The Nurses, THE ER NURSES…

Image Credit: Ador T Bustamante/Gulf News

I am not a Nurse, in fact even after having worked in the ER for the last year I still refer to myself as a “Scrappy Street Medic“. While I have learned so much here in the ER that I never would have learned on the streets in the back of an ambulance, I know very well there is still so much more that I have yet to learn. As I sit here and think about all that I have learned in the last year working alongside these ER nurses I begin to feel a lump in my throat. That lump forms as I recall the last six years I’ve spent working in EMS and as I look back on those years I regretfully think about all the times I gave nurses crap along the way, most of the time as rumblings in my head, but still nonetheless the thought of those rumblings forms a lump. The lump in my throat feels hard to ignore as I am ashamed to admit that even up until a year ago there was a time in which I failed to acknowledge all that is an ER Nurse. I know I don’t speak for only myself when I regretfully acknowledge these feelings, and I don’t sit here saying this intentionally calling out my fellow brothers and sisters of EMS. I say this because my eyes have been opened to the other side now, the side that I thought I knew before and felt I had a right to grumble about, but know now that while I thought my eyes were open back then they were actually closed. Closed not by choice of course, but rather by situation, I thought the dozens of trips to the ER each day told me all I needed to know about that place and the people that worked there. I was blind to the reality, maybe in part due to situation, I too was busy and overwhelmed in my own job that I never slowed down enough to consider those also caring for the same patients, albeit in different roles, but still nonetheless a very important role. Wether ego or just habit got in the way, somehow I too found myself feeling emotions that I now look back on and regret, the kind of emotions and frustrations that formed the now lump in my throat. I will repeat it again that I’m not picking on my friends on the streets, because I still work on those same streets too, I’m simply stating that I did not have the respect I have now for Nurses, especially ER Nurses, and I feel ashamed for ever thinking that way. As I sit here acknowledging the lump in my throat, I myself, someone who works in emergency medicine, I cannot help but think of those who have no relation to healthcare at all and I think that if I failed to see what I now know, I cannot begin to imagine all of the things that the everyday person fails to see when it comes to Nurses.

Because y’all, after spending the last year working in the ER as a medic I am here to tell you that working in an ER, especially in a pandemic, is no joke. I do and always will have a huge sense of appreciation for those that choose to work in EMS, after all those people are my fellow brothers/sisters, but for right now, let me put them aside, and let me tell you about the nurses, the ER Nurses. Because these ER Nurses, my goodness- they took my scrappy street medic self and they whipped it into shape, they gave me a dose of reality that extends beyond the back of a rig, and I am now a much better medic because of it. I thought I worked hard on the streets, and don’t get me wrong I did and still do work hard out there, but not in the way I’ve worked in here, not in the way I’ve watched ER Nurses work the last year. I thought I was tired and exhausted after a 12 hour shift on an ambulance, and I’m sure I was, but then I worked a 12 hour shift alongside ER nurses and I’ve come to know a type of exhaustion I didn’t know existed. (Like the kind of exhaustion that after my 12 hour shift I had blisters all over my feet and quickly determined the tennis shoes I was wearing were no match for the type of exhaustion in there. No worries though those Nurses set me straight and I had a pair of Brooks tennis shoes ordered the very next day.) Had I never found myself working in the ER, I likely still would be completely unaware of that exhaustion (and also never would have come to appreciate and adore Brooks tennis shoes). Over the last year I’ve come to know these nurses well, like really well, they have become some of my best friends. I’ve watched as they’ve worked tirelessly, selfishly, and bravely. And as I’ve gotten to know and love these coworkers of mine I’ve watched the cheerful, positive, upbeat Nurse I once knew slowly turn into a shell of the Nurse they once were. I now look at these sweet and selfless people I call my friends and I see them exhausted, defeated, and burnt out. I know their career has never not been an exhausting one, but over the last two years it has gone from an exhaustion that was capable of being rested off to a constant never ending continuous cycle of exhaustion. They are still showing up and they are trying to be the nurse they were two years ago but the shell has continued to harden as the months have gone on. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone that once had such a passion for their job now show up and watch the clock- waiting for the end of the shift to arrive, so that they can escape, even just for a little while and breathe, so that they can get away for even just a short amount of time only to have to show back up and do it all over again.

I read an article the other day, an article explaining how BRAND NEW nurses, baby nurses that have just graduated are completely leaving the profession entirely after only 3 months on the job. They aren’t going to a different hospital or different area of nursing, they are completely leaving the profession, the one they’ve spent years training for, the one they’ve dreamed of- many of them wanting to be a Nurse since they were little, they’ve had a passion and true desire to care for others- a gift not everyone can say they have, and those people- these Nurses, after working so hard to earn their title, they’re already packing their bags, and leaving for a different profession. That’s heartbreaking y’all. Truly think about that for a second. And what about the veteran nurses, the ones everyone knows in the departments, the ones that can calm even the craziest of seas. The ones with knowledge that extends far beyond what most will realize, the ones you know could very well be Physicians because they’ve been around so long they’ve seen it all. The ones that will tell you the stories that start out with the sentence “when I first became a nurse, back then…” Those nurses that would once tell you they would continue caring for patients until they physically were no longer capable of doing so, those nurses that worked into their 70’s, yes you heard me they were that dedicated to their patients, those nurses are retiring early now, they’re hanging up their badges. In the last year I’ve watched more nurses come and go than I could begin to explain. I stood next to my Charge Nurse the other day and watched the raw reality of the situation continue to unfold in front of me and it left me speechless, it was a moment that I will never forget, it was that moment that caused me to open up my computer and begin writing this post. It’s been several weeks now since that moment and I still can’t seem to forget about it, it continues to pop up in my mind, and I continue to find myself finding that lump in my throat each time I think about it. I’ve written and re-written this post several times- I’ve spent more time on this one post than any I’ve ever written, trying to convey all that I want to say, in a way that does it justice (because it’s that important), and I’ve struggled knowing I will never completely be able to convey all I want to say in the best way, but this moment I’m about to tell you about, it’s something you need to hear, it’s something I definitely needed to hear. So bare with me a little longer, I know you’ve been reading for a while already, but give me just a little more time would you? I want, no- I NEED you to hear about this moment. The moment starts out like this- I was rushing around the department a thousand miles an hour as I normally do, as were my fellow coworkers; the Nurses and the Techs, the Physicians and their Scribes, the RT’s, the Pharmacist, Imaging Staff, and even our incredible Custodians, and Registration staff- EVERYONE was hard at work doing their part (as they always are), caring and providing for patients in their individual roles, that together make up the workforce of an ER. It was a busy day, as it always is (and has been the last two years). As we were all rushing around in different directions I lifted my head and saw my Charge Nurse standing at one of the nurses stations- I have come to consider her a dear friend and respect her very much, she too like the rest of us is usually also going a thousand miles an hour, so when I saw her just standing there and noticed a look on her face it caused me to slow my speed walking through the department, one of those stop you in your tracks kind of moments if you will. I made my way over to her, and stood beside her and attempted to focus my view on whatever it was that had caused her to stop in her tracks. I asked her what it was that we were looking at as I was struggling to find anything out of the “norm”. Usually amidst the hustle and bustle of the ER it is easy to pick out when something in particular is different than the usual, but in this moment I was struggling to find what that might be- I looked around and saw what I normally saw, staff hard at work doing several different things to care for their patients, nothing out of the “norm”, the usual hustle of the department with the familiar background noises I’ve become very shall I say “attuned” to- the dinging of the call lights, monitors going off, IV pumps screeching, bed alarms alarming, that one patient that is always hollering, the clicking of the keyboards and humming of the printers, phones ringing, Voceras chiming, it was all there- as it ALWAYS is it’s the soundtrack of the ER constantly on replay *insert eye roll emoji because my lord it’s never quiet in there* (hence the reason for the word “accustomed” to it all) whoops I’ve gone on a tangent and gotten off track, you get the point though I’ve set the scene for you, back to the story. So as I searched for whatever it was she was acutely aware of, that I couldn’t seem to find, she looked at me, she sighed, and I noticed the look on her face, one that I didn’t recognize, and hadn’t seen her show before, it was a look of hopelessness and desperation. (It’s important in this story to know that this Charge Nurse I’m talking about is one that is strong beyond words, she is a “solver” capable of fixing and finding a solution to almost any problem. Her presence is a reassuring reminder that she believes in her team, and she leads in a way that encourages and believes in her staff. It is very rare to ever find her at a loss for words because she is just that good at what she does. I think that’s why I noticed that situation on that day, because of that look on her face, it’s very unlike her.) She pointed out another Nurse to me, a Nurse that everyone in our department knows and adores. She is the Nurse that always shows up with a smile on her face, with her makeup on and hair perfectly done in her curled ponytail signature style, (something I envy and strive to accomplish as I’m pretty sure I show up to work everyday looking like I’ve been run over by a semi and tossed through a garbage chute) and an energy that is contagious. She is the ER Nurse you would be honored to have caring for yourself or your loved one. She is the ER Nurse that is always willing to help another Nurse even when she herself is busy. She is the ER Nurse that precepts new Nurses and helps to mold them into truly incredible new Nurses. It took me a second to figure out why my Charge Nurse had pointed her out in that moment, to realize why we were observing her. But then I saw it, I saw what she was observing, and I too found myself standing still, for once not moving a thousand miles an hour, and I would imagine if I could have seen my face in that moment it probably would have also had that same look of hopelessness and desperation I saw on hers. She didn’t have to explain what I knew she was seeing, because I now saw it too, but somehow hearing the Charge Nurse I know and respect and look up to say those words, well it caused me to open my computer and type what you are now reading. “Look at ____, she’s so exhausted and so burnt out you can tell just by looking at her. She’s tired. It’s just so sad seeing these great Nurses become so over it all and knowing there isn’t anything I can do to change it, because I too feel that way. It’s just really really sad you know?” Yeah I do know, I might not have a year ago, but I do know now. *and the lump in my throat formed* For a few seconds more we watched as that Nurse we all love buried her face in her hands. You could feel the exhaustion she was feeling from a thousand miles away, the hard swallow of exhaustion as you attempt to bury the scream you just want to let out, or the tears you feel forming in your eyes- but you’re at work and you don’t want your coworkers to notice you are struggling, and so you bury your head in your hands instead in attempts to hide the reality of the burnt out emotions you are feeling. We sat down next to her and without either of us saying a word she looked at us, and I noticed she too had the look of hopelessness and desperation and she said “I have to leave this place, I can’t work here anymore, I don’t love it anymore. I have to quit, this place is destroying me”. And in that moment I hung my head, unable to find the words, my Charge Nurse was right, of course I knew she was right, I’ve known for a while now what these Nurses are going through but for whatever reason that moment, hearing her say those words, it stuck, it was a moment that felt hard to forget, one I kept thinking about throughout the day, and continue to think about even today. These nurses are burnt out, they are hanging on by a thread, their cups are overflowing with no room left to hold anymore, they have been overflowing for two years now. They are at their breaking points and they still keep getting pushed over the edges, over and over and over again. It never ends, their cups haven’t stopped overflowing for two years now. Over and over and over again.

