Dream Job

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a paramedic.  Almost every year in my school books I said I wanted to be a firefighter, EMT, or paramedic. The evolution was easy.  Once I realized that I was afraid of things that were on fire, paramedic was it. 

There is little I am more passionate about than a good education.  "Think education is expensive? Try ignorance."  As those elitist say.

I went to college, followed the path I was 'supposed to', and no one ever talked about money.  How much money will you make in your career of choice?  Everyone knows the careers that would technically make a lot of money, and it's all but guaranteed that without a college education you will have no hope (so the guidance counselors would have you believe).  Equally passionate about education, my parents saved and scrimped to send me to college.  Other paramedic students have long term loans, crippling debt, or second mortgages.  No matter how they arrived at being a medic, it was hard fought.

Like you do in college, we discussed the ideals of our profession.  Typical collegiate musings of perfect world scenarios.  We're going to save the world one person at a time and love it every day.  How to make the best better, to be the most professional, to do the best job possible.  Maybe we weren't that idealistic, but you get the idea, and I loved it.  Making and keeping EMS a profession is also one of my passions.  But I digress.  In all this talk, in all the raised standards of eight point grading scales, quality assurance, and over-the-top prerequisites, no one ever mentioned how much money we could make.  I guess it's tacky.  But the general idea of college is to get this wonderful education, and the rewards will be 100 fold. 

That may be true, but not as a paramedic.  We were set up for management, education, and administrative jobs, under the awesome guise of saving lives. 

I am having a constant crisis because I think I need to decide what to do with my life.  But my problem has never been what to do when I grow up.  I have always known.  I have my dream job, and the only problem is that it is letting me down financially. 
What I'm doing now brings me so much satisfaction, but does not bring me enough money to live comfortably.  No paramedic should have to sit and wonder what to do with their lives because we are already members of an honorable profession.  I followed my dream, and somehow, despite being a tangible, useful dream, I find myself struggling.

I've always said that no one gets into this business for the money, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't expect to make a fair living wage, and I guess I've arrived at my real problem.  That is that I don't know what to do about this.  Unionize, picket, starvation protest, none of it will get action.

I am sad to realize that in 10 years, I'm not really going to make anymore money than I do now.  I will not have a fancy pension, and I cannot do this career until I am 65.  Or 60, or 55, for that matter.  Every paramedic I know has more than one job.  So what is my contingency plan?  Why do I even need one?

Four years of education and preparation for real life, and eight years later I don't have enough money to donate to the alumni association.  Something isn't right here.

I'm sorry, rant over and searching for suggestions.  And not suggestions like 'go to med school or go to nursing school'.  If I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse, I would be a doctor or a nurse.  I was led to believe that this was a worthwhile career, (which it is and and nothing compares to it).  But I feel fooled into thinking I could live off of it.  Disillusioned into thinking that I could work just one job, just 40 hours a week, and buy a car, pay a mortgage, and raise a family. 

Not an Alien

It was a necklace.  A necklace of tiny plastic purple beads. Yes, those are definitely tiny plastic purple beads, or maybe not.  Is that a sex toy?  No, that is more ridiculous than a necklace.  Well, then I guess it's an alien.  I've entered the twilight zone and I am about to witness an alien birth.  I'm not sure. I mean it's late and my first time but there was definitely something weird there, something weird coming out of this woman's vagina.

I composed my 3 am brain, willing out to figure out just what was happening.  She was in labor, at her due date, and assured me that everything was normal.  This may have been my first time, but it was not hers.  They just waited a little too long, that was all. And I was stoked, so excited to get a classic delivery.  A delivery that should go fast and smooth.  I am one of the few paramedics who want to deliver a baby.  We're 15 minutes out and she's ready to push.  This is going to happen, and I enter the mode of this plane is taking off, I'm on it, and I might as well make the most of it. At the very least; fake it 'till I make it. 

It took about two minutes for it to dawn on me.  So sure and ready to see an infant head, the options of toys and necklaces should have been further down on the list.  Certainly lower than the option of tiny purple baby toes.  Doing my best to maintain my patented neutral face of "everything's fine as long as I look indifferent and ask the right questions" I ask when she last saw the doctor in my most calm voice. 
The answer was buried in the next contraction, and from then on I didn't really get any answers at all, other than an exhausted nod.

I made eye contact with my driver and spun my finger in the air.  With a raise of his eyebrows and a jolt backwards, I knew he got the message that the speed limit was now a suggestion.  This seemed better that shouting, "The baby's coming out ******* backwards!!" like I wanted to.  Neutral face, neutral face.  I managed to explain in a potentially calm voice to the mother that her baby didn't get the memo that a dive the easiest way out of this mess, and I think she took it in stride.  What's worse than giving birth in a moving ambulance?  Giving birth to a baby that just might not fit out of the standard issue hole.

My phone rested tightly between my shoulder and my ear as I called the hospital back to explain our evolving situation.  For the next 15 minutes she pushed and I completely revamped my policy on touching patients' bathing suit areas.   Progress was slow and most of the baby didn't make an appearance until we were parked in the hallway of the ER, handing over to the maternity nurses.  I could tell from their faces that they didn't believe this until they saw it.  Like me, their faces changed from confident indifference, quickly to shock, and just as quickly back to what I will call the look of 'strictly business'.

I personally didn't push a breech baby out of me, the true star of this situation was the mom.  Breech delivery is kind of a commitment you can't turn back from.  Once little purple toes are visible, the system becomes irrevocably one way.  With a mighty push, most of the baby was out.  Neutral face, neutral face.  Everything's cool, except now we had to get the head.  For me, this was one of those magical times when a strange instinct takes over and does the right things for me.  Suddenly it was out and as I watched, all of my fears stood on edge, ready to be realized, when the little thing let out a cry.  Neutral face, neutral face.  It was finally okay to relax, to be happy, to show one moment of emotion at work.  It might have been a hideous baby, but for my memory, it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.