Vocation: Emergency Medical Technician
[Following is the transcript of a homily delivered by congregation member Brian Henry on August 7. 2016. No audio is available.]
Good morning everyone.
Today I was asked by Pastor Kent if I would spent some time and let you guys get to know me on a more personal lever. As some of you may already know, I work as an EMT or (Emergency Medical Technician) for a private company here in Boston. This profession can be quite dangerous at times, but can also be very rewarding in the long run.
You might wonder as to how a Christian might handle their spiritual walk under such drastic conditions in this line of work. First, I grew up Roman Catholic which is very much on the opposite side of the religious spectrum then the 3 denominations here at United Parish. When I turned about 14, I basically cut off my ties with my Roman Catholic belief because it didn’t feel right to me anymore. Over the next several years I shopped around in various religions like Baptist, and a Nazarene church, through their youth groups due to friends I had in my neighborhood. I learned quickly that to me my faith is summed up like this: I don't belong to a specific denomination, and I don't really follow the curriculum of a specific one either. I believe in living my life to the fullest and having a spiritual relationship with Jesus to guide me through it all. If I had more time I would love to go further into that so I will move on to the main part of my message today.
Going back to being an EMT is not easy living a Christian faith; seeing all that I see on a daily basis is a challenge to say the least. EMS wasn't actually my first career choice, nor did I know it would later be my actual calling in life. I went to school to be a police officer so I could work in the school systems to protect the future minds of the upcoming generations, along with the general public as well. When I moved to Boston, God placed Anthony into my life, who later became a strong male figure my age. He and I were quite alike and were working in the same fields. He became an EMT himself and worked with me so that I might see that it is was my true calling in life also. I prayed about it hard asking God if this is truly where I was needed, and that this is what I was supposed to do with my spiritual gifts. Truth be told it was. My constant need to always want to help people, and just make a general difference is what makes my job as a whole easier for me and that much more rewarding. Anthony, as well other friends and family, helped me get through the long hours of schooling to get my license and begin my calling in EMS.
Over the past year I have been working as a Basic EMT, and let me tell you the phrase "life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get," is pretty close to hitting the nail on the head! In the past year I have seen the whole spectrum of life from birth all the way to death. Anything you could think of in terms of sickness, or injuries whether it be because of sheer stupidity or just plain being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I've either seen it or heard about it from coworkers.
Being an EMT isn't easy by any means, but it’s also not just horrible calls resulting in the loss of a person or animal, or crazy scars painted on to a beings body for the rest of their lives. To help clarify this, think of the worst thing you have ever witnessed, and what was going on in your mind. Think about how it’s scarred into your mind and soul for life. In EMS that’s a reality: everything we see and do creates an internal scar we will take with us in our journey through life. My wife can tell you from hanging out with me and my coworkers when we gather at a BBQ or for a night out after shift, our work isn't easy. She hears the stories as we converse with one another about our job as if EMS is something everybody can experience. She can feel the scars in our voices. I often meditate about my days knowing God is listening and that even though I may not get an answer I just feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest.
In EMS you end up developing a very twisted sense of humor and personality. What I mean is, we can respond to a call and the result of it could be that the person didn't make it off the ER table, and while that's going on we are outside clearing up from the call and could be joking around making plans for the weekend. It's not that we don't care that a life wasn't saved just then, we just don't have the time to dwell on it into the next call because it can cloud or actions going forward. We might joke about how a patient frustrated us on a call and say something mean, but we don't mean it at all, it’s just how we debrief from our job. There are even times we could be out with a coworker or friend in the similar profession, and we could be out in public at dinner just discussing a call without a care in the world. To us that is normal, to the civilians around us they might be grossed out or better yet offended, and again that’s not our intent, it just comes with the territory so to speak.
This woman, Vinny, we used to take before she passed, shows one end of the EMS spectrum. Sweetest lady ever, and even though she had severe Dementia, my partner and I could tell she remembered us day after day. I loved seeing her smile as we walked through the door and I knew that day was going to be awesome when she was my first call of the day.
I also remember my first emergency where the patient wasn't able to be saved. I remember how awful I felt and how much it ate me up inside. My partner and fellow coworkers helped me through by making me forget what just happened by cracking an innocent joke to get me to smile so I could move on. The call was for a cardiac arrest of heart attack.
I love what I do and don’t regret choosing it/it choosing me for a second. What you see as a dangerous occupation, I see it as, I get to wake up and go have fun with my EMS Brothers and Sisters. I get to get out of bed, clock in for shift, check out my ambulance with my Partner Brian, and “Yes, I feel work thought it would be a great laugh putting together a truck with 2 people with the same name.” We hit the road to quote unquote “Save the day!”
Everybody always asks me, “What is the ambulance like?” Driving an ambulance can be stressful at times because the roads aren't always clear for us. We have construction and rush hour traffic to deal with sometimes; I often think to myself that if it wasn't for the long hours of playing Tetris as a kid quickly weaving the pieces back and forth into place, that the driving could be more challenging than it needs to be. Not to mention, in the back we work in a very confined space. I would estimate it to be about a 10x5 space, but the actual space within that which we work is about 8x3.5. Moving down the road at about 50MPH can make it very difficult to work on a patient while trying to balance yourself standing. We do the best we can with what's in front of us and pray we can get from points A to B safely to let the ER take over plain and simple.
This job is so rewarding to me, but with any reward comes a lot of sacrifice. The sacrifices that we have to make as EMT's are never-ending. First and foremost we have to do our job rain or shine. We don’t get to call off because there is 4 feet of snow out there. Next, we work crazy schedules depending on our EMS level. We have shifts ranging from 8,10,13, 24-hour shifts. Within the shifts there is a set schedule of work hours, but you never know when you will actually get off work due to 911 calls. They can be a quick turn-around or take forever depending on the severity. After that, working these long hours can keep us away from friends and family which can place a huge toll on relationships or marriage. Not to mention, there are times we may not get to go home for the holidays to see our families.
Regardless of all these things that we sacrifice, this is the price we pay for the ultimate reward of helping people and making a difference to show them there are good people out there that will lend a hand in the time of need. Take a look at Luke 10: 30-37. We have all heard the story about the Good Samaritan. We see how there is this person who is very sick and needs help, but nobody wants to lend a hand. They are either afraid to help because they don't want to get sick themselves or they feel they are too good to help. Then comes this stranger, who didn't care if he came from money or if he was dead poor, who without hesitation helped this person in pain and brought them to an inn to seek the medical attention needed. This passage relates a lot to us because I work with people who are very financially well off, and those who aren't. We don’t care who the person is, what their sickness is, or what they have done. We see a person in need of help and we give no questions asked.
At the end of the day I may not portray a very outspoken Christian walk in my job, but helping people, not because it’s my job that just says I have to, but because I truly want to shows my spirituality in itself I think.
I love that I had this chance to paint what I hope is a beautiful picture about who I am, and what I do. My hope is to, at some point, reach the highest EMS level of Paramedic so that I can become a Paramedic firefighter to try to make more of a difference in life. All I would ask for from you all is continued prayers and support for myself and my fellow EMS brothers and sisters as we continue to do what we do. It's not easy being the forgotten out of the trifecta that is police, fire-fighters, and EMS.