How did we get here? Where have we gone so wrong that we are losing these special people that once had such a passion to serve and care for others, and now struggle to even find the strength to show up to their shift? How did this happen? How have we stood by and allowed these incredibly selfless people to become a version of themselves they barely recognize staring back at them in the mirror anymore. How have we allowed ourselves to simply stand by and watch them pack their bags and hang up their stethoscopes, and we’ve seemingly seen nothing wrong with it? Why haven’t we been crying out, fighting for them, fighting for the very people that have fought for us, and our loved ones, the people that fought to care for us? Why do we keep turning our heads the other way? How have we let this happen? How did we get here? Yes we’ve been in a Pandemic, yes these are unprecedented times, but let’s stop being naive and blaming it solely on the pandemic, because that’s not the case, this has been going on far longer than before there was ever a Pandemic. These nurses trained for working in stressful times, but this is far more than just a stressful time. How bad does it have to get before we finally open our eyes, before we finally start to pay attention, finally listen to their cries for help? Because it is bad now, it is really bad, and it sure as hell isn’t going to magically just get better, we need to open our eyes to their everyday reality. Allow me to attempt to, in the most simplest of ways, describe to you what these ER Nurses are showing up for, their everyday reality, because I see it now. These nurses are showing up for a 12+ hour shift, they are walking in the door to a waiting room that is already full. They start their day being briefed on the patient statistics of the day before, how many patients our department saw, how many we admitted. They are given a run down- there’s no ICU beds open, we’re holding this many people in the department right now waiting for beds upstairs, we’ve run out of this supply item so use it sparingly, this weekend we are short staffed, please pick up if you can help. They grab their PPE and head out onto the floor to get report from night shift, an idea of what is in store for their shift. Maybe the morning will start off nicely, maybe the department will have been cleared out by night shift, it won’t be as full, the Nurses will only come in with two patients to care for. It’s a breath of fresh air when a shift starts out this way, staff has a chance to breathe and prepare themselves for the 12 hours ahead, but it also brings with it an “eerie” feeling, the type in which you find yourself almost waiting “for the shoe to drop” or the “flood gates to open”. Even if the morning starts out with a chance to breathe, maybe they even get to actually finish their coffee for once before it’s cold, but everyone knows it won’t last long, it’s always just a matter of time before the department fills up, because it always does, it has every day for the last two years. But those calm before the storm kind of mornings are few and far between, especially as of recently, there is no chance to breathe, these Nurses are getting thrown straight into the storm the minute they step foot onto the floor. One look at the board is enough to make one sigh as they realize the sheer exhaustion they have awaiting them. They are showing up to an assignment of 4+ patients. Might I add patients that are sicker than we have ever seen before. They are showing up and caring for patients that aren’t ER patients, they are patients that have been boarding in the ER for 20+ hours, waiting for a bed upstairs. There’s so many of these patients that the ER’s are starting to look like inpatient floors. And while this in itself is a topic that deserves its own blog post entirely allow me to slightly rant on this as well while I have you here, because surely I haven’t typed enough already *insert winking face emoji*. Do you know how hard it is to try to care for ER patients while also having to act as a floor nurse and fulfill all the inpatient orders for an admitted patient at the same time? It isn’t easy. ER’s aren’t designed for inpatient care, it is less than ideal, but then again what about any of this is ideal? And what about the Critical Care and ICU patients because if an ER isn’t an inpatient floor for the most basic of admitted patients, it most definitely IS NOT an ICU, but this isn’t just one section of the hospital that we are talking about, this is the entire hospital, it is all full. And so the intubated patients, they’re waiting for hours down here too, so the ER nurses are also holding the role of ICU Nurse. There are three ways that a patient waiting in the ER for a bed will get one: 1. Someone upstairs is discharged 2. The patient is transferred to a different hospital (but those are all full too so that likely is never the case) 3. Someone upstairs dies. Do you know how awful of a feeling it is to care for an extremely sick patient in the ER and to know that despite your best efforts the patient is not receiving the full care they need because the ER isn’t designed for that, and you look at them and desperately hope they get a room sometime soon, and then the thought crosses your mind on how chances are someone else has to die first for that to happen. What a horrible thought to even have to consider. But I digress, there aren’t any beds anywhere, every hospital across the country is experiencing this same nightmare, there’s no room anywhere for anyone. Hell nowadays there isn’t even enough room in the damn morgue. THE MORGUES in the hospitals are overflowing with dead bodies, it’s a nightmare. IT IS THAT BAD. Between the patients in the overflowing waiting room and those boarding in the ER waiting for beds upstairs one would be correct in saying these Nurses have their hands full, but wait I’m not done yet (are you surprised)- because what about my people my fellow brothers/sisters of EMS, that’s right the ambulances, you can’t forget the ambulances because boy oh boy they just keep showing up too! The ambulances are just as busy, there is a constant line of them out the door wether we have gone on diversion (requested ambulances go elsewhere) or not. So make sure you add them into the equation too! The Nurses are caring for their 4 patient assignments and still taking hallway beds with patients because there simply isn’t enough room to put the ambulance patients and they are too sick to sit in the waiting room. People are sick with COVID, really REALLY sick, but there’s still also patients that are also REALLY REALLY sick experiencing Heart Attacks, and Strokes. The radios don’t stop humming of the ambulance bringing in the next Cardiac Arrest. There’s also the dozens and dozens of patients that continue to abuse emergency rooms as primary care doctors for nothing more than a Covid test, a Pregnancy Test, Toe Pain, or even a Belly Button scab (you read that right)- the list goes on, and yes there are very many reasons this happens (insurance, lack of appointment availability, etc) but it still doesn’t make it right and it only contributes to the mountain of issues. It’s a revolving door for the Nurses, as soon as one patient is discharged theres barely time to clean the room before there’s a new patient being placed in it. There’s medications to be given, blood to be drawn, call lights to answer, monitors alarming, phones ringing. Where in any of this mess is there even time for these Nurses to take a bathroom break, let alone lunch? Lately I’ve found myself reminding my coworkers to stop what they’re doing for a second to simply take a drink of water. Do you know what it’s like to run yourself so thin caring for others that you forget to take care of yourself? Oh and how dare I forget the one thing Nurses never signed up for, the thing that isn’t part of their job, yet somehow is one of the most frequent things they deal with- abuse from patients and their family members. That’s right, it’s real, and it happens daily, and no it is not something these Nurses should EVER have to deal with. You would think that in the middle of a PANDEMIC, the least we could do is be patient and respectful of the healthcare workers literally working the front lines to care for us, but that is rarely the case. It’s so very rarely the case that I was left in shock the other day when a patient thanked me, you don’t hear that very often now a days, it’s far more common to be yelled at and treated disrespectfully. I could explain the abuse they deal with daily in detail but that’s not the point because there shouldn’t even be any abuse for me to describe. It is not a part of their job to allow you to harass them for simply doing the best they can with what they have. It shouldn’t happen but it does. They are juggling all of these things with very little help, very few resources, and under incredibly stressful situations. The Emergency Room cannot close its doors simply because it is overwhelmed. Despite the staffing shortages, no matter how many Nurses leave their local hospitals for a traveling nursing position (and you and I can’t blame them for that, why get paid a lousy salary when you can go travel to a different state and make a local nurses entire annual salary in just 3 months) despite our very own staff falling ill themselves, despite every other obstacle that gets thrown their way, the doors will always stay open. More times than I can count I’ve seen these Nurses step off the floor to cry because it’s just so much. So yes, yes it is bad. While we can blame a lot of those things on the Pandemic there are also a lot of things that go beyond the Pandemic and at the end of the day can be chalked up to a broken healthcare system. We have and have had a broken healthcare system for decades now, and we are expecting nurses and all the other vital caretakers in healthcare to accept that the system is broken, but to continue to show up and work in that system. Because long before we were in a pandemic we were still dealing with an overwhelmed healthcare system, maybe not nearly to the extent we are now, but still nonetheless broken. You can try to blame it on politics or pharmaceutical industry, or the pandemic, whatever excuse makes you feel that it’s okay for you to turn your head, lord knows we’ve been turning our heads for decades already. But I still will continue to ask what it will take for us as a country to wake up and stop putting the blame on things and start opening our eyes to the gravity of the situation. I know it is easy for me to sit here and list off all the failures and shortcomings of our healthcare industry, it’s easy to do so because I am just one tiny drop of water in the giant ocean that is healthcare. I too will admit I myself am to blame just as you and the person sitting next to you are. I will not wake up tomorrow and somehow have changed healthcare by the typing of this post, I know there are so many pieces of the puzzle at play that have caused things to be the way they are now, and I know it will take decades to fix the decades of corruption that have occurred in healthcare. I accept that I will likely continue to work in a broken system for the remainder of my time spent working in healthcare, I alone and even with so many others screaming for change will not be enough for the change to happen. So I don’t sit here typing this expecting a great revolution of healthcare, but I do sit here typing this pleading for you to consider the people working in this broken system, I plead for you to try to understand that these nurses, these ER Nurses are doing the very best they can, with the very little they are being given. I know you won’t ever truly understand the gravity of it all, I don’t expect you to, a year ago I didn’t understand it completely either. It wasn’t until I physically worked right alongside them that my eyes began to open to the reality of it all, and I know I still don’t understand it all. But I sit here with that damn lump in my throat that won’t go away and I write to you, whoever you may be, wherever you may be, and I ask you to acknowledge these men and women. I ask you to be patient, and to show compassion, and to just try to understand their reality for once. I know you also are frustrated and overwhelmed and annoyed. I know you feel as if you deserve better, because you do deserve better, and we wish so desperately we could give that better to you. Nobody signed up for this. So maybe after reading this, even if you don’t feel a similar lump in your throat, maybe you still might finally have even the slightest idea of how bad it is, and maybe you can join me and my fellow healthcare workers in standing up and acknowledging what we are going through, and maybe now you can find a reason to support these nurses. Because as my Charge Nurse said it best “It’s just really really sad you know?” I hope now that you too can begin to know…because my goodness these Nurses, these ER Nurses.

