Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Why do I stop ?

For those who have known me for a while, you know that I have had the fortune (or misfortune, depending on your perspective) of witnessing or coming across numerous traffic accidents and situtations where people need help. It happens with an almost scary frequency; usually in batches of three, every few months. Invariably the incident has just happened and no emergency crews have arrived yet. So I stop.

But why do I stop ? I was asked this question back in my EMT class last year. Why bother ? Someone has probably called 911, they'll be there soon, so what good will you do by stopping ? To be honest, I couldn't come up with a reason why I stop. I just do. Because I can. Because it's the right thing to do.

One of my ERT members once mentioned to me that he didn't think he was making much of a contribution to the team. He had responded to a medical call, and had been assigned to traffic control duty. His comment came from the fact that he wasn't the first on scene and did not have the chance to be involved in patient care.

My answer to him was that every single person who responds to these calls can make a difference. It may be something as simple as clearing the laneways for the fire rig and ambulance, or as profound as coaching someone down from an imminent nervous breakdown. Every single person, every single job, every single function makes a valuable contribution to the overall event. The ERT members are volunteers who take time out of their busy days and lives to help others in need. Even if it is not apparent to the patient or anyone else, each one of them makes a difference. Including the member who asked me the question.

So why do I volunteer for the ERT ? Why do I stop at these accidents and incidents ? Because I can make a difference in the life of another human being. Even if it's only very minor and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Lots of people stop at accidents, but many don't know what to do. I have organized these good Samaritans to help out with patient care when possible - not only does that help the patient, it gives a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction to those who truly want to help but don't know how.

In all situations, the patient is scared, hurting and upset. For those few minutes before the emergency crews arrive, I strive to be the voice of calming and reassurance. I check them out for injuries, take pulse, bandage wounds, listen to lungs - but if the only significant thing I do is help them to take a deep breath to reduce their anxiety, I feel that I have done something worthwhile. There is no way to describe in words the feeling of personal satisfaction from helping someone in need, and knowing that I was able to leave them a little better off than when I arrived.

Most of the time, there is no thank you. Only very rarely has any patient or professional responder ever thanked me. But that's not why I stop. True giving to others needs to come from the heart, not from the desire to be paid back or recognized. One of the "Suggestions on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life" (Stephen Covey) is to "Make it a habit to do nice things for people who'll never find out." I take that to heart. It is one of my doctrines.

That person in my EMT class, who asked why I should bother stopping, is the difference between someone who does a job for the sake of having a job, and someone who holds a passion in their heart for what they do. That person was training for a job to make a salary and go home at the end of the day. I was training to develop my ability help others in need. I was training to expand my circle of influence to better serve my community. I was training to be able to make a difference, however small, in the life of another human being.

That's why I stop.


Blogger Julie said...

Hey Andrea - it's your buddy... The.Foxx from WW. I too stop for accidents. My mom used to yell at me all the time that I was going to get myself in trouble. Well, on 12/25/96 at 12:35 a.m. I was stopped at a red light. I saw a bright flash and then took a hit from behind at 50 mph. Many people came out of their homes, on Christmas morning to help me. They brought blankets, coffee, called rescue, etc. I really believe that if I had passed those accidents by, those people would have slept through my time of need. What goes around comes around :)

January 31, 2005 at 1:08:00 PM PST  

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