About

I am 37, a wife and a mother to a crazy 7 year old girl.  I am an animal lover, and am lucky enough to have a chocolate labrador, a ridiculous  bunny, and the most magnificent horse. I live in beautiful Muskoka, Ontario and the last 17 years I’ve been a paramedic.  I started at age 20 (!) doe eyed right from school.  I have been a paramedic in the same small town in which I grew up and still live in. I was diagnosed with PTSD earlier this year after an incident that happened on my way home from a night shift.  I was driving home,( in uniform) and happened upon a horrific motorcycle accident minutes from my home.  I quickly realized the injured person was someone I knew, whom together we had a very complicated and tangled friendship over the years. Despite my best efforts, I knew this person would die from their injuries.  I went home numb, and my shell cracked open.  I went off work and was diagnosed with PTSD a week later.  Everyone has a journey, this is mine.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. kerry says:

    Thanks. I’m 39, I went into nursing school at 19. Thought it would be neat to work in psych, forensics, corrections, addictions, street and such places. The stories, the traumas, the experiences changed me. I didnt realize howmuch it broke me until I went off On leave. It’s been two years now. I look at job postings and my empty fridge and I still dont want to go back. It was something I was good at, but maybe I don’t just need to be good at something.

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    1. Esther says:

      After reading all of the stories, my feelings are that we are all “care givers” and after a “melt down” we need to learn to give care to ourselves. How do I do that, we may ask; well here are some ideas: cry & cry some more, wash the hurt & scars from our hearts; find a hobby, knitting, crocheting, painting, something to help us relax within ourselves; volunteer at an animal shelter, animals love no matter how badly they’ve been treated; find a good counselor, someone who is not judgmental, someone who will listen, someone who will respect you and honor you for all the hard work you have done for others. Some people turn to their priests, ministers, & their religion. Do what ever it takes to feel good about yourself, and take your time … as long as it takes to start feeling like a whole, worthwhile person again.
      Love your self.

      Like

  2. mm18156 says:

    Hi! When I read your blog….I started to cry cause your life story is a carbon copy of mine. I’ve been off for 3 months now but far from returning to work. You’re not alone!! I learnt that I’m not alone after you pretty much wrote my story. I’d like to connect with you so we can help each other by sharing our feelings and how we deal with our symptoms when they show up sneaking up on us. Please let me know if you’re interested. I would love to connect to you.

    Take care!

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    1. chickymedic says:

      Email me any time! Sonokefarms@gmail.com. Let’s chat 🙂

      Like

      1. mm18156 says:

        Just wondering if you got my last email

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  3. Sam Plant says:

    All i want to say is i hope you are able to heal, i hope the hurt and pain fades from you, i hope that you are able to think and remember the lives you have saved and the difference you will have made to thousand s of people in your time as a para…keep smiling hun…English Paramedic

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  4. Nikky says:

    First of all I would like to thank you for telling your story. I know in this field it takes a lot of guts to say what everyone is feeling and nobody is willing to say. You see I myself am a paramedic/ firefighter. I have worked this job for the last 9 years. I’m am similar to you, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was trying desperately to get a hospital career but didn’t have enough points for admissions into the selective programs. I started in EMT courses for the college credits. I was lucky. My instructor was amazing. He saw potential in me that I didn’t know was their. He was the sole reason I continued on and became a paramedic. He was often my mentor and sounding board as I struggled to fit into this world. I like you spent many days thinking I was bullet proof, nothing could get at me. I have over the years worked in many different communities, going where I felt I could make the biggest difference.
    Recently, I had my own emergency. I was hospitalized with pneumonia and sepsis which quickly turned into ARDS. I spent a total of 34 days in the hospital 14 of which I was on a ventilator. I was placed in a proning bed and my kidneys even shut down and I had to receive dialysis for a short time. My parents, who never understood why I did what I did and hated my career choice, were by my side throughout this ordeal. That says a lot since we live 2 hours apart. During this time they got to see the “family” I have made. I have amazing co-workers. Everyday and night someone in gray, blue, or bunker gear was in my room. They never said much mainly asked how I was doing offered a kind smile and support to my family. These men and women were the angels my family needed. I was soon to find out that I had underestimated them and their ability to support one of their own.
    You see the stories that you hear about horrible hallucinations while under medication for medically induced comas are more than accurate. My PTSD arrived in the form of horrible continuing nightmares throughout the 14 days I was intubated. I had several dreams during this time all weird horrible representations of scenes I had been on. Horrible dreams where you can’t wake up. I saw many patients that I had worked on over the years. I felt the fear and pain they must have felt in their situations and to me it was all to real. I never knew my problem was this bad. I knew I was a bit burnt out. I was more than happy to do hospital transfers the majority of the time however I didn’t realize it was because I was carrying so much around with me. After waking up I found I was afraid of everything. My own shadow or a noise in the night would send me into a panic attack. Just going to the store for groceries became a full day activity. It took hours to work up the courage to leave the house. My life had took an evil turn and I could see that it was effecting my 10 year old son as well. I didn’t tell a sole for months. I was in and out of doctors appointments and would brush it off anytime they would suggest I talk to someone. I visited at the fire station just to keep up appearances and because it was one of the only places I felt safe. My partners on the ambulance would check in from time to time and I would try to laugh and smile and act like I was fine. I guess I failed.
    This group that had become my family had noticed changes in me. They didn’t really know the full scale of my troubles but they knew I wasn’t myself. I finally did break down, which is a complete understatement. In reality I crashed and burned. When this happened my co-workers, past and present, were the one who swooped in and started collecting the pieces. They sat patiently and pulled information out of me. They spent hours just sitting and talking until I finally broke. It was then that I realized I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t weak. That many of them were fighting the same demons I was just without the physical trauma to go along with it.
    It has been 6 months now since I first got sick and hospitalized. I am recovering slowly and working with a therapist to put things back in order. Every day get a little better and my family of EMS misfits is still by my side. These wonderful men and women have seen the best and worst of me, as i’m sure you make shift family is seeing the best and worst of you. I have learned though that they are the people that you need to talk to. They are the ones hiding the same emotions and memories, feeling the same losses. I really hope that you can once again find the peace and spirit that you started off your career with. We are a rare group no mater what country, what region, what city we live i or what service we work for. We care to much, share to little and hide to much. Trust in the people you work with or the teachers you had they can sometimes be exactly the people you need, and please never be afraid to talk. We are all in the same boat. I wish you and your family well now and in the future. Don’t give up you may have had no idea what you were getting into as far as the situations you found yourself in but you also have no idea the family you gain in this career. They will be by your side whether they know you or not. I know this story is bit winded I just want you to know you are not alone. Thank you so much for your story. Good luck and God bless.