A Global Pandemic is worse than a Colonoscopy…

One can expect every winter that eventually the days will become shorter, the temperatures will become colder, and for many snow will fall. In healthcare we can also expect during this time the seasonal flu will make its appearance. While each year it varies to some extent, it is still a rather predictable occurrence. However a Global Pandemic is rather unexpected and unpredictable, it’s taking things to a whole new level. It’s a level I think by now we can all agree was one we never hoped to reach. It’s no accomplishment you write home to mom about, it’s not a status you happily share to Facebook, rather it’s a colonoscopy one begrudgingly endures along with its horrendous accompanying bowel prep. In case you’ve failed to understand the analogy: a Global Pandemic is the equivalent or rather much worse than crapping your brains out and having millions of cameras stuck up your ass. I’m sure one could come up with a handful of other suitable reviews when it comes to describing a Pandemic but this one seemed to do just fine.

What I’m getting at here is that we as humans, although we may not be eager to admit it, do not do well with change. Think about it, every year follows a pattern, down to the month, date, and even time. There is nothing to predict because it is routine, it is known and it is known well. (But throw in a leap year and well that has everyone confused.) Our societies thrive off of routine, and while one persons routine may vary drastically from another’s we still have routine in our individual lives. We wake up, (some of us remember to eat breakfast, the most important meal of the day) we go about our day, we go to bed. We wake up the next day and repeat the routine. Wether we follow this routine during the day or during the night we can expect a routine. Just like the setting and rising of the sun, the changing of seasons, the return of the flu, and many other things. We thrive off our multiple routines, it provides structure in our lives, when things go the way they expect them we consider it a success. We prepare for situations so that we can continue on routine. It isn’t until there is an interruption in routine that stress arises. While it would be the biggest understatement of the year to say that a Global Pandemic was simply just an interruption in routine, it is in fact true.

COVID-19 was not something any of us had expected or predicted. While research has shown throughout history that pandemics have certainly occurred before, and also shown they would likely occur again, none of us could have predicted just what to expect. Unlike the flu, and our annual preparation for it with the administration of a vaccine, COVID is different, it was unexpected and we didn’t have a leg up on it. One can prepare all they want (research also shows we definitely attempt to do that considering we’ve created a seed bank in case a handful of us were to survive a zombie apocalypse) however when you think about it it’s rather difficult to prepare for something unpredictable. Like the zombie apocalypse seed bank, (although much effort has gone into the concept) until one finds themselves faced with a zombie situation they will likely be unaware of things they still needed and or had left out of their preparations. Again if you’re lost on the analogy here: we can prepare all we want, and we will likely believe we have prepared well, but until we are met with a situation we aren’t aware just what we’re being faced with. The US along with many other countries did in fact have some preparation in terms of a pandemic, likely more than you and I realize, however it wasn’t until we found ourselves wearing underwear on our faces as masks that we were able to realize all that we had left out of the preparations. No matter how much preparation goes into plans, we are bound to miss something. That causes change, an interruption in our routine, it becomes stressful, it can feel like a colonoscopy.

The big picture here is that we experienced a change, a big, astronomical change in our routine. We still are experiencing this change, and likely will continue to for quite some time. Just because COVID may some day be gone does not mean that all it has affected will suddenly return to how they once were. This is a change that has affected each and every human on this earth, it’s much greater than a colonoscopy, some might even say it goes deeper than a colonoscopy. Wether we ourselves have personally had COVID, had a loved one with COVID, or somehow only know people with Type O Blood and magic unicorn immune systems we are all being affected by COVID in a myriad of ways. This Pandemic has caused more than a toll on health, its caused change in every aspect of our daily living. It goes beyond physical well-being and digs deep into mental and emotional well-being. For some it has cost them everything, and for others they’ve simply barely tasted the bitter reality.

We could debate all day on the severity, or even the existence of this illness but that is far beside the point. That was conversation for 8 months ago, here and in the now we must talk about the reality. And while that reality may look different for everyone, there is one thing that remains the same: change has occurred to each of us. While the average human being has likely experienced their handful of change throughout the years very few of us currently alive have experienced a change of this nature. It is only natural that emotions are all over the place. Our entire society has gone from somewhat civilized to that of a flock of chickens running around with their heads cut off, we’ve turned into millions of oily skinned hormonal middle schoolers grasping to comprehend emotions, we are an entire society undergoing never ending colonoscopies. It makes sense that what one is feeling is likely no where near what the next is. For many a colonoscopy is a breeze, for others it’s a dreaded event they put off for years.

I think buried in all of this talk of colonoscopies and chickens is that we are going through unprecedented times. We are all experiencing what has been a year worth never repeating. No matter how hard you’ve been hit personally this year you’ve still taken a blow, as has your neighbor, and unfortunately most likely your great grandma Jane and great grandpa Joe. Somewhere along this never ending nightmare though we seem to have lost our humanity, our desire to love our neighbors, and our resiliency to fight back. We’ve turned our heads and closed our eyes to avoid the reality and it has caused us greater loss and heartbreak. That’s not to say that we’ve lost all hope but rather that our hope together as a society has faded. We started off strong with a plan to return to what once was, but somewhere along the way got lost in our individual wants, needs, and opinions and left behind that of the greater good. We are officially one year into the longest colonoscopy in existence and we can no longer run around with our heads chopped off. We need to reverse our decapitations, take the underwear off our faces, put our masks on (and cover our noses), and buckle down. We need to believe in our ability to heal from this like the zombie seed bank creators believed in the preservation of corn and cauliflower. We need to wake up and accept that for change to occur we must all partake in the participating. We need to pick our neighbors up when we notice they’ve fallen down, we need to hand each other our heads when they’ve been chopped off, despite our differences. We need to not fear change but rather learn to adapt and embrace the adaptations. This is no longer about personal beliefs and individual opinions, we’ve done that long enough now, this is about humanity at its very core and it is on each and everyone of us to step up and do our part.

