You never really know when you might get hit with a whammy you don’t expect but it does happen and it happened to me. I live in Canada now, but I spent decades working as an ambulanceman and then paramedic and trainer in Great Britain. I grew up in the field and it grew into a full “professional career” while I was along for the ride. I saw a lot of awful things but that was long ago. Since I’ve retired, I never expected to experience that kind of thing again — but I was wrong.
In January 2019, I awoke in the middle of the night sweating profusely and fully believing that I was working on a patient at the scene of a road accident. I was in a state, heart pounding, confused because it seemed so real! My wife convinced me that it was just a nightmare but from then on, I could not get the continuous movie of this incident (and others similar to it) out of my head.
My doctor here in Woodstock, Ontario diagnosed me with PTSD. It was shocking to me! All my life, I had been a strong guy and I always thought that nothing could or would ever affect me. I worked most of my life as a paramedic seeing all kinds of carnage and tragedy and during those years I was able to handle it well enough.
So for all this to come barreling back into my life in my retirement, it was horrible. I was advised to talk with mental health professionals and also to write down everything that I was seeing from my past career in the ambulance service. As a result of recalling and writing down my experiences, The Green Man book was created. Part therapy, part story-telling, part of the legacy of my life, all rolled into one!
I followed the doctor’s orders and advice, and I found that writing was good therapy. I gradually stopped being haunted by my memories. I found that it was interesting to relive on paper not only the tragedies but also the triumphs. My career was not all about death and dying. I delivered babies and saved many people of all ages and I lived a life of service to my fellow citizens, something of which I am still proud to talk about.
During my years responding to 999 calls (that’s the British equivalent of 911 calls) — I was privileged to be there just as the early stages of paramedic training emerged. Before that, it was more just scoop them up, transport them and hope for the best. But once I started learning more, I could not get enough. I attended college courses in my free time for two years in order to gain the qualifications I needed to become a professional paramedic and this eventually led to my promotion to Leading Paramedic.
If any of you who are reading this blog know any paramedics or first-responders, they will tell you that the work can be very hard and responding to emergencies every day can be grueling. But for me, I also found that it had its good side! We always had fun playing tricks on each other during our downtime and we became like a large family. I could talk to those guys about the 999 calls we dealt with and those debriefing sessions with my workmates over the years really helped me a lot. I wish I could still talk to them that way, because they really understood.
My life took a number of twists and turns and I am enjoying writing about other things now too. For example, in 1991, I volunteered to join a civilian medical team heading for the Iran-Iraq border where we helped treat a vast number of people who were displaced by the Gulf War. Then in 1993, I badly injured my back while lifting a very heavy patient out of an aircraft and that injury ended my career as an operational paramedic. That led me to pursue a second career where I developed and delivered training courses to various industries on the topics of response team training, first aid, rescue and defibrillation.
I only retired in 2018, and find myself having time for actual hobbies! What a concept! I really like woodworking, trap shooting, photography and of course, writing. Please contact me with questions and comments and I will be very happy to reply.
Yours in service, Ron.