27 November 2015

27: Something Old - Assault Again!

When Enough is Enough

I seem to have some sort of invisible target on my back that attracts work accidents, vehicle accidents and assaults. Enough is enough. No more. My uniform lies in a crumpled heap where I left it on the floor about 2 am five days ago... When I came home early from my shift - again- due to yet another assault.  Again from a female, again intoxicated and most likely involving drugs.

I didn't dedicate the last sixteen years of my life to this career to be assaulted performing my duties. Having to walk into house after house never knowing what we will find, having to think on our feet and make snap decisions to prevent injuries to ourselves and others. I am supposed to think like that to help not to worry about being hurt. I have a certificate, a diploma and a degree which qualifies me to work as a paramedic. To work to help others in times of critical need and tragedy. To treat the vulnerable, the rich, the rude, whatever and however a patient may present. We still are expected to help and have a duty of care to assist in whatever way we can. We are not there to be abused, we are there to help.

I have been involved in so many satisfying and rewarding jobs over the years, so many good stories where what we have done has made THE difference in someones life. It's what keeps you going, keeps you coming back, working all hours of the night and missing out on any kind of normal social life. Working on whatever days of the year that you are rostered; rain, hail or shine, the ambulance rolls 24/7 no matter what. It's what we do. We can all bitch and moan like the best of them, but when it comes to the crunch we all band together and do our jobs 100%+ without complaint. In times like we are confronting now, dealing with major disasters like the current bushfires that has threatened so close to home and destroyed much of my former home town.

This is what I am missing out on, I fight the urge to get back in that big white truck and go and help. To do my job. The one I am trained for. The one that I am good at. But I can't. I'm injured again. Physically, emotionally, psychologically. I have to try and recover, again. To convince my broken body to return to a workplace where there are absolutely no guarantees it won't all happen again. It probably will. It probably won't.

I'll have to go back to feeling unsafe, unprotected and on constant alert for signs of danger, a sudden scene change. To deal with totally unpredictable people, to be sworn at, grabbed at, spat at, pushed and shoved. I'll probably meet some lovely people along the journey, be able to help people along the way. But with all the good comes the bad. I will be called to scene's I can't control, I can't help. It will be too late for that. I can't fix death, not really. Every job is not a miracle. But it is those very few miracles that keep us going, that blurs out the other reality. The problem for me is the other reality is blurring out the miracles.

Until I can turn that around my uniform will remain in a crumpled heap on the floor... Enough is enough!

29 August 2015

26: The Haunting Sounds of Sirens - Something Blue

The Trauma of Trauma

Artist : Andrew Martin (Intensive Care Paramedic)

Nothing can truly prepare you for dealing with human suffering. Some of us choose careers where we can try and make a difference, to help others. They are important jobs, needed. However, somewhere along the way you can become lost, haunted, transformed by the very nature of the job that called you in. Working in emergency services is a difficult job, but a job that will always be there, always needed.

As paramedics we are highly trained and prepared for anything and everything, that's what we signed up for and that's what we get. But there really is no way to prepare for the reality of working with vulnerable broken people, if you do it long enough you are at a risk of crossing over that line. The line that you hold an arms length away, the one that keeps you sane. The longer you expose yourself to this work the harder it is to hold up your arm and keep away the sadness. It becomes heavier and heavier with the weight of what you have seen, the suffering you have shared. Each job can chip a bit more of you away, if you let it.