A letter to myself when I was a Paramedic Student…

I’ve officially been a Paramedic for one whole year. 365 whole days. I’ve spent about half of those 365 days actually “Paramedic-ing” on the ambulance.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, time has most definitely flown by, and I’ve had some fun along the way, but there’s also been so many other emotions/experiences in this last year. When thinking about how to properly put those emotions into words I realized that the words that came to mind were words I had heard before. In fact they were words I had heard so often throughout medic school that it felt like a broken record, one of those sappy opening lines passed down from one Paramedic to another that when originally heard by the new Paramedic goes right over their head. Such words of wisdom get brushed aside by the new Paramedic as they half listen, often too eager to begin their career to take to heart the words, and instead sum it up to be something the seasoned medic is just saying because he once too in that point of his career was told by another seasoned medic, it’s the unofficial passing of the torch per say, and in the new medics mind there surely isn’t much truth behind the words and it’s all just dramatic bluff to send one off on their own. A celebratory “go get em kid”. The words that came to mind when reflecting on the last year were familiar because they were in fact those that had been told to me. I was the new medic and the words I had brushed aside weren’t just a passing of the torch speech, they were real and raw and had years of understanding and experience behind them. I’ve come to realize a year later that those very words I had heard over and over would become the outline of my career.

I still am very much a new and baby Paramedic. I have so much to learn and figure out. I have however in the last year come to understand so many things, much of which I realize now are the words of wisdom I had been given a year ago but had overlooked. I wrote a letter below to myself of all the things I have learned and would tell myself if I could go back in time to this time last year before I officially became a Paramedic. I hope that having them here now will serve as a reminder on the days I feel I have forgotten.


As you eagerly step into the new role you have spent the last year and a half working so tirelessly towards remember not to let the excitement overpower you. Take pause, and do so often. Do not rush, there is plenty to experience, but it doesn’t all need to be done at once, do not push yourself every day to your breaking point, we have seen this happen time and time again and it does not end well for the Paramedic, so take your time.

Be prepared to fail, and to then fail many many more times again. For the entirety of your career in this role you will fail far more often than you will succeed. Understand that failure is a big part of not only this job, but also life itself. Learn to be comfortable and accepting of failure, do not be arrogant and expect yourself to be immune from failure, don’t get too comfortable with it either though and don’t lose sight of the sweet glory that comes with success. Use the feeling of failure to fuel your hunger for success, do not let the failure drown you or break you, let it strengthen you.

Admit when you are wrong, and ask for help when you don’t know the answer. You are new and still figuring things out, it will take many years to become truly comfortable and confident in all of your skills and knowledge, and even then you will still not have all of the answers or know everything there is to know.

Do not forget where your journey started, your inspiration to becoming who you are now was the very result of you once being the patient yourself. Use your past to further your future. You have a unique insight that although once caused you a tremendous amount of pain has now blossomed into an incredible reversal of roles. This is your opportunity and chance to give back and to reclaim your journey, to turn the pain into something worthwhile.

Find ways to continue learning, keep your brain constantly challenged with new concepts and practices, it is when you become complacent and stagnant in learning that you will become a version of yourself that you do not recognize and a provider that is looked down upon for being lazy. Never stop learning, because there is always something new to learn. Be eager to listen when others are willing to teach, and be patient when others are wanting to learn. You were once looking to absorb all of the information you could find from anyone who was willing to offer, be willing to pass on what you have learned, do not create an ego that is unwilling to provide an open and welcoming environment for learning. Take the extra time to explain when someone asks.

Pause before you speak, you are blunt and must remember your words may not always be interpreted the way you had intended. Be willing to understand and apologize when you have failed to take pause. Learn to sympathize, you may think you do this well now but we can always do better, do not try to understand or associate with ones feelings when you have not felt them, instead learn to sympathize by listening. You don’t always have to have an answer to someone’s problems, they likely were never looking for an answer from you in the first place but rather instead were just looking for someone to listen.

Be patient, you will occasionally (or maybe more often than not) lack patience in a time when it is needed most. Be aware of times in which you are falling short of patience, step back from the situation and re-evaluate how you can better the situation. Do not be quick to speak with a harsh tongue, wait until you have found the compassionate response, even during the most trying times.

Understand that sometimes silence is best for you, words do hurt and it is easy to lash out and respond with what feels was justified however these hurtful words even though spoken to you are often not directed at you personally and are instead a reaction to their internal pain and struggles. Understand that in these times it is best to remain silent and listen or even to apologize for how one may be feeling rather than to reply with spite. You will make many friends along the way, but you will also unfortunately make some enemies too, you cannot please everyone, and you cannot destroy yourself trying to do so. Those that choose to be enemies do so out of personal turmoil and it is not your job to fix their own struggles, instead place the energy into the positive people that have come into your life and learn to accept that such positivity will not always be the case, and then move on and leave it at that.

Do not be quick to judge, it is easy for the human mind to judge before knowing, but it is wrong and unfair to create often unrealistic and untrue assumptions. Work tirelessly to change a mindset that has been trained from experience to judge into one that is open to understand.

Do your best each day while at work so that when you lay your head down each night you will be able to find comfort in being confident you gave your best. Do your best to give your best each and everytime, do not pick and choose who is deserving of your best, and on days when you feel you are falling short of your best learn to acknowledge this and be aware of ways in which you can return to your best.

Do not take it home, it will be difficult to unsee many things, but you must find ways to learn to leave it at work. When you create a habit of taking it home you slowly but surely set yourself up for a disaster. Reach out for help when you struggle, you will likely take some things home but if you have others to reach out to you will find it is much easier to not bring it with you.

Rest, do not run yourself empty, if you are not allowing yourself to be the best version of yourself that you know (one that is in good mental/emotional/physical health) then you simply will not be able to provide to others. Make sure to surround yourself with positivity outside of work, create hobbies, and find passions that do not involve work. Spend time with those other than your coworkers. You must not live the role 24/7. Find happiness and learn who you are as a person outside of this role, it is not and should not be your only identity.

Do this job because you enjoy it, when you find you no longer enjoy the role it is time to give it up. You must enjoy and take pride in this role or else you will become a provider that is hard and rough around the edges and it will create an unhealthy environment for you as well as your patients. Find joy in the job and enjoy it, but be aware that the day will come in which the joy is no longer there, recognize and admit this yourself when the day comes, make sure you always recognize the person in the mirror.

You will have bad days but remember that each day you wake is anew, do not carry your frustrations over, let them go before you fall asleep.

Do not expect answers or reasoning, you will rarely find them in this role, it is rare you know an outcome and you must learn to be at peace with that, don’t kill yourself wondering or searching, learn to accept and have faith that you gave them their best chance.

Lastly and most importantly you must understand that this role is an honor, and you should treat it as such and respect the opportunity to fulfill the role each and everyday. You are lucky to be the one to answer the call, do not develop the mindset that others are lucky you answer the call. It is an honor to serve.


I fall short of many of these things each day I fill the role, I succeed at some things more so than others on a given day. I’ve come to learn that I likely will continue to do so for many years. It takes time to learn to juggle the many pieces of the puzzle required to fill the role of a Paramedic. When typing it all out and even reading it, it feels like a lot, that’s because it IS a lot. To be given the chance to change the outcome of the rest of someone’s life is A LOT. The words of wisdom I was told a year ago were not just bluff, they were the very truths and core of being a Paramedic. This past year has helped me to realize this, and I am certain the many years to follow will only make it more evident. When others take time to pass on wisdom listen to the words, and listen to them well. They come from years of experience and understanding and they are some of the saving graces you will need to get through.

I bought a bag of candy, and the Unexpected and Unpredictable happened…

I found a bag of Hi-Chew candy at the gas station in my area about two months ago. The excitement of such a find led me to eat the entire bag that night during my six hours of overtime. It might not have been in the best interest of the whole “summer bod” thing, but it was definitely in the interest of my stomach and it made the night much sweeter. A few days later I found myself back at the gas station to grab a bag so I could share the glory with my partner- only to my delight I had discovered my local BP (shoutout to “love bug” our favorite employee) had started stocking a GIANT bag of the ever so coveted Hi-Chews. Without a thought I grabbed the bag that is quite literally the size of my head and my partner and I were set for the shift- what more could we possibly need when we had all the fruit flavored candy in the world. At the time it was nothing more than a bag of candy, but it brought sweetness to the shift, and quite the debate over which flavor was the best.

