In this unforgettable, dramatic account of one man's experience as an EMT, Peter Canning relives the nerve-racking seconds that can mean the difference between a patient's death and survival, as Canning struggles to make the right call, dispense the right medication, or keep a patient's heart beating long enough to reach the hospital. As Canning tells his graphic, gripping war stories--of the lives he saved and lost; of the fear, the nightmares, and the constant adrenaline-pumping thrill of action--we come away with an unforgettable portrait of what it means to be a hero.
To be a paramedic, Canning reports in this absorbing chronicle of his first year on the job in Hartford, Conn., is to be demeaned as an "ambulance driver" and to be disparaged by white-collar colleagues and even by patients. But the work is greatly rewarding as well, providing a panoramic view of society and a concrete sense of accomplishment (though, sometimes, anguish). Canning's vignettes, brisk if not always elegant, are elevated by the perspective he brings. As a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and a former health department staffer for Connecticut governor Lowell Weicker, Canning traded statehouse compromise for street survival. "Don't assume anything," Canning's paramedic teacher tells him, and Canning learns his way without losing empathy. He goes through heart attacks, drug overdoses, a patient soiling his uniform, even the delivery of a dead baby. He reads obits--"the EMT Sports Pages"--looking for background on the people he tried to help. He reflects on aging after depressing visits to nursing homes, laments poor kids doomed in "houses unfit for human habitation" and checks his own hostility when racial conflict unnecessarily shadows his work. And he wonders about public policy, how so many people "crying wolf" can lead to poor response and how Connecticut's policy of home rule affects unequal emergency services. In places, Canning strains--"I want to find my own greatness," he writes--but he succeeds in finding heroism in an important job done well.
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Peter Canning writes a story that shows the true side of being a Paramedic. This story will inspire you to be a Paramedic or make you run like hell in another direction.
Should be required for new medics
I read Paramedic during my first year working as a new paramedic. That first year is the hardest. Dealing the heavy responsibility and seeing life and death up so close isn't easy. We all have to go through it.