Monday, November 14, 2005

Emergency Services

I watched a show on the Discovery channel the other night (Discovery Health maybe?) that profiled a young man who had his sites set on a career of being a Firefighter and Paramedic.

I didn’t catch his actual age, but from his looks I’m guessing late 20’s or early 30’s.

It seems he’d wanted to be in the fire service since he was a young kid, and to be a paramedic nearly that long as well.

As a result of his years of training and subsequent life saving efforts, he’s now HIV positive. Most likely it’s the result of a needle stick, or blood splatter, from an infected patient. He was fortunate in that he found out in enough time that he did not pass it on to his wife, or children. However, because he’s now a carrier, he can no longer work as a paramedic.

He continued fire fighting for a while, but soon his doctors were advising him that running into burning buildings, inhaling potential carcinogens etc… was not really in the best interest of his health.

I know I’ve talked in the past about how I felt about the men and women I served with in the Fire (and ambulance) service. I’ve not really talked much about this part, or the potential for ‘downside’, of the work.

It is dangerous work folks, not just the visible, ‘in your face’ dangerous, but at all sorts of levels. Despite the years of training, the best gear and special precautions, it can all still go very wrong.

One of the things that really stood out to me as I watched this program, and listened to this young man was his attitude. He wasn’t all ‘Woe is me’, instead I could hear the sadness in his voice as he talked about having to stop being a paramedic, and then his subsequent decision to leave the fire service.

In spite of his own personal hardships, it was evident he’d still rather be doing those things, than anything else in the world.

I’m here to tell you, the folks I’ve talked about to you in the past, to a person, are exactly the same way. They love the work and the sense that they’ve done something “good”, for someone else, at the end of the day.

It’s rarely about ‘the money’ with these folks; they certainly aren’t going to be “livin’ large” on what they find in their paychecks. Instead they’ve chosen to take a different path than most of us would, or could. To put caring for, and protecting, the lives, needs and property of others, in front of nearly everything else, including their own well being.

I remain honored to have had the opportunity, in my life, to know, and work alongside, people like this!

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Jada's Gigi said...

Thanks for posting. You're right...these people are cut of fine cloth, as my grandma would say. We should be very grateful for them.

Bill said...

Gigi - You're welcome. I can't imagine what life would be like without them.

Spirit Of Owl said...

It's true, and in this country the government quibbles over rewarding them with a decent wage. It beggars belief.

Bill said...

Spirit - They're not exactly rolling in the cash here either. It's really strange to me at times that it there's a profit motive in it, there's also big money to be had for doing it...

Essential services however, without which everything else would not be possible, seem to struggle to earn a living wage.