Many of us have different ways to cope. Many of us in this community see the worst in people, or have seen the worst in people. Whether we are in the back of a rig, or in a burning building, we see things we can’t forget. Turning to a coping mechanism is great, however I find that most of my companions don’t always know what to go to. That makes things difficult. When I can’t focus and calm down, I almost always do two things in this order exclusively. I look at the bar in my room and the bottles up on the shelf, and remind myself that the answer isn’t at the bottom of the bottle. Then I get up out of my chair, and walk to the garage.
I usually start off walking into the garage fumbling trying to figure out where I left the damn tape. I turn on my lamp above the flag, and find my tape. I start thinking about the issues I’m having, and take a few deep breaths. I remind myself that what’s going on right now is small, just like the lines I’m taping off. Every time line up tape I try to think of a new problem every line. I think about how I know I did everything I could. I know I had a knock down-drag out battle with the God of death. But I did everything I could. I re-adjust the tape, and when I do, I re-adjust my thought. I think about all the interventions I did. I made sure we secured her head and neck. I made sure we cleared her airway. I made sure there was a pulse and that there wasn’t any bad bleeds. I ran out of tape as I finished the last stripe, perfectly fitting for the flag and timing of my processing of this emotion. I move on to think about how I try to cover up my emotions and hide certain parts…
I find my paint in the corner I keep it in. I think about the things I missed or messed up on and shake the can. Think about how angry I am at myself for missing something that would have helped my patient. It sounds childish, but I shake my frustrations into the can to get the paint to mix around well. I shake it around harder and harder. Then After I feel calm again, I stop shaking the can and start thinking about the things I did right too. I grab the can and pop the top with a screw driver. I remind myself that I do things right and properly. I held a patients hand out of compassion while they were in pain. I calmed a wife after we were unsuccessful in resuscitating her husband of 30+ years, and got her daughter there to talk to her. We can’t magically heal someone. We can’t cure an illness, all we do is intervene and do things to help support a body heal itself. This is a good reminder that we need to help ourselves too.
I grab my brush and start putting paint on the wood, making sure not to put too much or too little. Making sure I control what I do because I like to be able to see the deep cuts in the wood, so that it doesn’t look like perfect paint. I don’t like things being perfect because I like to have some resemblance of myself in my work. I know I’m not perfect. People in our profession aren’t perfect. I have the same mindset Ted Talking physician Brian Goldman has: We need to remember that we aren’t perfect in order to help ourselves. If you were to take away all of the health care professionals who have made a mistake, you’d have nothing but the people who are in school right now. There wouldn’t be anyone to show up in the ambulance, or in the ER when you need medical help. My woodworking will never be perfect, neither will my painting. But that’s okay because in the end the flag will be just like the work we do: it will be beautiful to the people who receive it.
I collect my thoughts after coming back awhile later and apply my clear coating. I think while applying it because my thought process is much like it. When I put the coating on it’s cloudy over the paint, and that’s how my thoughts are. My thoughts are cloudy, sometimes filled with things I don’t like and find it hard to see through. But, just like the clear coating, through proper care and time, things clear up and start to settle to reveal the beautiful work underneath. What I do, and what WE do is help people. We take a bad situation and turn it around for someone. We take a bunch of broken pieces, put them back together, and do what we can to help our patient. We ensure their safety and ours through our calls, and make sure everyone goes home at the end of the day. If we are able to keep everything together on scene, we also need to make sure we are keeping everything together at home too. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Make sure you get home safe and to the next shift safe too. Make sure you take care of yourself enough to give beautiful work