And then COVID-19 hit our city.

And then our city was named an “emerging hot spot” for the virus by the Surgeon General.

I am used to the unexpected, the particular part of my city that I work in is unpredictable to say the least. There is nothing expected and nothing predictable about my days when I show up for work, aside from me showing up for work- and well somedays even that feels unexpected and unpredictable. I thrive on the unknown and enjoy that my days are not routine and repetitive. I like the unexpected and the unpredictable- it keeps my mind alert and keeps me on my toes. But when COVID-19 hit our city it was a type of unexpected and unpredictable that left me, well, speechless. The slight sense of routine and repetitive that was just enough to make for organized chaos felt like it had been thrown out the window and all that was left was complete chaos. The 12 hour shifts although the same 12 hours they had always been somehow felt longer. The protocol changes that were once yearly updates became weekly updates, and it felt like a race to keep up with them. The resources and available extra hands felt like they had disappeared overnight. The unexpected and unpredictable I thought I thrived in quickly became a hope of me surviving in. But there was a giant bag of fruit flavored candy sitting in the front of my ambulance, and somehow that made the chaos just a little bit sweeter.

After my partner and I finished off the first giant bag I quickly found myself buying our second. The little fruit flavored candy with the wrappers that ended up all over the front of our truck became a staple during our shifts- and when we ran out it felt equivalent to running out of coffee- something that just isn’t acceptable. I noticed quickly that as COVID-19 made its way into our daily shifts in terms of call volume it also began to make its way into the overall morale. I found myself sharing the coveted candies as a way to say thank you to the crews for stepping up and lending a hand during a time when words didn’t seem enough. I considered handing out apples and keeping all the candy for my partner and I but that seemed like a fake thank you and a slap to the face, because well a real apple just doesn’t trump an apple flavored candy. Before I knew it I found myself wandering into the gas station every other day to stock up on Hi-Chews, and just hoping “lovebug” wouldn’t start to notice. The candy became the star of our ambulance and my partner and I took the back seat- no life saving efforts could compare to the fruit flavored candy that was stashed away up front. We became the candy truck- and not in the way of drugs- because drugs aren’t cool kids- but fruit flavored candy, now that is cool.

And then our city’s police department suffered a Line of Duty Death when one of the officers from the side of the city I work in was shot and killed while responding to a call.

And COVID-19 was still making its way through our city.

And it felt as if what little sense of sanity that was left was suddenly ripped away.

There aren’t enough words for me to thank the hands that have helped me function as a Paramedic with the increasing volume of seriously ill patients and the many aspects that are involved outside of physically caring for the patient. And there definitely aren’t words that feel even remotely close to enough to thank those helping me that also were suddenly grieving the senseless loss of one of our cities finest public servants.

But I had a bag full of fruit candy, and where words, and apples had failed me- the fruit candy didn’t. It brought a few moments of sweetness and smiles during a time that felt entirely devoid of sweetness and smiles.

I have endless thoughts on COVID-19 as well as the senseless death of a Police Officer, they’re two entirely different tragedies that I could go on rants for days about each of them. But now doesn’t feel like the time to rant my frustration and sadness, and thousand other emotions I’ve felt in the last two months. Instead it feels like the time to find as much joy as I can in the little things- like fruit flavored candy, and to spread them around my part of the city as best as I can. I long for the day that COVID-19 is no longer a daily part of my city, and I dream and pray for a day in which there would be no fear of a pubic servant losing their life to a senseless tragedy in my city, but I really really hope I never see the day in which “Lovebug” stops supplying my fruit flavored candy. Because without the small sense of joy I’ve found and am able to spread to those that walk the front lines among me during these times, I feel helpless. I am a giver and do that best with my words, but those don’t feel enough right now and somehow the candy has brought joy when I’ve failed to find it in the ways I usually do.

I had no idea the impact a bag of candy could have, especially in such an unexpected and unpredictable time. But I have come to learn that is the thing about life; in unexpected and unpredictable times we find ways to get by and to keep moving forward, even if it’s as small as a piece of candy. Because no matter how small that thing might be, it is still getting by, and sometimes getting by is the best that we can do, and that’s okay. So I will keep purchasing the bags of candy and I will continue to show up with them even on  the days that feel like that alone is too much, because that’s what we must do in order to move forward- just show up. Even in the unpredictable and unexpected, there is still sweetness to be found if you search hard enough for it.

The three piece Puzzle, and the often misunderstood piece…

I like to think of First Responders as a 3 piece puzzle. It’s comprised of 3 individual pieces, each piece representing a vital department, that when working together create a truly incredible team: Police, Fire, and EMS. It’s a puzzle that seems unstoppable, that when put together is capable of tackling anything. I think about this puzzle often, how when the pieces are all placed together it’s amazing, but how when separated and individual they are all still equally amazing. It’s like this superpower on its own, but when put together it manages to level up and becomes 3x the strength it was when it was on its own.

And then I can’t help but think about the individual pieces, and the perception society has of each of them. When one thinks of Police they often create an image in their head of the brave men and women that protect our communities and work to keep “bad guys” off the street. They’re the ones we trust to keep us safe, and that’s something that makes most of us sleep a little easier when we lay our heads onto our pillows at night. When one thinks of Firefighters they often create an image of the courageous men and women that run into burning buildings, rescuing our kittens from trees (sorry friends, I just couldn’t help myself) they go against the body’s natural instinct to run away; they run in. Which leaves EMS as the final piece of the puzzle. A piece that feels misunderstood by most. A piece that unless you’ve experience it personally, is no more than a couple “ambulance drivers” that speed by you in flashing lights and loud sirens and confuse you on where they want you to move your vehicle. Maybe you’ll see a story on the news of them occasionally, it will be one of a happy ending, it will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside, it might even make you feel moved to thank them for what they do, even though you are mostly unaware of what that actually is.

I must admit that I too was once mostly unaware. I had a clear image of the other two pieces of the puzzle, what they did made sense, it was something that was easy for me to picture and understand. While the actual job is difficult, creating an image of it wasn’t, formulating and understanding the basics of the responsibilities included seemed simple. Capture the Bad Guy! Fight the Fire! Save the Human? Aside from knowing that when one called 911, EMS would soon arrive to the location, I was unsure of what else it entailed. The extensive variety of situations of this piece of the puzzle was one that was hard to comprehend. I was naive, but not because I chose to be, but because I had never been exposed to the reality. Much like the rest of society I formulated my understanding based off of what I saw in the media wether it be the feel good stories, or the dramatic television shows that attempted to re-create the reality of those in the profession.

I sit here now and am among those that are acutely aware of the reality of the third piece of the puzzle. I understand that my former naive self was not naive out of choosing, but rather due to the fact that the third puzzle piece is often hidden. It answers the call and then leaves, it isn’t a burning building for hours that is viewed by many with multiple crews and giant trucks, or a car that is seen on a regular basis patrolling the streets. It’s a bit of a hidden mystery. It’s a mystery that one lives their lives hoping to never have to experience. Society isn’t naive to this piece of the puzzle because they choose to be, society is naive because they are rarely exposed to it enough to truly form an understanding.

I used to wish for a world in which this particular puzzle piece was more understood and recognized. Not in the sense that it was more appreciated and thanked, as this specific gesture is often one that leaves me speechless, it is a job that one shows up and does, and that hardly feels worthy to me of reason for gratitude. I used to wish that others were also as acutely aware as I have become, that those that didn’t work in the puzzle would understand this particular piece much like they did the other two.

I’ve come to realize though that it’s probably for the best that this particular piece stays hidden and mostly a mystery. I fear a world in which an entire society is so acutely aware of this piece. The human body can only experience so much trauma before it eventually reaches a breaking point. This is evident in the significant and shocking rates of PTSD and Suicide among First Responders. To imagine a world in which we all understood the daily occurrences of this piece of the puzzle is a thought that terrifies me.

As I sit here and type this I find myself reflecting on the 12 hours today that I spent in the uniform of this hidden puzzle piece and I find peace in the fact that it will remain hidden to most of the world. I think about the variety of situations I found myself in: looking down at my watch before stating “Time of Death ____” realizing that in this situation there was nothing I nor anyone else could do to bring back life to the body in front of me. My partner and I grabbed our bags and headed back to our truck only to find ourselves five minutes later in an entirely different situation doing everything we could to bring back a life. I didn’t wake up this morning and put on the uniform anticipating I would find myself laying in mud as I placed a tube down a strangers throat, accompanied by an entire puzzle giving everything we had hoping for a return of life. I also didn’t imagine a situation in which I would put a mask on a stuffed dinosaur to ease the fear of a tiny patient wearing one themselves. I didn’t expect to watch a building burn as a fellow puzzle piece worked tirelessly to put it out. It sounds dramatic I’m sure, as if its stuff you only see on TV. That’s probably because it is dramatic, and it is stuff that one doesn’t dream of or anticipate happening. It’s a puzzle piece that even to those who make up the piece remains a mystery up until the exact moment. So while I might occasionally wish over a dinner that the person I was talking to just understood, I mostly remain grateful that they will live the rest of their life and stay naive.

