency room when I did, I would not have survived. One doctor said I was 6 hours from the morgue.
There is a lot that crosses my mind when I think about the decision to become an Paramedic. It was something I had wanted to do since my childhood watching the television show Emergency. It was something I had set my mind on watching the police officer give my mom first aid after a serious crash we were involved in when I was in 1st grade. Being a paramedic was almost something I was hard wired to do. But not in a million years did I ever think about the impact that that decision would have on my life.
I have been off that ambulance for 20 years now and still carry a fully stocked jump kit in my car. I can’t help it. I feel blessed to have helped dozens of people in their time of need. Whether or not I am certified, I still have the training and I know God will put it to use when and where it is needed. Being a police officer, fire fighter or EMT/paramedic is not just a job. it is who you are and it never leaves you. And that decision that seems like a lifetime ago is one I will always be grateful that I made.
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