If you only knew, a tribute to EMS


If you only knew the things that I have seen. All the tears that have dripped down my face as I worked what I was sure would be my last call, only to be wiped away by sweaty gloved hands. In this game, there is no time for tears.

If you only knew the sensation of being jolted awake, at 3am, time and time again. Until sleep no longer feels necessary to survive and your body, your mind, becomes numb. I am so tired of being numb.

If you only knew the weight of a wife as she crumbles to the floor when I pronounce her husband dead. In the very same spot that their young baby took his first steps just hours before. His first birthday cake still on the kitchen table, and I feel my chest caving in. I’ve carried her weight on my shoulders since that day.

If you only knew the pain in my gut when I arrive on scene after a suicide. Blood and dreams scattered on the wall. Images that cannot ever be erased, for me or for them. I struggle with the thought that as a system maybe we could have done more, done better, but yet here we stand. It’s too late now.

If you only knew how hungry and tired you can be after running calls for 23 hours straight, with no time to eat, sleep, or even pee. You lose all sense of time. Sometimes I forget how long I’ve been awake.

If you only knew the sound a mother makes as she watches her child slip away. We keep going, knowing that our efforts are in vein, but we do them anyway. I think I would want that if it was my child. I always think of my own children as I cradle their fragile little bodies, I wish I didn’t, the thought is often too much to bare. 

If you only knew how frustrated I feel when we make our seventh trip to you in a single shift. The smell of alcohol seeping from your pores. I know your name and you know mine. You want our help, but neither of us is sure in what capacity. I have tried so many times. I just wish you would let me help you.

If you only knew what it felt like to pull cold wet skin out of a river in the middle of winter. Shivering inside from the snow in the air, the sogginess in your boots, and the coldness you feel for trying not to let yourself feel. It chills you to the bone, and makes you question everything you know.

If you only knew how scary it is to arrive on the scene of a shooting. Are they still here? Am I safe? Will I ever see my family again? I let the thoughts creep in, but the patient needs me, deserves me, all of me. So, I brush my fear a side and trudge on. The fear is real, but I do it anyway.

If you only knew how hard I studied, how many hours I spent in school, and how much I actually know. Only to be called names or belittled by those who don’t understand the work that I do. It’s not easy. Grades and titles don’t matter in the back of the truck. 

If you only knew how hard I cry sometimes when I am alone. How much I can’t leave behind, and how much I struggle to overcome the things my eyes have seen and the words my mouth has said. I can’t even make myself believe some of it’s real.

If you only knew how much pride I feel, after I successfully intubate a tiny little trachea. Knowing that because of me they have a chance to survive. I really wish I could see them now. 

If you only knew how amazing it feels to use your brain, your hands, and your skills, in the back of a truck. To have NO other resources, and somehow, someway, at 60 mph perform street miracles. It’s the best part of the job.

If you only knew what the wet grass feels like under your knees, as you kneel in a ditch to calm a young teenage girl as she is cut from her mangled car. Through tear filled eyes she tells you that you are the reason she is alive, and how thankful she is for you. Although you try not to let the emotion come, it does, and with her, it’s okay.

If you only knew how much I love all this, the good and the bad, the ugly and the sad. If you only knew what a family I have here, and that somehow, through all of this, I find the ability solider on; hungry, tired, but standing tall. Armed with incredible colleagues, skilled hands, and caring hearts.

If you only knew how proud I am to be a Paramedic, to be a life changer, a life saver, an all too often forgotten hero.

If you only knew.

Happy EMS Week to some of the most incredible people I have the honor of knowing and working alongside. You are heroes.





47 thoughts on “If you only knew, a tribute to EMS

  1. Thi6is so true for any medical personnel that have been in the field for 6 months or more. Thank You for the tribute to EMS.

  2. This is incredible, very well written. Thank you from a former firefighter/EMT of 20 years. Keep your head up and stay in the game for as long as you can.

  3. ….and once you say….I can’t take anymore…they say your sick, PTSD. I’m not sick, i’m human afterall. Hang in there you all.

  4. As a once volunteer EMT Basic Trainee for a small town fire department I understand on a very small scale the sacrifices made as an EMT, but I understand fully that in whatever capacity one chooses to serve their fellow neighbor…we are merely instruments in GOD hands and it is he who performs the miracle and saves lives through us; we are just the willing vessels who make ourselves available to him.

  5. I am now 73 and crippled from a number of medical and physical limitations. There is not a day that a box with siren wailing goes by my office and I long to be able to get back in the mud, the blood and the beer making a difference in peoples lives. Oh how I miss the best job I ever had.

  6. Thank you to all EMT’s. I’m a proud mother of one, I see first hand how much my son Mike & his co-workers give to help others.

