Suzy Parker is a paramedic, a medical professional who responds to emergencies outside of the hospital, providing on scene help and life-saving transportation to a medical center. She responds to chaotic and sometimes very dangerous calls requiring her to be calm and focused under stressful situations. Constant exposure to life threatening situations can cause many forms on stress on a paramedic making this one of the most stressful occupations in the world. Working on gunshot wounds to broken bones, 911 calls bring Parker to many different places such as schools, retirement homes, the side of the road or at someone’s house. Many people are paramedics for different reasons. Parker values how rewarding it is, building personal relationships with patients and being able to see and help people around her community.
Becoming a paramedic is a somewhat simple process requiring an associate’s degree followed by EMT- basic training and EMT- intermediate training. EMT- basic training can take anywhere from six months to two years depending on the college and can even be completed during high school. Parker started going on shifts her senior year of highschool during her EMT- basic training. She learned the skills needed to care for a patient at the scene of an accident, provide proper transportation, and assess breathing and trauma injuries. Not only did she learn the basic skills of an EMT she learned what it was like to be on an ambulance. Taking the EMT- basic course throughout high school really helped Parker figure out that she wanted to continue her training and become a paramedic.
Parker attended Lonestar Community College in Houston, Texas where she learned advanced life support and more advanced pre-hospital care. “Being a paramedic is not what the TV makes it out to be” said Parker. While there are many life or death situations, Parker could just be there to hold a patient’s hand. No matter what the call is Parker and her partner will respond. Some people treat the ambulance as “an uber” and need to be taken to the hospital to pick up a prescription. Parker says “you really don’t know until you arrive on the scene.
Coming into this I was expecting the blood and the trauma, but at the end of the day we won’t say no.” Regardless of the job, Parker responds to every call with the same attitude, ready to help. As rewarding as the job is when you save a life, it’s not always happy. When someone dies, especially a young child it takes a huge toll on Parker. Seeing the faces of the family when they arrive on the scene is heartbreaking, “imagine having to tell a mother that her baby didn’t survive a car accident after attempting to resuscitate them.(Parker)”
After years of being a paramedic one would think Parker is used to all the trauma she witnesses but “you can never get used to some of the things we see on a day to day basis.(Parker)” Unfortunately for some of her colleagues these calls never stop haunting them. Post traumatic stress disorder is a common disorder for paramedics after they see something terrifying. Something as simple as a siren or a scream can trigger a memory from a call in the past and the deep emotional toll it had on that person. Parker said “ something will happen that will remind me of a past patient and it’s heartbreaking. Mental health is very important and is something that is often overlooked.
Many of my friends have to deal with PTSD long after they have retired.” One story that Parker shared has stuck with her throughout her entire career. Her and her partner were responding to a motor vehicle vs. pedestrian accident on highway six. All they knew was that motor vehicle vs. pedestrian accidents “never end well.” After receiving the call they quickly responded to the side of the highway to find a young woman unconscious on the ground. The patient had apparently been walking across the highway when she was struck by a motor vehicle.
Parker attempted to stabilize the woman, reaching around the back of her head just to feel her skull was detached, her hand was in her brain matter. Parker, being the highest qualified medical professional on scene knew the chance of the patient surviving was very slim. Parker said “sometimes we only delay the inevitable.” Paramedics will start intervention and transportation even if there is a very slim chance of survival, so that’s what they did. The patient’s family arrived at the scene right as they were leaving for the hospital, screaming in misery.
Parker said “the worst feeling is when you just know it isn’t going to end well.” Days after dropping off the patient at Memorial Hermann a young woman came into the station asking if anyone remembered Katie, the patient from the motor vehicle accident on highway six. “I explained to her that I was the paramedic on scene and she immediately hugged me” Parker said. Confused, Parker proceeded to talk to this woman, to find out that the patient had passed away in the hospital, “sometimes people will come to talk to the paramedic for closure, I hate having to meet someone through their family, it’s heartbreaking (Parker).”
Working as a paramedic for the past four years has made Parker change the way she looks at life. Parker said “I’ve learned to value all my relationships, you never know what will happen tomorrow.” She tries to focus on the bigger picture when living her life outside of work. Being a paramedic is a stressful, hard, and emotional job but the impact made on the community makes it worth it. Parker said “The people, the hugs, the stories and the tears have changed me for the better. I don’t take anything for granted.”