Decisions come fast and furious for paramedics
TRURO - Try as he might, advance care paramedic Stephen Leadlay is not always able to save the lives of accident victims.
"There was this one time, quite a few years ago, we were called to a side-impact crash," he recalls. "The woman in the car was just steadily declining and there was no way we could get her out in time to save her. I was able to get in with her but she did pass away before we got her out."
And that is one of the most difficult parts of his job as an advanced care paramedic.
"It's always tough because you know you have the training and the skills but there is just nothing you can do for this person, except to just be with them," added the 38-year-old.
"You have to be able to weigh out the pros and the cons of your actions, whether or not to do resuscitation, or you have to admit to yourself there is nothing that can be done."
For Leadlay, all of these decisions must take place within minutes, if not seconds.
"It's hard and there is consultation between other paramedics but it all takes place very quickly."
Leadlay, just one of 13 paramedics working in Colchester County daily, has been stationed in Truro for just over a year and has seen his fair share of fatalities.
"From the outside looking it, it seems
like a pretty stressful situation. But at the same time, with all of our training, we are
Leadlay is not ashamed to admit that sometimes calls can have a lasting effect.
"You can be a little grouchy after, so that's why it is good to have activities outside of the profession," said Leadlay, who practises martial arts.
"Everybody has their own sort of thing that they go through to get that distance from [work]," he added.
It some situations, a string of bad calls may start to build on a paramedic.
"You'll start to see some people being a little doubtful with their practice. They'll kind of start doing calls quicker, you'll start to see quicker transport times."
For some paramedics, a non-work related activity isn't always enough when it comes to dealing with stress and emotions so Emergency Health Services has set up an Employee Assistance Program.
"It's a single phone call you make and you're talking to another paramedic," Leadlay said. "You're not talking to a supervisor or a psychologist, you're talking to a friend from another base. Even if you don't know the person it's still someone who is in your field and still knows what you're talking about."
From there, the person you have made contact with can then refer you in the right direction.
"This is actually a really, really good program," said Leadlay.
In one particularly tough incident, Leadlay arrived on scene only to find that the patient was a friend.
"When that happens, basically you just have to put it out of your mind at the time. If you start becoming upset ... you just become another patient yourself."
When paramedics are faced with this type of ordeal they must decide whether they should be attending or not.
"I was able to distance myself enough, but it's never easy," he added.
Leadlay reports that compared to 10 or 15 years ago, the number of fatal car accidents has decreased due to more advanced vehicle safety mechanisms.
He also stated that paramedics are now able to do much more for a patient than they were ever able to.