  7. You are all hero’s in my book years ago I was a fireman and an EMT and I know all to well the fear, humility, sadness, and the happy will fill,and yes the sorow, that’s why God made tb

  8. Thank you and God bless,years ago,I was a fireman ,EMT,I know all your feelings,that why God made angles like yall

    1. WOW !!!!!!!!!! ” If you only knew ” the chills this article gave me , the respect it gave me and the sorrow also for all EMT and first responders go through . You are all Angles with very large wings and from me to you all ” Thank You ” from the bottom of my heart ,god bless everyone of you

  9. WOW so beautifully written and so very true. I dearly love being a Paramedic every bit of it, the good, bad and ugly. It truly is the best job in the world and I get the pleasure of working with some very incredibly kind hearted, compassionate, fun loving and very talented people..

  10. Beautifully said…I found memories, feelings and even smells coming back as fresh as it was almost 30 years ago when I earned my EMT-P license as I read the words from your heart. 💜 God speed to you and thank you for what you do, I understand and appreciate your strength and dedication. I have been an RN for 24 years and have corrected many a coworker who said “ambulance driver”…they haven’t a clue

  11. I have been doing this crazy job for 2 years and you hit the nail on the head with this post.. It pretty much sums up who we are what we do and what we deal with. Thanks for putting into words what we all fell.. Be Safe..

  12. 15 yrs in & it’s still good to know that I’m not alone in what I feel. Amen sister. God Speed, God Bless, & stay safe.

  13. As a firefighter/Paramedic since 1986, I am proud to call you a colleague.

    Many times I have said I wish there was a disease that could erase what my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, but yet could still be functional and remember what I desire.

    Unfortunately, there are many things both on scenes, and in personal family situations (I’ve used adenocard on my mother, and have resuscitated my wife just 2 weeks ago from respiratory arrest) and more I will never share but take to my grave.

    Thank you for a well written summation of who we are.


  14. I am very thankful for EMTs. I have been in an ambulance a few times, thanks to my asthma and once due to mental health. When I was having breathing problems the EMTs were so kinds and helped calm me down. Unfortunately when it came to the mental health trip the EMT who stayed in the back made it known that I was wasting his time. The guy who was driving however was so kind to me and told me it gets better and to hang in there. I have only had the one bad experience. Everyother EMT/ paramedic I have met are amazing and angels. No other way to describe them. I used to be in the fire department and the way they were any patient was amazing. As an EMT I’d say they wear many hats.

  15. This was so well written you men and women are Angels on earth I am the proud mother of two Paramedics Dusty and Jordan and I have taken a ride in the back of an ambulance and I was shown so much compassion and I could never repay those gentle men so I want to say Thank You so much for all you do everyday❤️

  16. This was perfect. Well written and perfectly timed. Such an emotional piece. I wept for about 30 seconds and then smiled. I can’t believe your post did that to me. Hit me right in the feels. Thank you for putting to words what so many of us feel or have felt and will never forget. Happy EMS week!

  17. I have had the benefit of Paramedic response and life saving care a number of times during the past 15 years and I hope they have some idea of how thankful I’ve been. It’s because of them that I am able to enjoy the life I now have. It’s a relief to me to know that no matter what happens in the future, they will do everything they can to see that I have at least one more day.

    Thank you for this much deserved tribute to some of the greatest people who have been my life. They are heroes and I know it.

  18. My husband and son were in a bad wreck in 2011. We lost our son but my husband survived in good part because of strangers both those in traffic who witnessed the crash and those who came to answer the 911 call. I’ll never get over losing my son but I am thankful every single day there was someone who was able to help my husband. This happened just about about a mile away from our local fire station so they were there in probably five minutes after the crash occurred. Im thankful everyday for the work of all first responders. My husband is alive today because of them in great part and because of the amazing trauma center in Orlando.

    1. Thank God for every Paramedic that has served and is serving the public. My husband and oldest son were paramedic.Reading this I could here there voices saying this same stuff they ran call that they will never be able to get off there mines. So when you are on the road and you see a ambulance with lights flashing move over give them the road. They are on the way to help someone in need.

  19. Such a powerful piece, as I read it I relived so many calls, the raw emotion the noise, the smells the fears. Tears welled up and I remembered those good days the laughs and the joy, I also remembered the bad with tears and cries, for loved ones lost. I remembered colleagues and friends – some gone forever doing what they loved to do. Thank you

  20. WOW, Each call you described sent me back in time to a similar experience. However, it has been over 15 years since I worked in the field. It was rather jarring to read! On the other hand, thank you for your exemplary contribution to the profession. I hope those in and those that have been in the profession take time to celebrate their successes this upcoming week. We need to take pride in what we do.