This puzzle is comprised of pieces that rely on the other to function. Without the other two pieces I would often be left unable to complete the job of my piece. It is a unique combination often reliant on the pieces outside of its own. They are amazing independently, but also incredible when pieced together. Each of the pieces serves a vital purpose. Contrary to what some may believe they are all equally as important. It is a small puzzle that understands a particular piece of life that to the rest of the world remains mostly a mystery.

Cheers to Change, and Rach the Roomie.

I’m a really big people person. I love humans. Maybe not all humans, okay definitely not ALL humans. I guess I’m actually not so much a people person as I am a life person. I really love life. I love the idea of humans but well, they’re kind of scary. Let me elaborate on that.

I am enamored with the human existence. I love that life exists, and I do love humans, but not in the “I want to hug all of you” type of way because goodness I am not a “hugger” (that is just way too much closeness in my closeness and if I don’t know what size shoe you are then chances are I don’t want to hug you). So I’m not a people person in the let me hug you type, but more so the please tell me your entire life story, but while you’re doing so I’m going to need to interrupt you every five minutes and ask questions because thats how my mind works. And after I know your story I’m going to need continuous updates on how it’s going, I can’t help it, I need to know that the people I know are alive and thriving. So yeah, I’m a half people person I guess, but only half because here’s the other part…come on now this blog has existed for years and years, you knew the shoe had to drop.

……I don’t have that many people in my little bubble. Shocker I know right, but Merideth I thought you were a people person. I AM, but I HATE change. I DESPISE change. You see I “find” people and I discover how incredible they are, and I “rope” them into my bubble. I become inspired by them, and enamored with their will at life, and all of these things, they become MY people. So when big life things happen (as they naturally do), things change, and my people change, and grow. Don’t get me wrong these are all AMAZING things, but these things make me uncomfortable, because they force me to readjust, to take a step back and to appreciate what has been, but also nudge me into what will be. And that shit is scary y’all. Are you picking up what I’m putting down yet? I love people, but they scare me; because life happens, and I prefer to live in a bubble in which I know all of my people will be safe, and healthy, and feel loved, and be truly happy.

So my roommate Rachel. She moves to Texas in a month. To put it simply; I couldn’t be more proud of her. I envy her adventurous spirit and her exploring heart as she packs up everything and moves away from her home, and onto a new journey. I truly couldn’t be more proud of her no matter how many times I say it. But if I said I haven’t been a puddle on the floor lately I’d be lying. I totally didn’t cry about it an hour ago, who am I kidding yes I did. I haven’t been avoiding emotions lately because they will remind me of the upcoming events, yep I’ve been doing that too. I am coping REALLY WELL OKAY.

While my pride beams every time I tell people about my brave and bold roomie, and her upcoming move, I also swallow the lump in my throat and smile as I explain her plans. Not because I am mad or sad or whatever emotion might seem fit at her for leaving, because that isn’t it. If for whatever reason she decided to stay, yes I would chug a Margarita in excitement, but then I would tell her she was an idiot and repack her car and lock her out of the house, because I know that this is the next big step in her life, I am confident that she was made for this, and that she will thrive. The point is I’m not sad because Rachel is moving away, I’m sad because until I met Rachel I didn’t understand that a friendship like ours could exist. I didn’t know I was lucky enough to experience what I have the last 12 months. (In all honesty I’m pretty certain someone threw us in a time machine because looking back I’m not sure how its already been a year. However if you asked our shower drain it would definitely confirm two curly haired girls have been living together for a year- sorry Mr. Quick.) I didn’t realize how incredible it could be to have a friend like Rachel, and to get to live with that friend. When I look back on this last year tears fill my eyes, out of happiness, because of how amazing this experience has been. We’ve both gone through the craziest year but somehow it all seemed manageable having a kick-a$$ roomie to battle through it with.

At this point I am rambling like I always do, but the point I’m trying to get at is how incredibly lucky/blessed/honored/thankful whatever you want to call it, or maybe all of those things, to be able to experience and treasure a friendship like ours. I could put the sappy parts in here, but come on I really don’t need to cry anymore. At the end of the day I am thankful for Rachel in so many ways, her kind personality, her calm presence, her reassuring attitude, her driven mindset, her unwavering confidence, and so many more things. To know Rachel is to be so very lucky, but to call Rachel a roomie is a gift.

So my dear Rach, as you pack your last boxes over the next few weeks, and say goodbye to this old little home we’ve shared, may you always remember that I hold my people close in my bubble. Even though your bedroom will no longer be two footsteps away, I will always be around. I know that throughout all of this I will be the one that needs checked up on, not you, because let’s be honest you’ll be exploring in Texas, and well I’ve always been the one that needs pep talks. But do remember, Google is not a doctor, and I won’t be there to dose you with cold medicine and rehydrate you, so make sure you stock up on your pharmaceuticals. And please buy a real alarm clock because you’re a big girl now and will have a big girl job and you can’t oversleep your alarm for that like you can a college class. Oh and don’t forget, you shouldn’t eat leftovers from the fridge after about a week, food poisoning is real!

And to those of you change-haters like me, may we learn to find the good in the change, as scary as it is, may we use it as a reminder that it means we are moving forward, and that is a sign of living. May we embrace instead of fear it, and welcome instead of run from. Cheers to change, but most importantly for the living that makes change possible.

Go to Paramedic School they said!

Go to Paramedic School they said…it will be fun they said…

Just kidding, nobody says that.

My cap and gown came in the mail this week. It’s kind of funny if you think about it: you spend a year learning how to do everything you can to save someone’s life and then bang: insert your card number here and pay $75 so you can look like part of a cult and you can walk across a stage and get a diploma to certify you can save lives, but just kidding it’s actually blank because you’re extra and won’t be finished with school for another three months. Come back then if you’ve passed and we will give you the fancy paper to go inside the fancy paper holder, and if you don’t pass well at least you got to wear a cap and a gown, better luck next time!

But ah go to Paramedic School they said!

College is weird. You see I did the whole campus thing for two years, (minus living in a dorm and I know I know that’s the real college experience but I’m sorry I just can’t live in closed corners for a year with someone like that, heck they could give me measles or mumps now a days). But none the less I did the rest of it. The waking up early, or sometimes forgetting to wake up, walking the mile to class and showing up looking like someone plucked you off the corner only to realize class was cancelled, go back home and take a nap, and then try to make it to that next class on time. The big giant classrooms so distracting that sometimes you questioned wether you were even in the right lecture. And the ramen noodles, oh the ramen noodles. And while it was all lovely, truly just so sodium filled and sleep deprived and lovely, two years of it was enough. To think I had originally signed myself up for six years of that- what was I thinking.

But go to Paramedic School they said!

So I did, and being the smart person I was, or at least thought I was at the time, I cut the six years in half and made it three. I know I’m always one for the shortcut! Well three years has almost come to a close, and while I’ve realized I could have made it even shorter and done it in two years, I just really wanted to squeeze in an extra year of seeing how high my sodium levels could get while living on Ramen ya know? (Hopefully you don’t.)

I think at the end of ones college experience they usually say things along the lines of “I’ve grown so much as a person. I’ve made so many incredible memories. I met all my bridesmaids there! It was such a wonderful time! And oh the parties were so great!”

But go to Paramedic School they said!

If I’ve grown as a person at all it is not in the sense that I discovered some divine internal virtue and had an eye opening moment in my math textbook that made me realize how much I appreciated calculus and all it taught me. No. I’ve grown as a person in the sense that I now constantly speak at a 11/10 volume, because apparently my 10/10 volume required others to need hearing aids to understand me. “DOES THIS HURT?” 11/10 isn’t a big step but we’re getting there. I’ve also grown in the hospitality department, I’m really good at asking people to put their seatbelts on, and to “be careful on your step out of the ambulance”, I’m still working on the courage to remind my passengers to keep all body parts inside the aircraft while it’s moving, maybe someday, baby steps. Another big area of growth for me has been beating my previous records of how long I could hold my urine inside of me, and how long I could eat my insides before I required actual food because I had no insides left. I’m particularly proud of those last two. I suppose I have grown a little more in some far less exciting ways, I should probably include those too so that I make my mom proud. Mom, I’ve learned how to be semi-confident and to always remember to drink coffee before I open my mouth at 7am.

The incredible memories I’ve made haven’t been studying abroad and drinking Guinness in Ireland (did I get that right?). They weren’t made on spring break in Panama City. Kudos to you if those were yours, all the power to you bro-ski. For me though the incredible memories were my first field intubation, getting ROSC on a patient, a “good job kid” from my preceptor I look up to. Also on the list would be the first time I was called something repulsive by a patient that was quickly followed with “you’re a pretty white girl”, because well welcome to Indianapolis, it’s pretty incredible, and pretty memorable.

