My Dad, Being a Hero

On Thursday, my dad became the second paramedic in the country to have been given the vaccine. He would have been the first but one of his fellow medics jumped the line in front of him.

Yesterday, my dad got home and there was a card on his doorstep waiting for him.

In recent years, my dad has become a teacher. He’s been teaching the next generation of paramedics / EMT workers.

If you know my dad, you will understand how cool and lighthearted but professional he is. I can picture what it’s like to be in one of his classrooms.

I know my dad always shows up. He’s always on time, and he always gives a bit more than is required of him.

My dad has a lot to teach and a lot to share.

He’s seen all there is to see.

(A real photo of my dad and other heroes doing the work of saving lives while people complain about the traffic)

People don’t understand what it’s like to do this kind of work. Really, you have absolutely no idea what it’s like.

The trauma that emergency responders deal with on a daily basis is borderline criminal. They give so much of themselves and are given hardly any resources to deal with the aftershock.

My dad has saved lives. He’s brought people back from the dead.

Every year, my dad gets a handful of letters and phone calls from strangers who feel the need to thank him for saving their son or their wife or their parent.

These small tokens of thanks and gratitude do not go unnoticed, especially considering all my dad has given of himself to help those in need.

Every time I think about a life that my father has saved, I’m reminded of an experience we shared together. I’ve told this story before because it is one of the greatest gifts my father has ever given me.

A few years ago, I sent my dad this video. It’s a Ted Talk presentation given by a paramedic. In the presentation, the speaker talks about his experiences with death.

He talks about how he decided to start being honest with patients when they asked him if they were going to die. The presenter made a choice to start telling his patients “yes, you are going to die”, if it were obvious that the patient could not be saved.

The presenter talks about this feeling of comfort he sees in his patients when they are faced with the realization that their time has come. I watched this video and felt as though he was delivering his patients an act of kindness by being honest with them.

I texted the video to my dad and 10 minutes later he called me back.

I answered the phone and there were sirens in the background. My dad was clearly busy, and he was clearly mad. He was angry. Almost furious.

He said “I watched the video you sent me.”

I said “wasn’t that interesting? I thought he had a cool insight.”

This was my dad’s response…

Listen son, fuck everything that guy said.

First of all, I don’t lose patients in the back my ambulance.

Second of all, I’m a medic. My job is to keep people alive long enough to get them to the hospital. My job isn’t to be a therapist and make them feel good. My job is to keep them alive. My job is to get them to the hospital breathing.

If someone is in a bad spot I tell them ‘listen, we’re in a tough spot. I need you to keep your heart rate down. I need you to focus. We’re gonna get you to the hospital alive, ok?’

My job isn’t to make them feel better. My job is to get them to the hospital with a pulse. That guy needs to do his fucking job.

And then he hung up the phone. He had to get back to work.

I can not put into words how proud I am of my dad. He has been in emergency medicine for 30 years, doing the work that all of us need but aren’t able to do for ourselves.

During this year, my dad has been working daily in a heavy rubber respirator, dealing with Covid patients, walking in and out hospitals on the pursuit to help the next person.

In spite of all the death and trauma that he deals with, he goes in every day and does his work as best as he possibly can.

My dad isn’t trying to be a saint. He’s not trying to start a movement of service or sacrifice. He’s not trying to be a hero.

He does this heroic work for one simple reason.

He does it because it’s his job.