  21. This is so true and as an EMT for the ambulance service and fire department still. We all deal with the stress in our own way, but if you don’t talk to someone, you won’t stay in this long. It doesn’t have to be your spouse (that coukd cause more problems). It can be just a stranger you just meet or a fellow co-worker that already understands but is willing to listen and pat you on the shoulder or hug you. Thank you all, my brothers and sisters. Keep strong, keep safe and keep learning your skills.

  22. I know my niece is proud to be in this field and there’s NOTHING she wouldn’t do to help someone in need. I am one PROUD Nanny!! You’re the best Ashmo!!! I love you eternally … To the moon and back 👍❤️💕

  23. As a Firefighter of ten years, and now a Respiratory Therapist. This is spot on. The good outweighs the bad most of the time. Yes there are things I’d love to forget, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. To all of my Brothers and Sisters doing the job, keep up the good fight!

  24. Only an EMT/Medic can know all that you’ve written Just this week brought a
    15 yr old Amish boy back only to have his father pull life support after only 4hrs in ICU Peds doc begging him to give the boy 3 days to give that brain time to reduce swelling before assessing his function. EVeryone on this one is devestated We worked so hard to bring him back and the boy was fighting hard to come back trying to breath on his own 4 hrs after being clinically dead. Breaking heart tears won’t stop coming when I think about it

  25. I thank all EMS personnel for being there for me whether i was at home,work or driving down the street when my heart decided to speed up to over 300 beats a minute. They will always have a spedial place in my heart. I feel safe when my daughter in law is around is EMS saving lives.

  26. That was beautifully well written and I can imagine so perfectly spot-on. Having worked in a county ER where we encounter multiple EMS hourly – i am so thankfully for you and so blessed to know so many!

  27. Thank you ,
    Extremly precise and so true.
    Know it’s time to wipe my tears from that touching article , reflet, and remerber why i became a Paramedic over 31 years ago.
    Respect To all my EMS brothers and sisters worlwide.

  28. We have always been proud of our son, a paramedic of 15 plus years. He has shared some of his experiences in the ER where he works, as well as on the ambulance where he also works. But this post really has let us know what he encounters every day.. It takes very special people to do this job well and I’m thankful for the nurse who corrects those who refer to them as “ ambulance drivers”. Our granddaughter has just completed her training for EMT so it runs in the family. Thank you to all of you who serve/have served. The world is a better place because of you.

  29. Thank you to all EMS, Police Officers, Firefighters, all Emergency Personnel……we appreciate whatever you do!!!

  30. As a frontline Firefighter, EMT, Paramedic, Flight Medic, and Flight Nurse with a career spanning 14 years, I know these situations all too real. Some days it felt like I couldn’t wash all the filth off of me. Some days it hurt to even think about the carnage I was a witness to. Some days it hurt so bad to see that.

    It is a hard cross to bear. Some people do not have the stomach to take what they see. I still have nightmares occasionally from what I saw, but I never wavered in the moment. It took all I had sometimes, and one marriage suffered because of it.

    I was that one guy who was the calm one in the storm. I loved what I did, even through all the grief and carnage that man could cause. I lasted long enough in it, and did well enough to be the 1% of guys who got to put on the flight suit. I was the one teaching future generations as an FTO, and part time educator, but I wasn’t the hero the younger guys thought I was. I hung it up 2 years ago. I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I had to leave, or my demons were going to overtake me. I have PTSD, but not diagnosed.

    No one wants the stigma of PTSD. I went full time into nursing, and it has helped. The real hero’s are the guys who still can do the job after 20 years in this business.

    PTSD is under diagnosed in our field. My hats off to the veterans who stay the course. My hat is off to y’all.


    A younger old medic.

  31. Written so well. As a retired paramedic, the calls flash before your eyes, the scenes,the patients and families. I am thankful that I was able to be a servant and maybe make a small difference in someone’s life. My co workers will always hold special places in my heart.

  32. I will always say that God alone can save a life but for you all to be willing to let Him use you to do His work i so admire you …As my own brother has worked this all his adult live i cant imagine all he has saw and has had to bring home with him as he tries to close his eyes to get some sleep …..To him i say i am so proud of you for the work you do and to all you others i say i am proud of you also …May God keep you safe and let you carry on as your work long and hard to help others …Your prize awaits just beyond the golden gates for you…

  33. 30 some years in the field then retired in 06. Best job I could have imagined but I sure could do without the ghosts. Even now they still visit nightly.

  34. I Have 2 wonderful nephews in this field and they put it everything into their jobs, l have the uttermost respect for them and all of the people who work in this field. I Hope that you know how much your job’s mean to the people who are in need of your services every day. I just wanted to let you know that you are a wonderful group of people who do a wonderful job selflessly. Thank-you Very much for your service.

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