    A fellow fighter
    paramedic/ firefighter, Michigan USA

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    1. chickymedic says:

      What a story. We are lucky to have you alive, and on the way to well. I agree with you about the EMS family we build, as no-one else really gets the warped sense of humour. I too had a life altering accident back in 2003, when I fell off my horse resulting in 2 weeks in a trauma centre and multiple orthopeadic surgeries on my leg and elbow. I spend a year almost recovering, and my EMS family were with me the whole time. When the time came to be discharged from the trauma centre, (which was 2 hrs away from home) my service sent one of our ambulances, empty to Toronto to retrieve me and safely bring me home. So, it’s difficult for me to consider leaving this job because of the wonderful people I work with. I get it. 🙂
      Be well xo

      Like

  5. EstherA says:

    I read your story, & with heart felt gratitude, I want to thank you for your years of service to the community.
    When I had a “melt down” at work, I didn’t know what was happening to me … the psychiatrist I saw told me there was nothing wrong with me & I should go back to work … the EAP counselor told me “but you’ve coped so well all these years” what did she know about being molested as a child … trusting no one … what did she know about how it feels to be raped.
    There were times I don’t know why I survived, the pain was so intense. I cried & cried … for months … work fired me, saying I was abusing the system.
    The healing process was slow going, but it was growing, I found myself at the bottom of a well, bricked up, a mirror shattered on the floor & me in small pieces. I found a wonderful counselor at the crisis center, she knew, she gave me homework … me work. I used some of the exercises in the “Courage to Heal”, It helped.

    Thank you again
    EstherA

    Like

  6. Kieran G. says:

    Thank you! THANK YOU! I started my career in May of 1998, in October I got my first paying job as an EMT. In September of 1999 I survives a horrible crash responding to a call. It took me almost 2.5 months to find someone who understood what I had gone through. And finally get the diagnosis of PTSD. Still to this day I struggle. January of this year I pretty much had a melt down and was worried about “burn out” After some long phone calls to multiple people at our company EAP. I found a therapist who specializes and PTSD for Fire, EMS, and police. That’s where I learned it’s okay not to be okay. And he need to be selfish to have proper self-care. It’s nice to see that there’s other people than just me dealing with this on a daily basis. Thank you

    Like

  7. Joe Moore says:

    I sent you an email to request the use of your article on my subscriber only website. I have been a paramedic for fifteen years and an EMT for thirteen more, and this information is truly needed in our small community of Beaver Island. Do I have your permission to share this article?

    Like

    1. chickymedic says:

      Absolutely Joe, I would be thrilled if you shared. Thank you for taking the time to read it and I’m so happy that you found it interesting enough to share.

      Like

  8. Thank you chickymedic for sharing your experiences. And thank you for your dedicated service to your community. I hope you will consider contacting me about how to best reach out to paramedics who are struggling with traumatic injuries.

    I direct an equine assisted therapy for Veterans and First Redponders at program a few hours from the Muskokas. So far, being so close to an army base, l have been successful at reaching out to Veterans in need, and secured some funding so they can attend THE WAR HORSE PROJECT. Unfortunately, even personally knowing some paramedics and dispatchers has not been sufficient to reach out to the injured. We have an excellent equine assisted therapy program, and real clinical results indicating a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms experienced by those who have attended the program.

    Our desire to reach out to the ill and injured paramedics is great, but obviously reaching the right people in the right places is essential. I would appreciate any suggestions or ideas on where to start. THE WAR HORSE PROJECT began because of an identified need, and because some individuals saw the potential of equine assisted therapy.

    Please visit our website for more information, or call me @ 613 585 1208. http://WWW.hopereinstherapy. com.

    Like

    1. chickymedic says:

      Allison, contact me. Let’s talk. sonokefarm@gmail.com

      Like

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