That night, the squad building alarm swallowed my ears. Dusk set only shortly before, yet there I was, dead in the lounge, eyes closed, ears closed, and brain turned off. Excitement and eagerness brought me back to life as the shrill sound of the alarm flooded the building. Although I stood ready for battle, my soul still desired the soft and soothing comfort of the couch. Tonight, it would receive anything but that comfort. The siren was soon replaced by the humble dispatcher's voice who monotonously repeated the address of the grave incident. The ennui in the dispatcher's voice seemed almost inhumane, but I assumed repeating such incidents every night would harden even the most empathetic person's emotions.
Clad in my light blue collared job shirt, navy blue pants, and heavy duty slip resistant boots, I remained still where my reaction impulses had left me standing and took a moment to soak in the gravity of the situation at hand. Already I was worrying about what would happen, if I was going to mess up, or if I was going to be acclaimed for an outstanding performance, things which should not have been on my mind.
I began to regret my decision to not wear a sweatshirt, as the cold plastic of the bench seat sent shivers up my entire body. The back of the ambulance was empty except for me, an empty stretcher, and the hot air circulating from the vents in the ceiling. Unexpectedly, I was thrown backwards by the instantaneous acceleration of the ambulance - a reminder that I had forgotten to fasten my seatbelt. As I lay sedentary where the accelerating vehicle had thrown me, I once again began to contemplate my fate. Although I had been trained how to take vital signs, how to unload a stretcher, and how to document information, I had not yet done them in an emergency situation. I started to become exceedingly worried, questioning whether I would be able to perform without error and fulfill my role as emergency personnel. I joined the Rescue Squad to provide medical aid to the people who need it most, the people who are suffering from an automobile accident and need to be transported to the hospital, the people who are unconscious on the ground subliminally messaging for help, but most of all the people who cannot control what is happening to them and need to trust their lives in the hands of someone else. If I did not make the right moves, if I messed up in any way, it could cost the life of someone who could have been helped
Thinking this, I jumped out of my seat and started to prepare for what I had to do. I readied the clean-sheeted stretcher which had no trace of human occupation yet, and placed the necessary equipment on top. My dark purple gloves were next on my agenda as I felt the chalky surface rub up against the tips of my fingers, knowing that they would soon be drenched with sweat. As we pulled up to the Mirage Hotel and a hoard of worried people, I began to feel an overwhelming rush of pride that I was going to be heralded as the savior of the day. As soon as the ambulance came to a stop, I leaped out the back, only to receive a round of applause by the hopeful bystanders. Everything was going perfectly so far. Then it got stuck. It would not unhinge from the lock which held it shut. Desperately trying to free it from the grasp of the ambulance, I pulled and tugged at the stretcher which I needed to bring to the rescue of the victim. All the pride which engulfed me before escaped in a matter of seconds, being replaced by shame and embarrassment. There it was, the very moment which gripped me with fear every time I had thought about it - I had messed up.
Closing my eyes in bed that night, I replayed the events of that night in my head. My crew chief had realized the stretcher was missing and came back from inside the hotel to help me unload it. The severe asthma attack which had debilitated a 55 year old male enjoying the party inside required immediate medical attention, and he needed a doctor as soon as possible. After a word with my crew chief on my stretcher difficulty, my priorities changed completely. Having someone's life in the palm of your hands teaches you that the task on hand is more important than what will happen afterwards. I was always one to look for the fruits of my labor, to look for what I would gain or lose, but now I focus on finishing whatever I have to do rather than wasting time predicting what will happen to me. I now live for each moment because if you look too far into the future, you will lose sight of what is happening now.