Thursday, April 14, 2011

Being Rightly Proud

I am fiercely proud of the volunteering I do as a Medical First Responder with St. John Ambulance Canada here in Edmonton.

I've been volunteering my time for the past 9 years this April, since 2002.  In that time I have done and seen a lot, not least of all:

  • Called 911 on average 25 times a year when at events
  • Provided patient care to countless people from paper cuts to heart attacks
  • Been an event supervisor for duties large and small
  • Been on the supervisory committee, back when we had one
  • Run the bike patrol
  • Taken an oxygen administration course
  • Seen my scope of practice expand to a first responder
  • Seen that expanded scope of practice apply to every single volunteer I work with, levelling the playing field
  • Watched many concerts and sporting events
  • Attended many of the little “community events” which I much prefer to the bigger ones (more heart, fewer heart attacks!)
  • Driven mobile first aid posts across Alberta
  • Driven golf carts across Hawrelak Park
  • Ended up at Dennys more often that I can count to de-stress after long duties

Most importantly I have felt valued and supported by the organisation and especially by the other volunteers.  Over the years I have met hundreds of new people, some of whom have left a lasting impression on me, others have passed through very quickly.  I made friends who have stayed with me even after they’ve moved on from volunteering.  I’ve shared drinks, been to parties, had arguments, dated, hung out with, entered first aid competitions with, you name it.  Volunteering has enriched my life because of the quality of people it has caused to pass into my life.


It has also been my privilege to be mentored by a number of people, all of whom I have striven to learn from.  They have taught me excellent practical skills along with the care part of patient care.  I have learnt how to calm down people who are hurt and suffering whilst providing effective treatment to stabilise them before we can transport them via EMS to hospital.  I discovered my ability to make patients laugh, and to laugh with them, one of the most effective pain killers available – especially when you have no drugs to give.  I watched my mentors manage large events and learnt how to “herd cats” based on their skills.  I have been able to deal with difficult situations, controlling them before they became dangerous thanks to the examples I have seen.

The highest praise I have ever been given by those I respect in the field has been “You would make a good paramedic”.


I like to think that I’ve mentored a number of people over the years.  I always try to assist and support, leading by example, showing and telling.  I enjoy it very much – it really makes me feel good to help others improve.  Over the years I’ve helped define how our response bags are packed, how the mobile units are organised, stressed that our members take charge, directed our resources at events – and even made little cue cards that have a basic set of acronyms to help volunteers.  These things may not seem like much but doing them made me feel better, made me feel like I was contributing.  All of this is very rewarding, but nothing makes me happier, nothing fulfills me more, that seeing those I have mentored exceed my own abilities.

The highest praise I have ever been given by those I support has been “We know you have our back when you are leading an event”.


I volunteer a lot of my time.  It keeps me off the street.  I would make comments like that – how I could volunteer so much time because I had no life, how I have nothing else to do – but then a few friends pointed out that my volunteering is my life, or rather a big part of it.  It made me realise how important it is to me, how much I value it, how much of myself I put into it.  More importantly, it made me realise how much I value those I volunteer with.

I am a member of the Volunteer First Aid Response Services with St. John Ambulance Edmonton.  Last year I provided 880 total hours of volunteer time, number one in Edmonton (for the third year running).  I am proud of that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I was wrong.  I realise that now.  But not for the reasons that you might think.

After I came back from meeting everyone in Vegas a whole load of things happened.  I got shouted at by several people because of what they perceived I had done, I shouted at one or two people, I took a two weeks break from playing World of Warcraft to get my head in order…  Then I came back to my guild, determined to fix everything, bright and shining with an almost religious zeal to make it all into One Big Happy Family.

Only it wasn’t like that.  People were trying to tell me that they were unhappy, but they couldn’t articulate why – or I just wasn’t understanding.  Other people were determined to try to help but it was like trying to light a candle with a flamethrower.  Others had no idea what was going on.  There were undercurrents and overtones and riptides, and it ended up with the guild splitting apart, with a bunch of people forming a second guild.

I was stunned by this.  I really had no idea this could happen, and I didn’t get it.  I thought we were a family, and I now feel I put too much emphasis on that.  As I said last time, you might think someone is a certain way but you made a subjective assumption based on your limited means of interaction with them.  What that also means is that you have to be very clear that you are not limiting yourself.  You HAVE to see what else is around you.  If people are unhappy, if drama exists, you can’t just pretend it’s okay and turn everything into a big happy family.

That is where I was wrong.  That is the thing I have been striving to learn.  I was maybe right to trust other people – but I was wrong to trust myself.