A fallen paramedic 

Recent tragic events have sadly inspired this post. Another green shirt has fallen; another colleague laid to rest; another family heartbroken. 

The country is short of paramedics and all other equally important emergency service and NHS workers. The rate at which staff are walking away from the ambulance service greatly outweighs the rate at which folk are joining; retention is at an all time low. 

And why? There is no simple answer to this. The hours are too long, the responsibilities too high, the fear too great. More and more pressure is piled on on a daily basis to be leaving more patients at home, to be referring them to equally outstretched “alternative care pathways” such as out of hours GPs, physios etc.  Whilst the exact same set of mouths fear-monger about the risks of not transporting patients to hospital. 

“They’ll always need paramedics” Is this job security? No its not. Not when every single decision you make threatens your career. Everyday you risk attending something that may ruin or take your life. When forced to decide, should we try to save our patients, the NHS  or ourselves?

We work 48 hour weeks regularly, and that’s if we get to finish on time. We barely get to stop to eat, drink or even go to the bathroom. We survive on caffeine and adrenaline and finish each day ragged. 

A colleague joked to me recently that all he does outside of work is try to make his relationship survive, but we both know how sadly true this is. The career eats into our loved ones lives nearly as much as our own. 

Individuals are still being penalised for faults in the systems. Jobs are being lost, staff are constantly expected to bear the brunt of the publics outrage. 

A service that used to be grounded in “family” with “work wives” and husbands has become a backstabbing, dog eat dog world driven by fear. Honest mistakes are becoming unforgivable human errors, as if we don’t punish ourselves enough.

Paramedics are killing themselves. Nurses, doctors, receptionists, anyone who feels so directly the strain of the NHS on their shoulders, these people are killing themselves. And who attends paramedics who kill themselves? Paramedics do! Our friends, we pick up our own friends from this mess we’re living in.

People in other careers are often shocked by how NHS staff are treated, the archaic working conditions we still struggle under. A scary statistic of emergency service workers are medicated for depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions just to survive their working days. 

Honestly, nobody gets to just “walk” away from this now, whatever the government figures may say.

Rest in peace to all those who have fallen, forever “in our ambulance hearts”.

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PTSD resurfacing

One of the worst things about PTSD, at the moment, for me, is the unpredictability of it. The anxiety out of nowhere, the flashbacks I struggle to contain in my head. The nights spent awake but exhausted. The dreams, the not dreams. The “have I slept?” moments; am I awake or asleep? Dreaming or daydreaming?The blurry line between fact and fiction, reality and catastrophic fantasy.
When your stress levels are really, really low, you can almost forget you have PTSD. I can see why people with my disorder retreat into a controlled, safe world just to maintain a homeostatic base stress level that has a safe buffer above it, between you and PTSD. I can see how easily you bubble back over into it when your daily stress increases.  How the days become so noisy and chaotic, how you find yourself slipping back into your head again, missing moments in reality whilst you’re lost in your own abyss. Busy places become overwhelming once more and you’re constantly on the defence. The tightening belt around your chest as you try desperately to breathe and forget. As contort away from the panic that wraps around you like a python, squeezing and squeezing. Trying desperately to fight between body and mind, between the dangers of getting lost in the psychology of a memory and the pain of remaining with the physicality.
The exhausting nights, the perpetual deja vu alongside the completely inability to grasp any concept of date or time.
And what do you see from the outside? Confusion. Forgetfulness. A short temper.
And what if I really can’t hide it from you? Pain. Pain rippling across my face.  Twisting hands. Panic. Blind panic and fear. Tension.
God I’ve missed you, PTSD.