After freeing a little 6 year-old body out of the mangled car the paramedic’s uniform is no longer clean and crisp. Deep, dark, red blood splatters on the royal blue uniforms of our everyday heroes. After the scene is cleared and the patient is safely delivered to the most appropriate hospital, the strong medic changes shirts and puts on a clean one. That one stained with blood gets put in the wash for him to wear next time.
I mean, it is a wash and wear, right? The short answer is yes. The shirt can be removed and thrown in the wash to get the grit and grime off. The uniform is now nice, bright, and perfect on the hanger for the next emergency. The face is washed, the hair is combed, and the skills are intact. But what about the man behind all of that?
He was the rescuer; he was the hero who saved a tiny life. The passion from that, however, is not made of wash and wear material like the shirts. The effort it takes to keep the tears back is not simple. The unease he feels towards the life the little boy will never know cannot be washed away with a little soap and water. He does not have the ability to drive away as if nothing ever happened. The tiny life may never know how it feels to walk, play in the sand, swing on a tire-swing, or ride a bike again.
You see, this is how you know his heart is in the job. It becomes more than a paycheck and a gold patch status. It becomes more than a wash away mentality. This is the “wearing” part of being in EMS. You wear the strength to save a life. You own the fact that you were the reason they are still breathing. You embrace the recollection of memories from the scene and want to know the 6 year-old’s outcome.
Even though we “commoners” may never become that heroic on scene, even if we never get to claim the fame of the gold patch status and even if we never wash a blue uniform there is a respect and admiration for those who do. The spots may be removed from the uniform, but the wear of every call builds an EMT into something better, stronger, and heroic.
-A Paramedic’s Daughter