Milkshakes and Teddy Bears

National Paramedic Services Week is from May 25-May 31.  This is an opportunity to recognize the valuable work of people who provide emergency medical services as Paramedics.

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This story is written from the point of view of the SEIU-West staff person assigned to write a story about our members who are Paramedics with Moose Jaw EMS.

I have sat down with Moose Jaw EMS members twice now and both times I have come away with a feeling of pride that we represent these hard working people. This time they provided me with a glimpse as to why what they do is so valued.

I had the pleasure to interview Paramedics, Neil Diacon and Mike Slater. When they are talking about their work, the confidence seems to come so naturally. The first time we were talking about a specific story pertaining to a heart attack (link to previous EMS story). This time I wanted to get a sense of what their day-to-day work looks like. Here is what I found…

They started telling me how important it was to have a partner that you trusted. These two men have known each other for a decade but have never been paired together. They have only been a team for two months.

I asked if there was a growing period, they both said, ‘no’.  “It is a small station in a smaller community and with that comes familiarity,” said Mike. They have toasted over life’s milestone moments and shared birthday parties over the years so by the time they were partnered up, “we gelled immediately and I think that’s because we knew each other so well,” continued Mike.

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Paramedics Mike Slater, Neil Diacon with their Union Representative Bob Desjarlais

They both talked about how much more time you spend with your partner than your wife, so trust and confidence is a big component. “In this job a good partner is everything.  This job is temperamental. One minute we are in a clean white station house and the next we could be in a cold dark alley,” said Neil.

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They both agreed that the ‘big deal’ stuff like a heart attack is a really only a small portion of what they do. The bulk of their job is what I have come to understand as the ‘quiet of the job’. It lives in the shadows and is the stuff that nobody ever sees and nobody really talks about.

I asked for an example. They told a story about a man that they picked up from the hospital.  Their job was a simple one. Take this guy from the hospital to his home. He was in his mid 60’s and was terminally ill with skin cancer. So, they were effectively taking him home to die. As they were leaving the hospital a nurse told Neil that he loved strawberry milkshakes. They safely delivered the patient home and later in the day they stopped in at Dairy Queen and got him a strawberry milkshake. There was no IV, and no medication, there was no urgency at all, only a dying man and a childhood treat. “It was the simple pleasure of watching his face light up,” said Neil. Some time later they saw that same nurse and mentioned to her that they had gotten that patient his milkshake and her face lit up too.

They talked about another story where a very sick little girl and her dad needed to be taken from one hospital to another. Before they left, one of them went to the truck and presented her with a teddy bear, she smiled and said thank you. Just before they arrived in Regina, Neil asked the girl if she had named him yet. She responded, “I think I’ll name him Bob.” To which her dad said, “You name everyone Bob.”

I asked if they had told anyone or if their boss knew. They said no, it’s just the ‘quiet part’ of the job. I noticed that they seemed content and proud of their work even though they delivered the story in a very humble way. They both seemed to understand the inherent value of these simple acts.

So days later as I sat to try and pull this story together I ask myself why did you cry when they told you about the milkshake? The answer is as simple, because it mattered.

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