The front-line doesn’t scare me. Going to work doesn’t scare me. Terrorism doesn’t scare me, and the unknown doesn’t scare me.
Arrogance? No. Smoke and mirrors? Possibly.
I look in the mirror. That scares me.
Before I started in this industry, I was 21, in retail management for what was at the time Jamie Oliver’s best friends. Running a department that grossed £370,000 a week- goodness knows what it equates to now. I earned £17,500 a year for the privilege. I looked after a team of 30 people or so. Today, I look after me, my colleague, and a patient or two. I was a first-aider- my first taste of anything remotely medical. I’d not witnessed death. Not witnessed sorrow. Not witnessed somebody who I was responsible for die.
My eyes are tired now. My face weathered. I look into my eyes and what used to be a fairly innocent young man is now a harder, colder looking person. That glow I had as a young 21 year old has gone. The things I’ve seen taken their toll not just on my mind, but on my outlook, my image.
Since beginning in this Industry I’ve gained weight, a lot of weight. 4 Stone to be precise. I would never have accepted this at 21, yet now I find myself single, creeping towards 30, and in the worst shape of my life. Some of that is “comfort” in various relationships. Plenty of that is exhaustion and grabbing anything to eat I can find, not having the energy to exercise after.
In the last 2 years, I’ve lost 1 Grandmother, and 1 Grandfather. I found my grandad at home, struggling for breath. He had a Pneuomothorax and Pleural Effusion. I was now faced with calling 999 for my own family. A great crew from East of England Ambulance Service attended, and listened to my diagnosis. Without question or hesitation, they got to work.
My Grandad was a very strong independent man. The crew put him on Oxygen. He refused to be wheeled. He put his hat and coat on and stated defiantly- “I am not being carried out of this house”. Buttons done up, he carried his own Oxygen bottle in his hand, climbed the steps of the back of the Ambulance and sat down on the trolley. He was taken to Hospital, and never came out. This was my first and only involvement in any relatives death.
I blamed myself. I still do in part. I had hassled him the week before to go to his GP, he’d refused. I was responsible for sending him to hospital and he never came out. I watched him deteriorate over a week before he eventually passed away, a fragment of his normal self.
I sunk into what can only be described as a deep depression. My girlfriend at the time (another Paramedic) was there when I said my last goodbye, and watched me break into pieces in front of her. She was amazing. She stood by me for months on end, until eventually I had changed so much that she could no longer be with me.
If I wasn’t in pieces before, then I sure was now. My world literally fell apart. I don’t mind admitting that I had some very dark thoughts. I was driving home at night and speeding up when coming towards bridges. I remember one night driving at well over 100mph in my own car- wishing for someone to catch me and lock me up, just because I couldn’t bare to be “free” anymore. I would go to work and be all happy and caring, only to go home and be miserable and desperate. I wouldn’t move from my bedroom for days. I didn’t eat for about 4 days when it happened. I’d lost my Grandad for which I blamed myself, and in-turn had lost the one person who had been there for me.
This was only 3 months ago. November 2016 + June 2017 is when my life was turned upside down. Do I miss both? You bet. Do I blame anyone? Only myself.
I’m getting there. I have good days and bad. The bad days are becoming less. I’m on a diet, trying to lose weight, and trying to sort my head out. Am I safe to practice? Yes. Never has work been an issue for me. Do I feel depressed now? Not really. Just sad on occasion.
The person I see in the mirror now, doesn’t recognise the person who looks back at him. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.