Saving a life? Two years of pandemic stress? Keeping calm is 'half the job,' paramedics say

The pandemic has been, many paramedics would say, the hardest point in their careers so far.

For Louis-Philippe Parent, for example, the early days were terrifying, he recalls -- very little was known about the virus, but paramedics needed to throw themselves into the fire, exposing themselves every day.

He had also just found out his wife was pregnant. But like other paramedics, he just soldiered on.

"It was scary at first, but we just adapted to it," he said this week. "We didn't have any choice."

Two years later, for him and other paramedics to still be on the job -- and still enjoying it -- is a sign, they say. A sign that it really is the best job in the world.

On one recent day he sped towards a recent emergency with his partner, Charles Duff.

"We're the only ones that are left to take care of him," said Duff, about the patient expecting them.

The man's emergency, their first call of the day, was a Code Zero -- the most serious, highest-priority kind of call.

"I'm just trying to see, or think about, what we're going to do when we get there," Duff said as the two were on their way.

"Hope the person is not as bad as what they say."

Perhaps it's not surprising that paramedics just grit their teeth and worked through the stress of the pandemic, because they're trained, above all, to stay calm and focused.

As they sped towards their call, Duff said that in a way, just keeping that composure is a big part of what paramedics do.

"Keeping calm and keeping the stress inside, it's half the job, honestly," he said.

"Taking control of the situation -- it's what you've got to do."

Later, after assessing the man's injuries and leaving with him for the hospital, they tried to describe what it was like being the first line of defence in exhausting, life-or-death situations.

For one thing, there's the bond they have with each other.

 

"I trust him with my life," said Parent.

"He knows what I'm thinking. What we do during a call is very fluid."

Having left the patient in doctors' care in hospital, it's on to another call. Duff and Parent sanitize their gear before being sent elsewhere.

Despite the rewards of what they do, Duff says he wishes he had more options to ease the strain on emergency rooms.

"We could have other options like bringing him to the clinic, setting up an appointment for them, seeing a doctor on Zoom," he said.

"If there's any way that we'd be able to fix that for [patients], we'd be able to keep people out of the hospital."

Paramedics could go much further with just a bit more training, too, he said.

"We're not health-care professionals yet, but it's something I think a lot of us would be ready to do," he said.

For them, the past couple of years were a reminder that their jobs are the best in the world.

But for many others, seeing that already-overworked paramedics, coming out of their hardest-ever professional period, are looking for ways to do even more, is one more reminder of why front-line workers keep getting called heroes.

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