Recently I came across an old picture at my Ambulance Base where I work. On seeing the photo I had to laugh. It was a picture of me when I first started working in 1983. I was giving a tour of the Ambulance base to a group of school children. Clean shaven, chestnut hair, baby face.
WOW, has everything changed. How I have changed!
I have worked in the Paramedical field for over thirty-five years now. I started my college course in Pre-Hospital Emergency Care at Conestoga College in Kitchener in 1982. My first shift as a student was in an Ontario Ministry of Health, “Blue and White,” Ambulance. Once graduating and successfully passing my MOH Emergency Medical Care Attendant Examinations I started working for Rushnell Ambulance Service in Trenton, Ontario as an Ambulance Attendant. We had two low-rise, orange and white Ambulances.
Through the years my title has changed many times, starting with Ambulance Attendant, we then became;
- Ambulance Officer
- Emergency Medical Care Attendant
- Advanced Emergency Medical Care Attendant
- Primary Care Paramedic
With all the various titles, one term seems to have remained constant for my entire career, the public just cannot shake the dreaded term “Ambulance Driver!”
I have always worked in the community of Trenton, now called Quinte West in Eastern, Ontario as a front-line Paramedic in the busiest base of the area. Although I have not moved, the service has changed several times, starting with the original MOH -Owner-Operator system to the Municipal based system today under Hastings County.
Service names have included, Rushnell’s, Trenton Ambulance Service, Trenton District Ambulance Service, Hastings-Quinte Emergency Medical Service and currently Hasting-Quinte Paramedic Service.
When I started we carried an oxygen kit and a red steel tool box as our first aid kit. Needless to say, there has been considerable changes in the field, most were good changes, some bad and a couple temporarily sent our profession backwards.
Today we carry almost 200 lbs. of equipment and stretcher into our patients. New equipment/procedures, cardiac monitors/defibrillators, drugs, IV’s, Airway Management, computers, etc. allow me to provide better medical care to my patients. But the basics of the job still boils down to the old standard, blanket, oxygen and transport to hospital.
I have had several partners over the years, my longest partner and I worked together for over fifteen years, eventually Rhonda and I married. Although Rhonda is now retired, we are still partners.
My first partner had been working about ten years already, he was a good mentor, but sometimes a little crusty. When he would start to go on, I would simply ask, “What was it like to work in the old Cadillac’s?” He would then tell me where to go, even though we weren’t responding to a call. Funny thing, a few years ago, a rookie asked me the same question.
Over the years, there has been clues that should have told me that I was becoming an “Old Fart.” The rookie’s question was one. Answering him, I was able to honestly say, they were great to drive, a real powerhouse. I had driven one in a Christmas parade.
The other clues were obvious, climbing the seniority list, seven Maple Leafs on my dress uniform (one for each five years of service), receiving the Governor Generals Medal for Exemplary Service. Realistically, I considered these milestones as a natural progression.
There were incedents, less obvious, but much more definitive. One day, I was working with a new hire. We were getting along very well, when during the course of the conversation she mentioned her age. She was twenty-two and I started to laugh. Immediately she became defensive and replied, “You think I’m too young to be a Paramedic?” Still laughing I explained, “No, I was nineteen when I started. What’s funny is, for the first time, I have a partner who is younger than I have been working.”
Another incident took place when I attended a conference at the Headquarters of Toronto EMS. We were returning to the room, passing the museum display in the foyer. The two young medics in front of me commented on a piece of equipment behind the glass, “Look at that old oxygen kit.” Again I found myself laughing aloud. I remember when that oxygen kit was new and cutting edge.
Seeing that old picture, gave me cause to look back on my career and truly think about what I have done. I estimate I have responded to roughly 36,000 calls over the years. In that time many of the calls have jumbled together. I have saved several lives, others I have been able to prevent from becoming more serious, and I have been there, during those first precious moments, to assist a new life into this world.
Some lives I could not save.
With reflecting back on my career as a Paramedic, I can honestly say, I have and continue to enjoy my career. There are two milestones that I have not yet crossed, I still “have not seen it all” and I have not delivered the baby of a baby that I have delivered.
So perhaps I have not quite become an OLD FART yet. Just simply a Paramedic, young at heart, with tons of experience!