I can assure you I haven’t met my bridesmaids because well most of the people I’ve met average about 20 years on me. (And thank goodness for that because someone around here needs to be mature and make the big decisions- surely that won’t be my job in four months will it?) No offense Glenda, but I’m concerned that by the time I find a compatible human match (hopefully it’s a human) it might be time to attend your funeral, I’d really hate to get your hopes up. However, I have met some truly incredible people that have taught me more than I could begin to type. They’re just really good kinfolk if you know what I mean. I’ll take some good kinfolk over potential bridesmaids any day, sorry Glenda. Plus your bridesmaids won’t tell you the dresses you pick are ugly, they’ll just wear them, but the kinfolk- they’ll tell you they’re ugly, and that’s what I need in my life.

And as far as the wonderful time I’ve had, well…once I got peed on. So maybe that sums that part up for you.

OH! And I almost forgot the parties! Probably for a reason considering I can count all the college parties I attended on one hand. I could never enjoy the parties because I was too busy counting Jimmy’s respiration’s while he was passed out in the corner, someone had to be responsible there right? Me? Responsible? One breath…two breath…maybe 7 total? I don’t recall learning that was a good number…wake up jimmy!

But go to Paramedic School they said!

In all seriousness the last three years truly have been an incredible experience, particularly this last one, which has tested me in more ways than I ever thought possible. I definitely don’t always come out on the other end in one piece but I sure do try. And for all the random pieces that have been chipped away and put back together over the last year I guess you could say I kind of came out on the other end okay, or at least it appears that way. Image is all that matters anyways right? Who cares about sanity these days!

Cheers to college…and hoping I don’t trip over my gown, or sneeze off my hat, but most importantly that in three months I hopefully get the actual fancy paper to put inside my fancy paper holder.

And to all those that have given me the pep talks along the way, you are the true heroes in my story. This girl requires at least one pep talk a day.

Bodily Fluids and Big Dreams.

Plot Twist.

I toured Columbia and Loyola, I dreamed of a future walking around a campus with a portfolio larger than my life itself. I created dreams of a future in which I explored the city of Chicago in my Metallic Bronze Doc Martins along side my fellow sculpture friends. In my free time I melted Macaroni and Burnt Sienna crayons onto Canvas to make wall art. I bragged to my peers about skipping intro sculpture classes because I had passed high school with AP Sculpture Credits from a unique Liberal Arts High School. I made myself big and colorful, what I thought was something that would make me happy.

It seemed like the perfect plan. I would forget about my accident, I would start over, create myself into something new. Nobody would ask questions because nobody would know. I would make that part of my life small, and tuck it away. Maybe I would even magically become healed if I ignored it enough.

And then one day I found myself sculpting a wheelchair out of wire. Next were deconstructed flowers showing the transformation and concept of healing. And before I knew it my entire college portfolio was centered around how my life had changed since my accident and what I had come to understand.

I thought about the people that had cared for me over the years and would occasionally find myself dreaming about a life like theirs. How cool it would be to be one of them. And then I would remind myself that a future like that was unobtainable. I remembered being told so often “that it was all in my head” and feared the judgement that I knew would occur should I even attempt to become one of the people I had learned to look up to and admire so strongly.

I’m not sure what ultimately convinced me that a life of Burnt Sienna and Macaroni crayons wasn’t the future that I wanted but whatever it was I suppose I should be grateful for, but then again there are days in which I still wonder if the crayons had been the better option, usually those are the days I come home covered in bodily fluids that don’t belong to me, but I guess that’s besides the point. Bleach is a good thing and Vicks Vapor Rub does a lot more than just clear the sinuses.


Anywhom for whatever reason that I decided that the potential criticism was worth the overall satisfaction? giving back? healing? that I was certain I had to give the “dream” a chance, and I’m thankful I did. Typing this makes me feel like a little kid, or one of those happy fantasy stories you see in commercials “Gertrude has always wanted to give back and return the favor she received ever since she was dumped on her head…look at her now achieving her dreams, is it time for you to be like Gertrude, maybe it is because there is a nationwide shortage of Paramedics” HA but I guess it is true, it was just a dream once, one that somehow beyond my wildest understanding has turned into an almost reality.

And that’s the thing, I never thought I would get the true honor of asking you about the color of your bodily fluids, did they remind you of Coffee Grounds? I’m sorry I went there, no actually I am not, not at all. I never thought such a life would be my reality because I was so convinced that others would be so bothered by my desire to become the provider instead of the patient. And it’s true, there are people that don’t understand. I used to try so hard to explain to them and gain their acceptance, to be seen as equal by them. But I know that isn’t always going to be the case.

I’ve come to realize and hopefully soon truly accept and believe: Not everyone will understand, not everyone will be okay with, and not everyone will support me. I’ll have to work a little harder probably, maybe fight for the inclusion occasionally, and definitely explain more times than I ever thought possible. But I guess that’s all just a part of going after ones dream, and if thats the price, I’m okay with that.

Can’t we all hope and wish that the person whose worst day we showed up on was able to turn it around into something positive? Isn’t that what we should strive for? To attempt to leave an impact that might make them be like Gertrude with a sappy yet grateful outlook on life that someday ends with her on a commercial attempting to push you to follow your dreams?

If there’s anything I’ve learned its that not everyone is going to understand or support you but thats okay, there will however be people out there that are far greater and so much more patient and inclusive than you could have ever hoped for. There will be setbacks and times that make it seem easier to just leave the dream behind, but that is when your people will show up and remind you why you even went after the dream in the first place. I’ve found so many of those people and I don’t think I would have, had I decided to stick with the Burnt Sienna and Macaroni crayons. Chances are if you took the time to read this you’re probably one of them and for that I’m endlessly thankful. It is because of you and the support you give me that my dreams seem obtainable and my past doesn’t make me any less. Here’s to embracing the struggle, even when it gets tough, really tough. And here’s to showing up anyways. And also to recognizing the special people, and giving them the thanks they so greatly deserve even though chances are they won’t accept it anyways. And now I am doing that thing where I ramble and I will stop. Cheers to dreaming, and chasing them.

I am now booking motivational speeches on how to discuss bodily fluids as part of your everyday life. For inquiries and fees please contact my manager. 😉


Gertrude, your hair looks beautiful, but maybe you want to wear my hat? BTW, I have a ‘broken brain’.

“Your Heart Rate is a little high, you’re probably just nervous about the appointment” -The RN at my ENT appointment

I laughed and then announced “Oh no, that’s normal for me, I have a brain injury.”

My moms face turned upside down.

“You should have told her you have an Autonomic Disorder.”

Oops, you’re right, maybe that would have been a little more subtle. I mean after all my usual response to such things is “I have a broken brain”. I guess you could say I struggle with making subtle announcements.

I mean if it were up to me I’d get a name tag that stated “Hi my name is Merideth, I have a broken brain, please excuse me if I forget what I’m saying half way through a conversation, pronounce a word backwards, mix up the 10 digit number you just gave me, or just completely fall over onto the floor.” I’m all about those subtle gestures. I suppose it is up to me, and I could most definitely seek out the largest name tag known to man, but it’s far more interesting watching facial expressions when you rattle off some backwards word concoction and suddenly appear as if you’ve had a stroke. I don’t at all find pleasure in my twisted verbiage, and awkward temporary brain malfunctions, nope not at all. Don’t worry Alice, I don’t need your essential oils, and facebook thoughts and prayers, my brain will still be broken!

So yes mom I suppose I could have much more subtly announced I have an Autonomic Disorder as a result of a Brain Injury (; (see what I did there, we both won). But I lost all that was once subtle about me 6 years ago when I made the ever dramatic, absolutely far from elegant, up close and personal greeting with the basketball gym floor. My subtle days are long gone, they hit the floor running, well maybe not running, but they definitely hit the floor.

I traded the subtle days for the blunt days, the VERY blunt days. So yes Patricia, the Imaging Technician, I have had a CT scan before, in fact I’ve had many, bet you can’t guess why? That’s right, I fell straight on my head, and no Patricia I wasn’t dropped as a baby, no Patricia I didn’t fall off the monkey bars, no Patricia I wasn’t skydiving when my parachute didn’t open. Yes Patricia you heard that right, I willingly stood in peoples hands in attempt to cheer on the crowd when I did the exact opposite and scared them all shitless. Yes Patricia, I too hope my brain is still in there on that CT image.

Now I’ve had many lessons life has so graciously gifted, more like thrown at me, after I was thrown out of the air. Oh you fell on your head? Here let’s hit you in the face with big life questions because that initial hit wasn’t enough. Have I made it obvious enough yet in this post that I fell on my head?

Anyways the point I’m attempting to get at here is this: why do humans waste so much time attempting to leave subtle hints at their feelings and emotions when they could be straight forward and blunt instead?

