An ambulance races to the scene of yet another human tragedy. It could be a road accident, a heart attack, shooting, drowning, suicide, or perhaps a very sick child. Whilst we might experience or witness such events in our lifetime, for paramedics these are routine events. But continual exposure to the work often comes at a significant, sometimes tragic cost to the paramedic and his or her family and friends.
In Signal 8, author Erik Schanssema, a retired front-line Australian paramedic, relates some of his experiences and his reactions to them. He provides graphic descriptions of a small sample of the many cases he and his colleagues attended with the intention of providing information rather than shock. Erik opens his heart and soul and tells us frankly and often with humour, albeit sometimes dark, what it was like for him to be a paramedic on the road and how it has affected him—as it still does today. The cases he describes are indelibly imprinted on his psyche. He shares his story in an effort to help former, current, and future paramedics and emergency workers who may feel alone or isolated by their experiences and to leave them with a sense of pride in their chosen work and, ultimately, hope.
This personal narrative offers a true account of a front-line paramedic’s experiences with human trauma and his struggle with and survival of grief and posttraumatic stress disorder.