We have to look out for each other, we share a black humour that outsiders can not understand. We gravitate to those that can share in our stories, our experiences. We huddle at the back of ambulances and commiserate, we understand, we share, we laugh, we gossip, spreading the memories, offloading to colleagues. But you always keep a little bit for yourself, that part of you that still hasn't dealt with what you have seen, the memories are fresh. We push it aside and file it away in a place deep inside, one we don't want to access. But it's always there. It's there when we drive past the memorials left on the side of the road, everyone else sees a cross but we see the real picture, the broken people, the crushed cars the sounds of silence. After a while there aren't many roads you can travel, suburbs you can visit; alone - the memories follow, they stick like glue. For some it can get so you can't get away, they are there day and night. The nights are long, broken, filled with nightmares. The days are filled with reminders, the exhaustion builds and the years of suppressing emotions changes who you were. You can get lost inside a world in your head, if you let it. If you don't have the support and understanding. We are at risk of abusing alcohol and drugs to try and make it stop, even for a moment, if you let it. Families suffer, partners suffer, the effects spread, if you let it. We need to stop and think of the reality of what we do, we need to let it out and not let it build up. We need to look out for each other. It's the type of job that has a ticking clock, one that you need to watch carefully and know when it's time to go, before you are lost completely. Before it's too late.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is more common that anyone realises with emergency services workers, we are not immune but we are often in denial. PTSD particularly involves four types of problems: re-living traumatic events; being highly alert or wound up and usually with sleeping difficulties; avoidance of reminders of traumatic events; and becoming emotionally numb see Beyond Blue for more facts   

After an increase in paramedic and emergency services suicides in Western Australia paramedics set up their own charity to help support all emergency services workers called Sirens of SilenceThe first step is to recognise it, to talk about it, we need to deal with it before it deals with us. Look out for our colleagues, be aware of the signs of PTSD. Don't suffer in silence...

21 May 2015

26 : Tree of Life - Something Borrowed

Our Tree of Life

Understanding means throwing away your knowledge.
Thich Nhat Hanh

This year has not been an easy one, it hasn't turned into the best year of my life. You know, the one you imagine on New Year's Eve night, the one you wish for. It never quite works out like that. But as usual, those left field unexpected and unwelcome moments turn out to be the path to the future. Whatever that may be...

The thing about it all is that despite all the drama of life, the worries and the fears, that tree we planted seven years ago remains steadfast. I don't remember the day we planted it, only the period of time in our lives. It was one of those amazing times when things finally seem to be working out, we were happy and excited for the future. We were pregnant with our second child together and about to be married. Not long after we were hit with an unexpected tragedy, we lost a piece of our soul, the most precious. Despite our sorrow our tree grew stronger and thicker, life went on, we were married and happy to smile again. Although now our tree roots grew around reminisces of our loss, our tragic loss, the soil buried in sadness. Our tree attempted its first few blossoms later that same year bringing with it a message of hope of a new precious life. With bare branches the following Winter our tree was witness to the welcome arrival of our newly born son, alive and well, life goes on.

Our tree of life has stoically stood proudly in front of our home, growing stronger and thicker each year, now able to withstand the winds alone. Each year without fail, the seasons shape our tree, a reminder of the everlasting power of nature. The bare branches of Winter are hauntingly beautiful against the grey stormy skies, always followed by the budding blooms of Spring growing larger and larger until they can be contained no more. Finally bursting free, transforming our tree into a beautiful snow-sprinkled magical ball of blossoms. The new leaves of Spring take over and form a new canopy to protect the garden from the harsh Summer sun, always larger and thicker than the year before. Then Autumn comes again and those strong leathery green leaves magically change from red to orange, then yellow and scatter back down to join the earth in an endless cycle.

Always there, my constant ever changing tree of life! 

31 March 2015

26 : A Tooth is Born - Something Old and New

It May Look Old But It's New!


Well it's not quite the same as growing your own, but I have managed to gain a new tooth albeit just as slowly and painfully as the first time. It's not an experience I can entirely recommend, however, I am very pleased with the final results. My strong recommendation instead would be to look after your own precious teeth in the first place, but if you do lose a tooth building a new one is certainly an interesting journey. The entire process could take a mere 5 months, for me it was 7, slightly delayed due to finances. This is certainly not a cheap alternative to having your own natural teeth, I seriously think implants should be made of gold considering their cost. In saying that it is only marginally more expensive than a root canal - and I can only imagine that it is a better overall option!