Yes I could have told the kind nurse from Mississippi that I had an Autonomic Disorder, but you and I both know I would have done a disservice to her potentially questioning brain for the rest of her shift. Instead I killed two birds with one stone or whatever that saying is (take that PETA). Not only did I give the nurse her answer as to why I wasn’t nervous (do people actually get nervous for ENT appointments? Okay I can’t lie I suppose I once was one of them but can you blame me? Who willingly is prepared for a snake like camera to be not so kindly shoved down their nose?) Anywho I’m off topic again. I wasn’t subtle today, I was blunt. Yes I have an Autonomic Disorder but I got it from a Brain Injury. The sweet nurse now no longer has to agonize over what condition could possibly leave a sitting 20 year old with vital signs that indicated she was running a marathon. We both know homegirl don’t run no marathons. You’re welcome Martha.

Maybe you haven’t fallen (figuratively and literally-lol) into the same situation I’ve managed to land in (lol again). But I can guarantee there are at least a handful of things you are being subtle about, instead of being blunt and truly expressing how and why you feel such ways.

I’ve learned that by being straightforward about things, it has most often resulted in conversations that likely wouldn’t have occurred had I chosen to make my thoughts small, or tuck them away, merely hinting at the reason.

Now I’m not saying you need to climb into someones hands ten feet in the air to announce what you have to say, baby steps y’all, we can’t all be cool like me. But maybe pushing yourself more than you normally would to speak up wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

I’m certain had I not scared the at least 10,000 people by announcing I have a “broken brain” when I find myself in situations where it’s clearly obvious I’m different, then none of the opportunities I’ve had to educate others and create awareness about POTS would have occurred. Sometimes stepping out of our comfort zone to express something we would normally keep to ourselves, can result in a beautiful kind of magic. A valued conversation that results in all parties feeling explained and understood.

I feel like this blog post should also come with a disclaimer however; maybe take this with a grain of salt, trial in small amounts. I highly advise against putting on your blunt ego and suddenly telling Gertrude her haircut looks like ramen noodles, that might be taking the blunt thing a little far. However speaking your truth, and your feelings, (that aren’t about Gertrude’s hair) can often lead you to some of the greatest conversations you never once knew were possible, because you were comfortable with subtle and didn’t dare to be blunt, even though you longed for the conversation that would have occurred had you been blunt and provided the listener with an opportunity to question you on such feelings, but you were scared or nervous, so you made yourself small and subtle. Stop doing that! You are worth being heard, even your blunt exclamations, whatever they may be. Just leave Gertrude’s hair alone when you do decide to give yourself the voice.


It might Sting, but YOU can turn it into a Good Thing.

I recently read a new Abstract published in the “Journal of Internal Medicine” on POTS. It was written by a wonderful POTS Specialist, Dr. Arthur Federowski, all the way from Sweden. The Abstract is full of incredible and well detailed information and research, I might go as far to say that it’s the best document I’ve ever read on a detailed exploration of POTS.

In it Dr. Federowski writes: “The long-term prognosis of POTS is not well explored. It is estimated that around 50% of all POTS patients spontaneously recover within 1-3 years of diagnosis.”

…ouch that stings.

Next month marks the six year anniversary of my accident, the literal downfall of my health, and the ultimate reason I even find myself here typing this blog still today. So I guess in short I clearly am not part of that “around 50%” category.

…ouch that stings.

I’ve never allowed myself to be oblivious to the fact that my diagnosis is rather complex, and different than most POTS patients. I mean come on not everyone diagnosed with POTS fell 10 ft headfirst onto a basketball gym floor, and thank goodness for that! Therefore I obviously don’t fit all of the usual statistics and research, however after reading what felt like an exact autobiography of the last six years of my life, its still a bit difficult to read that part of information. Of course there are plenty of other POTS patients that “fall “(whether literally or figuratively – lol) into the other 50% category with me. I don’t wake up everyday hoping it might be the magical day that I am miraculously cured and join that category, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about the possibility of someday living without POTS.

With that being said I am incredibly thankful and tremendously lucky that in the six years since my accident I have recovered and healed as much as I have. I very strongly remember the days sitting on my moms office floor home schooling myself, wondering if there would ever be a day in which I actually returned to real school, let alone graduated high school. In my last year of schooling now for my career those days seem so distant and long ago, almost a foreign memory, yet they were all very real and possible outcomes to think about at that time. What would I do if I was not able to return to school? What would my life look like if I was stuck in my wheelchair for the rest of my time on earth? What would my quality of life be?

In my current days my diagnosis of POTS only occasionally makes an appearance in my everyday thoughts, it no longer consumes my every minute, and no longer seems to drown out all other thoughts. While this in itself is comforting to realize, I do still occasionally ponder the thought of a day occurring when it no longer enters my mind and how it has made certain situations different, but is rather just a distant memory of my past.

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about learning how to readjust to life after being diagnosed with a Chronic Illness that controlled most aspects of my daily life, and then learning to readjust again as my health improved and I gained a new sense of freedom I had forgotten I once had. While the physical aspects of a POTS diagnosis are incredibly difficult, painful, heartbreaking, and overall life changing, I think the emotional impact it leaves a person with are far more altering than anything else.

When I could no longer walk independently I found a way to fix the problem- I learned to adapt to using a wheelchair (shoutout to Bernard the Blue Chair that allowed me a years worth of participating, I might not have had without him). When the suggested lifestyle changes and dietary supplements didn’t work I found an alternative treatment- I accepted relying off of medications daily to function. When I was too weak to physically attend school I sought out a different option- I adjusted to learning from home. All of the physical problems had answers, and when there weren’t answers, there were other solutions available to manage the physical impairment. The physical disability aspect of the diagnosis never truly disabled me physically, it just provided road blocks along the way that I had to learn to navigate and adapt to.

that stung at first, but then it healed…

However, when I realized that a significant portion of the initial two years after my diagnosis was a time that I was unable to remember, and recall, there was no way to fix that and bring those memories back. To this day I still have only a handful of recollections from that time. When I sat in numerous doctors offices and listened to them explain to my mom and I that what I was experiencing was no more than a psychological problem, I believed them. There was no way to undo what had already started to be engraved into my mind. Yes I now know otherwise, and that they were incorrect, but I was told for so long that I was wrong, that I began to consistently question if others knew my body better than I did myself. This in turn produced a constant feeling of needing to second guess my everyday feelings and thoughts, and a desperate need for someone else to validate the thoughts so that I could be confident I was right all along. Something that still to this day I struggle with the most. When I thought the only alternative to suffering with POTS was to end my overall existence, I truly considered it. There’s no going back in my life now and undoing what I lead myself to believe then. When I explained for four years, and still do to this day that POTS is not an imaginary made up condition, I question whether people believe me. None of these things had alternative options. There isn’t any way to undo the memory loss, I can’t take back the doctors words and reverse the impact they have, there is no going back in time and assuring myself that someday I would find an answer, truly knowing people believe me and understand isn’t a thing. These things still stay. These things always will stay.

that still stings, it won’t ever fully heal…

Do you ever truly spontaneously recover, no matter how many years it takes?

Do you ever truly regain the entire Quality of Life you once had before?

Does it all truly just reverse itself, all of it; physically, emotionally, and mentally?

I might not be the 50% that got to wake up within 1-3 years after their diagnosis and gain their physical quality of life back they once had. I might not ever regain this. And yes it stings, it stings deeper than any swarm of bees, jellyfish tentacles, and all the other things that sting. It probably stings worse than Godzilla would if he could sting (Is “he” even a “he”?).

But I believe that in the end regardless of ones physical recovery, they will always struggle with the emotional recovery, in whatever way it presents itself, for the rest of their life. Because I don’t believe there is a wheelchair, a magic pill, or an alternative path to take in recovering from that.

But I also believe that Quality of Life is entirely what you make of it. Maybe had I believed the first ten doctors I would have made the choice to no longer exist anymore, or maybe I would have learned to find ways to continue to seek out the joy in life, even if it was all just “in my head”.

It’s almost been six years and I haven’t spontaneously recovered, but I’ve learned to deal, and most importantly I’ve learned to live with it. POTS may always physically be a part of me, I may never join the other 50% and that is okay, because as long as I continue to seek the joy, no matter how hard that may be sometimes, I am still living, even thriving. And no amount of physical limitations can take that away from me.

While I will forever be incredibly grateful for all the hard work and dedication that goes into continued research for such a desperately needed and uncharted diagnosis, I will always remember that statistics and percentages are just that. They are not Quality of Life determinants. They are not emotional prognosis’. Those are things that can only be made by the diagnosed individual, and how they decide those things is entirely up to them.

While this month stings a little extra than others, it is also an incredible reminder of how lucky we each are to undergo trials, and hardships, and to ultimately dig deep and find our will to not only live, but to thrive.

So amidst all the emotional hurdles life has created for you, whatever they may be, don’t define yourself by the numbers, dig deep, and create your own.