Friday, April 11, 2008

You Never Know When you Might Make a Difference

I was traveling at the time. Traveling is being used to fill in where ever someone is out sick or on vacation. I was riding with Gary out of Station 6. We got a call to a man cut. Nothing more just a man cut. We arrived to find a well taken care of small middle class home. A mother and a son lived there alone. The son was in his twenties and had a debilitating disease. He was constantly in pain and the disease was slowing eating away at his body and his life. Out of frustration during an argument with his mother he had put his fist through a window. No big deal here just a laceration that I quickly bandaged. 

But as I bandaged his wound, Gary and I listened to them talk. He and his mother had been arguing over something trivial and he had exploded. As they talked it became clear that he was angry at his disease and not his mother. Here was a young man in his twenties watching his life slowly being taken from him. He would have no girlfriends. He would not hang out with his buddies at the bar. It would not be long before he would be confined to wheelchair. He could see all of this life around him. He could see the pretty young women. He could see the young men with the life he wanted, but was not going to have and he could do nothing but watch. 

As he talked it startled me because for the first time I saw life through eyes of someone who only wanted a simple normal life, yet was never going to have one. To see it so close yet not to be able to have it. I was not sure I would not be putting my fist through windows if I were in his shoes. 

Gary and I where old hands at the time. We both were had become paramedics early and had close to fifteen years on at that time. We had survived the busy trucks and were still medics. If we had had this run years before we might have just bandaged the guy up and left. Just a couple of tough guy medics who had their armor on. Nothing got to us. On to the next one. But we had survived that stage and this time without saying a word between us, we began to talk to them. His mother only wanted to help him through his pain. He only had his mother to lash out at in his frustration. He was punishing the only person in the world who was trying to help him. 

The son did not want to go to the hospital. Gary and I knew if he went they could see a social worker at the hospital they might be able to help them. I talked to the son and he talked to the mother. After a few minutes we were able to convince the son to let his mother take him to the hospital. They loaded up and drove off. Gary and I got back on the truck and went back to the station. Nothing to it. Just another social work call. Gary and I had been to thousands of them over the years. Not what we were trained to do, nor were we trying or wanting to be social workers. We were just trying to "clean it up" so we would not have to come back. I traveled to another station the next shift day and did not think about it again until Gary called me a few weeks later. 

Gary had a call and was returning to the station in the rescue when the mother flagged them down. She was thrilled when she saw it was Gary on the truck. She wanted to thank him for what we had done for them that night. When they went to the hospital they had seen the social worker. They had been referred to a consular and were getting help. She told Gary that we had changed their lives. Her son was more at peace with his disease and no longer had outbursts. She had someone she could talk to her about her own issues with helping her son. They now had someone to help them and it was working. 

Changed their lives. That still rings through me when I thing about it. At the time we had both seen enough to be as cynical as anyone. We had seen it all between us, but for whatever the reason that night we put our cynicism aside and simply talked to a couple of people and it changed their lives. You just never know. 

1 comment:

LM said...

Your notes are great. I find writing to be not only 'therapeutic' for me to work through stuff, but as my newly created blog name states, many times what we have to share is helpful to others. .they need to hear it. thanks for all your years in the streets. mine have been in the halls of non-profit organizations, and a few as a chaplain at a nursing home. last October, I also traveled through Yellowstone on vacation. If you email me at, I'd love to see more of your photographs, and I'll show a couple that I was rather proud of from that trip. I don't even claim to be trying to learn photography. .they were just accidents.