The other day someone made a joke about Sam and his job at the firehouse. They commented that he gets paid big bucks to sleep, watch TV all day, and make chili. I just let the comment pass, but it has been bugging me ever since. So now that I have had time to think it over, here is my response:
Last week Sam worked his regular 24 hour shift and then another 24 hour overtime shift. In that time span he dealt with a women whose husband had discovered her affair. He beat her unconscious, and then some. He savagely killed her lover and then killed himself. His next call was for a sixteen year old girl who was six months pregnant and needed to be extricated from her car after hitting another car. He managed to eat most of his lunch before being sent out to a person "hearing voices". A small structure fire and then a fourteen year old girl whose father had beaten her senseless because she stole his cigarettes. Next was a heroin overdose victim who had been found by her seven year old son. The last call was for an elderly woman who had called 911 three times in the last week. She was not poor enough for social services and not sick enough to be in a facility. She was lonely and just frail enough that she needed help. In between these calls were the ones for unconscious drug addicts who needed to be revived and minor car accidents. Towards the early morning hours were the calls for the drunks who couldn't walk or, even worse, tried to drive.
Sam deals not just with injuries, fires, and illnesses. Every shift he comes face to face with the brutality of humans. He witnesses the worst that people do to each other and themselves. He doesn't really sleep knowing that the lights and tones could go at anytime. For 48 hours his mind and body are on high alert. His goal is to get everyone out alive, including himself.
Sam has said, "I wish I could forget the things I have seen and heard." He's been a first responder for nearly his entire life, and he remembers the first patient he lost. He remembers those that were gone before he got there and the ones he couldn't get to.
So, yes, he can make an amazing pot of chili and he does sometimes catch up on his TV watching, but could you do what he does, face what he faces, and do it well? Could you go for the fourth time to that old woman's home and take her blood pressure, reassuring her that she is okay, and then a few minutes later remain calm while doing CPR on a six year old, fully knowing that the child is not coming back, as the mother wails behind you? Would you for less than $19 an hour?