real life

The letter from a paramedic everyone needs to read this holiday season.

0356 hours on January 1, 2018.

It was the moment when your choices and your actions changed the pathway that my life was on maybe forever.

It was a moment where you prevented two people from doing their job. You prevented someone else that needed help from being able to get that help.

It was a moment in time that lasted seconds but went for hours in my head.

It will be a moment that I will never forget even though at times I would give anything to have it erased from my memories. It is a moment in time that shouldn’t exist, but it does, because of YOU.

You made a choice. But we paid the price, your mother paid the price and your children paid the price. Some may say that you paid the ultimate price, but to them I say, “there are worse things in life than death”.

For those of you city folks, there is nothing quite like the darkness of driving on a country road in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning. The stars are amazing, as is the wildlife. You will see the headlights of a car coming in the opposite direction often long before you see the car. This is a good thing as you have time to lower your high beams. We saw you coming, dimmed the lights and prepared for your approach.

What we didn’t know was that you were drunk, behind the wheel and driving at a speed that was even too fast for the M1 motorway let alone a windy, poorly maintained rural road.

You came around the corner too fast. We noticed the speed first. Then we noticed you were on the wrong side of the road. We knew you were going to hit us. Those bright lights coming towards me are something that is imprinted in my mind forever. It is something that gives me nightmares and prevents me from being on the road at night.

You did that to me.

Jodie House has been a paramedic for 18 years. Last year, whilst on shift she became another statistic thanks to a drunk driver. She almost didn't make it home from work that night. Image: Supplied.

We had time (in reality it was seconds). Our job prepares us to have great instincts. We started to slow and move over off the road. We had a guard rail beside us and could only go so far. We knew we were going to be hit and we were going to be hit hard. We saw you lose control of your car. How? We saw your headlights start to weave in front of us. I closed my eyes and honestly started to pray... then it happened.

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BANG.

BANG.

BANG.

No one can prepare you for the violence of a motor vehicle crash. The sound, the force, the impact, the way it happens frame by frame. Time slows down like a movie in slow motion.

You hit us first.

BANG.

Your impact threw us into the guard rail.

BANG.

From there we were airborne. I knew we were airborne as I felt weightless and floating. I didn’t know where we were or what direction we would land and then we bounced into an embankment.

BANG.

The explosion of the airbags, with smoke and powder everywhere. That taste that you get in your mouth, a combination of adrenaline, fear and gunpowder. The sheer terror that goes through your mind, that you cannot control this and you may not survive this. This is real and this is happening to us.

You may have noticed that I used the phrase motor vehicle crash. See with our job we know that there is no such thing as a motor vehicle ACCIDENT. Every crash has a cause and a reason why it happened and YOU were ours. You decided to drink so much that you were three times the legal limit. You decided that even though you didn’t even have a driver’s license or a car that was registered, you would still get behind the wheel and drive. Your license was already disqualified for drink driving but obviously you learnt that lesson well. Your actions almost ended our lives. If you had of hit a family car with that speed and force you would have killed them all. Maybe that is the reason why you hit us instead?

On the show Ambulance Australia, paramedic Sahar talks about another brutal situation ambulance workers face.

Video by Ambulance Australia

Your actions and choices resulted in the crash. We cannot rewind time, we don’t get do overs, we cannot change the past. What we can do is make a choice…

We make choices, but our choices make us.

So I made the choice that your actions will not define my future. What you did will not define me. I am making a choice to get up and move and maybe something good can come out of this.

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Your actions that night left me with a paramedic nightmare. You see I was able to get out of our truck. I knew I was injured but I had a job to do. My partner was trapped and unable to get out of a vehicle that we thought was on fire at the time. We needed help and we were in the middle of nowhere. We are the people who provide the help so what was I to do but to do my job. I can thank the years of training that was able to go into automatic pilot mode and do what had to be done.

On impact your car caught fire. Was this because it was not road worthy yet you decided to drive anyway? About 10 minutes later your car even exploded. The universe was on our side at that moment as we were not injured again. One blessing is that you were thrown out of your vehicle. Through the flames I hoped and prayed again that there was no one in the car with you. I must say at least you made one good decision that night to travel alone.

Your injuries were catastrophic. My partner was trapped, in pain and also needed help. You left me with a choice that no one should have to make. Our training teaches us to do the greater good for the greater number. I was in a major incident situation. I now had two patients and one of me. I had to decide. For me I made the right choice. I knew that there was nothing I could do to change your outcome. I had to help those that I could help.

Did this knowledge make my decision any easier?

No.

I knew I was going to survive what you had done to us but it was now my job to ensure my partner was going to survive as well. You were not going to take that away from me. Everyone has the right to make it home from work. Everyone has the right to be safe on the road. The rules are there for a reason. You chose to break them and why should we have to pay the consequences? Don’t drink and drive it is the first basic rule we all learn.

What happened next was something that has and will continue to affect a lot of people for a very long time. I only have the right to tell my story. I know that I got the help that we needed and we got the resources to get us to where we needed to be so start our recovery. Those 38 minutes that we were alone in the dark waiting for help are 38 minutes that I will live with forever.

We survived.

I survived.

Every time we get in a car we are in control of a weapon. It is up to us to choose how to use that weapon. You choose to try to kill with your weapon that night. Maybe it is now up to me as a survivor to teach others to take five and survive.

Take five to think will this action kill someone else? Will this action put me or others in danger? Do I want this action to be my last? Is this how I want my family to remember me?

We make choices but our choices make us. 

I was lucky this time as I survived your choices.

Jodie House is a paramedic with NSW Ambulance. She been a paramedic for nearly 18 years.

This story was first published on Jodi House's blog Wellness Advocate. It was republished here with full permission. 

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