By Michael Morse
I learned a thing or two while I was running 911 calls. One of the most important things I learned was to always have a plan. More important than having a plan was having a Plan B. But it is of utmost importance to have a Master Plan:
THE MASTER PLAN: ALWAYS REMEMBER; YOU ARE GOING TO MISS THIS.
That’s it. That’s the master plan. Sorry if you expected something grandiose, earth shattering or ingenious. I simply don’t have anything to share other than that. It took me 25 years to realize that I was going to miss it. I wish somebody had told me these five simple words years ago. Nobody did, but I am telling you now. You’re going to miss this:
1) THE LITTLE OLD LADIES
Not because their maladies are challenging. Not because they need an EMT or paramedic and by god you showed up and saved their lives. Rather, you are going to miss the interaction. You will miss knowing that a lonely old lady became far less lonely because of your presence in her life. You will miss the feeling of well-being you derive from connecting with another human being, and being a positive influence in that person‘s life by providing comfort, competent medical care and a willing ear for somebody who needs it.
2) THE LITTLE YOUNG LADIES
You will miss feeling larger than life when a 4-year-old’s eyes light up at the sight of you. You will miss laying your hand on their forehead, and telling the worried mom that her child‘s temperature is 103 degrees, and that the seizure activity was fairly common, and that in all likelihood it was a result of the elevated temp. You will miss wrapping the child in a blanket, and protecting her from the cold as you carry her out of her home and into the frigid night, then making her comfortable in your office, the one that speeds through deserted streets a few hours before dawn, and deliver her to the emergency room.
3) THE SUNRISE
You will miss witnessing night give way to daylight as you speed through that sleeping city or town to the daybreak emergency call. You are going to miss the satisfied exhaustion at the end of your shift, and remember that in the big scheme of things a call just before shift change has the potential to be the one that made all of the others tolerable.
4) YOUR PARTNER
You will have friends, siblings and spouses. You will have parents and teachers, children and acquaintances. But you will miss your partner more than any of them when it’s over. Because when it is over, it is over. Never again will you have the confidant sitting next to you as you try to make sense of the remains of the 20-year-old girl whose life ended at the end of a rope. Nobody else will be able to grasp the emotional rollercoaster that you experience together — and nobody will ever see you at your most raw, when the blood has yet to dry on your uniform, and the sights and smells are still alive inside of you — not as a memory that is fading, but as a reality that has just occurred.
5) THE SATISFACTION
You knew that you wanted to do something that made a difference. You wanted to help people. You wanted to matter. You may have lost sight of the fact that you have accomplished your objectives. While you are “in the soup”� it may seem as if you are accomplishing nothing. People live, people die; you did your job and the end result remained the same. But to the people whose lives sometimes depend on you, you have accomplished far more. It won’t be until you have hung up the radio, stripped off the uniform, put up your feet and had a chance to reflect will you be able to realize your contributions.
At the end of your career, when the ink has not only dried, but has begun to fade from the pages of history, it all becomes clear. You DID matter. You were one of the ones who made a difference. And while you were too busy to realize just how important your contributions were, somebody, perhaps your partner, maybe a patient or even a bystander was not too busy to notice, and was able to take some of what you offered, and make it part of themselves, and become better at what they do, and continue to do.
You are going to miss this. It will always be part of who you are, and who you were will always be a part of what EMS is.