Photo by Jenny Starley, Flickr

You don’t know what it’s like to be an emergency services provider until you’ve stood in the piss-soaked bedroom of a house and watched a team of medics try to revive an old, lonely guy though 15 minutes of automated CPR. It’s a small part of the job, but unavoidable. When the call goes off for a critical emergency, medics have no choice but to make haste.

“We exist around death, dying, injury, and illness,” remarked Jay Cloud, a paramedic with 33 years of experience outside of Houston. “When we see these horrible situations, we can’t turn off our biological insistence that this is a critical situation. We have to learn to rein in our reactions and refocus that to getting [the situation] resolved. And it is terrible to have to deal with these things. Usually it involves children or senior citizens.”

Indeed, the life of a first responder is one of the most stressful in the nation, one where the non-life-threatening situations can be seen as nuisances, and the high-pressure ones cause nightmares.

Chase Hoffberger writing in The Austin Chronicle about Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services. Austin’s EMS system is one of the best in the nation, but several recent suicides have highlighted structural problems.

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