The first part of the process is realising your natural tooth is not salvageable, for me that part was easy. I had already had one tooth removed due to intense pain and infection after breaking in half a year earlier (see new-age-tooth-fairy-something-new), unfortunately it was only a month later that I managed to have my next tooth literally crumble into pieces. Now as it so happened I was eating a lollie at a child's party at the time, however, in my defence I very rarely ever eat lollies and this was a very soft one. I'm guessing it was the stickiness that did it, unfortunately it didn't take much force to turn my tooth into pathetic useless shards and crumbling pieces. To my dentist's shock I was back in his chair much sooner than either of us had anticipated. Again I was tentatively offered a root canal, I think it was my fits of laughter that gave away my position on that suggestion - I guess it's reassuring that he tries! Nope it was back to the periodontist for me.

Thankfully this tooth didn't take the 45 minutes to remove piece by piece like the last one, this one was pulled out quickly in one go. The periodontist showed me that the nerve had already long since died and the evidence of where a ball of infection at the base of the root had been, he praised me for having a high tolerance of pain. Hmmm not so sure I agree with that assessment! I made my appointment to come back for a follow up and then we booked in for the implant, as this tooth was more prominent we decided to replace this one first. I must admit that I was a little shocked when I turned up for my early morning procedure to find all the staff dressed in surgical outfits, wow they were taking this pretty seriously! I guess it's not every day you let someone drill directly into your jaw bone!

Now if you think having a painful tooth is bad, being at the scary dentist is bad, and even having your tooth ripped from your mouth is bad. Well that is not really anything compared to being faced with a room filled with masks, gowns and surgical equipment and realising with horror that you are going to be wide awake for what was coming. Wide awake I surely was, and no I can't open my mouth any wider because I don't want to! There's something really off putting about a man heading toward you with a scalpel followed by a large drill. So first it seems they cut your gum open to expose the bone, great! Then after 'just a bit' of bone scraping you have to open even wider and keep very still while you let this guy you really don't know all that well drill directly into your jaw bone. Now if you think having your teeth drilled into isn't pleasant and an odd feeling, well chanting a mantra to yourself ' it's ok you don't have nerves in your bone' doesn't help too much when your body is reverberating and echoing to the grinding sounds of drill on bone! All the while the ever pleasant assistant is sucking up shards of your jaw to save for late apparently!

Just when you think it surely must be over, you are exposed to yet more gamma rays to find out that no - just a bit deeper will be perfect! Despite reassurance that my jaw was plenty big enough - oodles of room allegedly - it turns out that my teeth like to grow right on the edge of my jaw. Of course my implant also needed to be lined up there which required 'just a little bone graft', apparently what those sucked up bone shards were for. As I lay there with my mouth filled with people and instruments, I'm thinking I'm sure that I didn't know anything about a bone graft, that sounds a bit serious! It's about that time you wish you did opt for a general anaesthetic for the procedure after all, then realise with dismay that it was never seriously offered due to your alleged high pain tolerance!. Hmmm how much am I paying him again?

After what I'm sure reduced yet a few more years from my life tally I was finally allowed to leave with not just a numb lip, but an entirely numb face and nose and sent on my merry way with my new titanium implant and stitches. Stitches! Was that really necessary? That just meant yet another trip back to have them removed a week later. I swear dental rooms seemed to be becoming more of a home away from home than I would have ever agreed to had I known... But then, I was the one that ate that lollie!

