The turn of the year is often a time for reflection, correction of mistakes and hopeful chartering of new ways forward. I'd love to do all that, but first I have to talk about futility.
I ran a call a few days ago for a young man in his 20s who had stopped breathing. His father was reportedly attempting CPR on him before our arrival. No matter how long you've been in EMS, a call like this one prompts feelings that range from restless anticipation to piercing anxiety. Every decision we make has luminous importance, world-altering weight.
The picture on our arrival was a depressingly familiar one: a young person who had stopped breathing due to a probable narcotic overdose. Once relatively rare, this is now commonplace, a "bread and butter" call for us. We administered naloxone, a drug that counteracts the effects of opioids, and the patient almost immediately started breathing on his own and woke up. He denied taking drugs, even when reminded that this disclosure was protected by privacy laws - also a commonplace reaction.
He had walked out of the Emergency Room, over the protests of the staff, before we even finished the paperwork on the call.
I may well see this young man again. I see many people fall down the rabbit hole of addiction, from the early calls when they collapse at work, to when mom or a boyfriend finds them unconscious in the bathroom, to when they are dead and we're trying to resuscitate them. I can try to keep them alive, but of course I can't do much more than that. It feels hopeless sometimes. At 6AM, driving home on the turn of the year, it felt abjectly futile.
If you hope to achieve something in this world, then futility is the most important thing you must ignore. My written words will be pulp someday; trees will grow where the mightiest buildings now stand. You avert your eyes from the futility of your endeavors as we slide our gaze past the sun.
But right now, I'm seeing futility everywhere I look. At times, I perceive its shimmering edges - and something else behind it, distorted as if through a flawed lens. But mostly, it obstructs my view of the world and dares me to step forward and through it.
Make no mistake, I love my job - love it. I recognize that there is an ebb and flow to the way we deal with the stresses of the job. I'd just like to believe that for one of those people, the day they almost died was the day things changed for them, when they started the hard climb upwards. I don't want the credit; I just want to look up and see them there.