One of my favorite parts about being a paramedic is meeting new people. Granted, it usually isn’t when people have their best moments, nonetheless I enjoy meeting people from all walks of life and hearing their stories. If we stop and think, everyone we encounter has a story and every call we go on is an opportunity to play an intricate role in that patient’s story. Often in the back of an ambulance I get to hear my patients’ stories (obviously once the medical care is complete). These stories have a variety of themes. Some can be comical; I enjoy asking couples who have been married for 40 or 50+ years together, what the secret is to a long and happy marriage. I mean, I hope to be there some day so why not learn from experience? Usually the women will say, “always say ‘I love you’ after a fight” or “always compromise with each other”. Usually the men will respond briefly, “I just say, ‘yes dear’”. Both are valid points as we chuckle with each other.
Other stories are heroic in nature; I relish an opportunity to listen to an elderly person’s stories from their younger days fighting for our country in WWII or Vietnam. I’m also encouraged by peoples’ stories about overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol – how they are now living their life clean and sober and the steps they took to overcome the addiction. No matter the subject matter, small talk or deep theoretical physics, all of these stories are what make up our experiences as first responders and what brings me back to work every day. Our first responder stories can be comical as well. I’m sure every responder has a story that starts off similar to the Jerry Seinfeld episode, “it was a million to one shot doc”. I say this not to make light of anyone’s medical situation, however let’s admit, to be a first responder, we must have a sense of humor and people do make some “interesting” life choices to say the least. Some of the stories we have are heroic ones; I think about a pair of fire fighters running into a burning building and at the last possible moment before the building collapses, dragging an unconscious person out of the fire and saving their life. I think about suspenseful stories like a police officer who is able to calmly negotiate a hostage situation. Due to the police officer’s quick thinking and verbal judo, the officer is able to get the suspect to give himself up peacefully without causing any harm. We as responders love to talk about these “war stories” to our comrades back at the station, in front of a bonfire, or even over a coffee. [Disclaimer, HIPAA rules always apply.] This is a way to decompress amongst a safe crowd of our peers.
However, one question that we often encounter during this time either by the general public or a “rookie” in our field is, “what’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen on a call?”. At this time, we usually put up a wall and say, I’d rather not answer that question as the room suddenly turns quiet, awkward, and cold. We often reply or think silently, “It’s too painful for me to think about it” and thus reliving that nightmare call all over again. While to some extent, this is a valid point, PTSD is a real thing among responders and I would never want a fellow first responder to get depressed when revisiting those calls. I would encourage you that if you are struggling with PTSD and/or depression because of the things you have encountered, please reach out to someone. You’re not alone in this struggle! Reach out to your employer’s human resources department and request the anonymous employee assistance helpline. Reach out to your local church pastor or grief counseling staff for guidance. Reach out to myself or anyone on the Brothers Without Borders board. There are always people who will listen to you and offer support to get you through whatever demon you are facing. However, with that said, allow me to give you another perspective. If you’re around someone you trust, tell your story. No matter how horrific the call, talk about it. Don’t shut it out and try and forget it. No matter how hard you try to push it away and internalize it, it will still be there. In the medical field, ignoring wounds could lead to stress fractures and/or bigger problems for us. Likewise, this is the same with mental wounds. If we ignore them, they will not go away but will return manifested as a bigger problem. (ie: addictions, relationship problems/divorce, psychiatric problems) To nearly every responder I’ve spoken too, it’s taboo to ask about or speak about those horrific calls. I take this stance because I believe God would like us to speak to others about our experiences. Funny, heroic, suspenseful, or horrific, it doesn’t matter they type. I believe God is asking us to share our story with others when asked and in the proper setting and context. Let me elaborate a little bit further on why I believe this. Since it is Easter after all, please allow me to share a little bit of the Easter story with you. In writing for this topic, I stumbled upon a beautifully written article by Dr. C. Truman Davis. The title is “A Physician’s View of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ”. This is only a small portion of the article. I would encourage you to read the entire article when you have time…
In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus is taken across the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate.
You are, of course, familiar with Pilate’s action in attempting to pass responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate. It was then, in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate ordered Bar-Abbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion. There is much disagreement among authorities about the unusual scourging as a prelude to crucifixion. Most Roman writers from this period do not associate the two. Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as his full punishment and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob that the Procurator was not properly defending Caesar against this pretender who allegedly claimed to be the King of the Jews. Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes. The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped. The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood. The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body. After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the
head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed. In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return His garments. The heavy patibulum of the cross is tied across His shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion begins its slow journey along the Via Dolorosa. In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock, until the 650 yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed. Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is nailed in place.”
We all know the rest of the story – soon after this, Jesus would die from his wounds and crucifixion. These are powerful and thoughtful words written by fellow medical professional. This was the death of Jesus. I’m positive that nothing we have ever seen on the streets can compare to this type of inconceivable death. However, to God, losing His only son is not something that He keeps shut up and closed to himself. To God, this is not a story of evil. This is a story of love and redemption and God is calling us all to think about it and tell everyone about what God has done for us. Without Jesus’ death on the cross, there is no place for us in heaven. Romans 10:10-11
says, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the scripture says, everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame”….. All the Bible wants you to do is believe that Jesus died for your sins, confess your sins to Him, and confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord. If you believe that, then when you die, you will go to heaven.
Finally I give you this, this is arguably God’s greatest season of the year. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. This is a story that is gruesome to us but a love and redemption story to God. Consider your stories, all of them, the good, the bad, and the shockingly horrific. Then put your trust in God’s sovereignty. Even when you can’t comprehend the evil you see on the streets. Remember God’s view is infinite. God can see from multiple angles and dimensions. We can only see linear and often only what is right in front of us. Take comfort in the Bible where it says in Romans 8:28a, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” God says, ALL THINGS. That doesn’t mean just the good and funny stories but the horrific and barbaric too. Let me give you an example when God says all things. One of those things include the events that happened on 9/11/2001. This was arguably one of America’s darkest days, however one of the phrases that emerges from this dark day was “9/11 Never forget”. We should never forget the stories that were told on this day. On 9/11, no matter the year, we as citizens pause and remember what happened to our fellow countrymen. We relive the stories told that day from flight 93, to the pentagon, to both towers in NYC. Former President George W. Bush said shortly after the attack on 9/11, “Now, we have inscribed a new memory alongside those others. It’s a memory of tragedy and shock, of loss and mourning. But not only of loss and mourning. It’s also a memory of bravery and self-sacrifice, and the love that lays down its life for a friend, even a friend whose name it never knew.” We relive this day in history to look at where we came from and how we have grown through such a horrific event. God is using those unthinkable stories you have for good, so I beg you not to hold them inside. The story you have inside you may be able to heal someone else as they may be going through the same grief you’re experiencing. Together you may be able to help each other. Please know, I definitely do not have all the answers, and I’m sure this is begging the question, why is there evil in the world? That is a good and valid question. This is a question I enjoy discussing however this is a question best left answered for another time. If you’re really curious, my email is
firstname.lastname@example.org – lets sit down with a cup of coffee and have an open conversation about it.
To all, enjoy your Easter Sunday. Jesus is risen, a story for all to hear! Dave Monroe