Three months on I was given the all clear to have the crown made and screwed into the implant. Great! They thought I would be super keen to have it done. They were wrong! Just as I had suspected that was not a pleasant experience either. It really is just like those holiday brochures that promise a beautiful sunny beach with white sand and crystal clear blue still water; but when you arrive it's the worst storm they have ever encountered and that blue water is as grey as the sky and the pristine white sand is hitting you like a sand blaster. Yep the brochures look nice and glossy, but lying back in the dentist chair and trying as hard as you can not to vomit while your mouth is filled with goo that must stay there until an impression is made, well it's just not that nice and glossy! Even returning a fortnight later to see the amazing colour matched new porcelein tooth lying on a tray with a titanium screw protruding isn't enough to prepare you for the experience of having it wedged unceremoniously back into your mouth. Turns out having a tooth jammed into a space that seemed to very quickly forget there once was a tooth there isn't all that pleasant. Although the nerve is long since dead and the mantra is still chanting 'I can't feel it there are no nerves in bone', as it turns out your gum can and does still feel pain and doesn't appreciate this new tooth being forced into stretching it. Also as the screw is being screwed tighter and tighter into your jaw, you realise all the neighbouring teeth still DO have their nerve roots well attached. Just when the final xray is complete and you think it's pretty much over, of course not. Now you have to have the screw tightened! Isn't that what we already did? Nope, now you really know that you have something stuck between your teeth - a bloody great big tooth!

I have to say despite the ordeal it does look amazing, although not quite as shiny as the gold tooth I had envisioned. Instead it has been carefully aged and tarnished to match its new neighbours. It still feels a little strange, but four days on the discomfort is subsiding and I am remembering to actually try chewing with it again. I definitely like my new tooth, but it has certainly been an unwelcome ordeal to get it. The unfortunate part is I have to do it all over again soon...

13 February 2015

25 : The Truth About Blogging - Something Blue

Maintaining a Blog is Hard

This is Tauriel - our 3rd Bengal Kitten...
(the pic has nothing to do with the blog  - except for the fact that I didn't get her because I needed her, simply because I wanted her and because I don't care what 'anyone else' thinks :)

If you have never written and maintained a blog you can't truly appreciate how much work is involved. I find myself having these amazing ideas to blog about but then miss the opportunity and forget when I finally have the time. I sometimes, well often really, want to be able to be more free with my writing. Saying what I really think, talk about all the things that go on in my life - you know the nitty gritty stuff. Yes, I know that would tweak the interest of some - all the voyeurs out there - but its just not always possible to spill ALL the beans. There are confidentiality issues etc etc...

I have been a little stagnant with my blogging of late, I mean life is just too damn busy for me to get a chance to stop and be myself for a while. The truth is I love the opportunity to write a good blog, I guess it's debatable if I am ever successful at that. But I like to give it a go, and I love to get 'some of the crap' out. I feel I am always fairly careful with exactly how I put things, revealing much, but with very little. Sometimes I wonder if that is the right way of going about things. I envy those blogs that appear to be totally honest, although the blogger would definitely have to deal with 'haters' and 'negative trolls' it must be great to just get it out there. Although there are some that are just too brutal with their 'honesty' so much so that I wonder if causing controversy is just what they are truly looking for. It makes me wonder at times, just how honest it is... Perhaps as 'honest' and 'real' as reality TV shows! Hmmm

The other problem with my blog is that it doesn't neatly fit into any particular category, like specifically about children or families or some other topical issue. Well I guess that's just because it is about me and my life, and quite frankly I don't 'fit into any particular category' either! Never have really. It's ok, now I'm in my 40's I'm loving my life and loving where I am. I'm still trying to fit in to the world, but realising that doing it in my own unique way is perfectly fine. My life is at a crossroad and I'm changing directions, in many ways, sometimes that means I need to try out new avenues and look into different areas than I ever had before. Perhaps that I had scoffed at earlier in life. What I'm realising is that's ok too. It's all ok, because it's my life and it doesn't belong to anyone else, and to be honest no matter how much anyone in your life claims to be a part of your life. The truth is we are all out for ourselves first and foremost. That is the honest truth. If we are damn lucky enough to share our life with someone special, with several special people, then fantastic. We can grow together and if we grow at different rates then we find those people drift away from our lives, this is how it should be. It's a natural progression, you are better off surrounding yourself with people that give meaning to your life and where you are at, than to stagnate and surround ourselves with the same tired old souls - just because. If people are getting you down, then be away from them for a while. Be yourself first and then you can cope so much better with 'others'.

It's a long slow process, but something I am beginning to really enjoy. Life. My life!

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