I’m not sure what triggered it.
It could have been the car accident with the teenager whose face was half missing. A look of horror etched into the half that was still there as she saw the truck screaming towards her side of the car.
Perhaps it was the young lady whose hair, dangling out the back of her helmet got caught in the engine of the go-cart she was driving, tearing her scalp right off her head. I often have a vision of her sitting there in a chair, pale, swaying, her bloodied scalp bare for all to see.
Or perhaps it was the distraught mother who fainted while bathing her newborn baby, letting her slip beneath the water and woke to find it drowned. God knows we did all we could but the odds were just stacked against us.
No, thinking back, there is no one particular job that really made the difference. I think it was more the fact that after seeing twenty years of death, sadness, self mutilation and sickness it just accumulated, like a leaking tap, filling my emotional reservoir until it couldn’t take any more in.
In some ways I guess I’m not surprised it happened. Although completely out of character for me (well that’s what all my colleagues said), I had simply just had enough.
It’s not like I was like that all the time though. Hey, I was just as enthusiastic as the others to start with. I did my time at the bottom. Keen as mustard, volunteering whenever I could. Attending events no body else could be bothered doing. Doing extra shifts. Pulling my weight.
There were many good times as well. The close knit comradre. The sports teams. The daily practical jokes we would play on each other to release the tension. The black humour spilling out at any opportunity. The nineteen good years I gave everything to the job. Even my marriage in the end.
I guess when you are not taught how to cope with the stress you just do the best you can. This is not a job for whimps after all.
It’s been seven years since I left. That fateful day. That dreaded last shift when I snapped. I just couldn’t face going out on another call. I don’t know why my mind chose that moment in time to throw such a tantrum. Im pretty shocked and embarrassed by it all now but the professionals said it wasn’t uncommon for someone suffering post traumatic stress syndrome to behave like this.
I miss the job. I was good at what I did. I enjoyed it. Is it my fault that my human frailty caused me to react the way I did? It seems so unfair. Like all the effort I put in for so long counted for nothing in the end. The counsellor said I shouldn't blame myself for what happened. Accumulated stress she called it. I just wish my employer saw it like that too.
Its no use now though. That one moment in my career has tarnished me forever. A black mark against my name. ‘Do not re-employ’ stamped on my file. All that experience wasted. Thrown on the garbage heap like an empty drink container.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I saw it happen enough times to others. The supposed caring organisation we worked for shafting people when it suited. When their use by date was past it. The lucky ones managed to hang on. Slipping into PTS until their retirement.
At least I have some great memories and the knowledge that I helped so many in their time of need. Saved a few lives too. Seems so ironic really, going to so many dying people. One day it will be me.
In the meantime I carry on. Life goes on. The cycle will continue and staff will continue to pay the price for their dedication. At least I can say, for the most part, it was job I was really proud to do and I dedicated my life to saving others. I just wish I could still do it.