I admit I have been having a hard time adjusting to being a part-time field paramedic. When I went part-time back in the spring (in order to accommodate both increased hours in my clinical coordinator job at the hospital and be around more to take my daughter to her sports events), my plan was still to work two shifts a week, which I managed to do for a while, but lately I have only been working my ten hour Friday shift. True, it is a busy shift, in which I average 10-12 911 responses, of which I may only transport 3 or 4, but it is far less than I am used to doing in a week. And while I miss the extra work both for the adventure and the experience, which keeps me on top of my game (or did when I was doing it), I am finding on days when I have a chance to go in and work an extra shift, I am choosing not to. Sometimes I don’t pick up the shift because I am worried if I am held late, I will be unable to get home in time to take my daughter to her practice, other times, it will mean I will miss my scheduled swim or sometimes I admit, I just would rather be home.
This semi-retirement is giving me a glimpse of what full retirement from the road must be like, and I don’t think it will be something I will like. All the years I have worked the street, have given me the identity of being a paramedic, and it is something I am proud of and greatly enjoy. I love the comradery, the adventure, the stories, the takeout ethnic food, the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, and I get a paycheck on top of it all. Most of all I think it is about being part of something I feel is important.
When I am at home now, I try to fill the time with other activities. Bedsides driving my daughter and writing, I am focused on mental and physical wellness activities. These include:
Swimming: (I now swim 5-6 days a week for 50 minute sessions. Under the pool’s COVID protocols, we can reserve one lane a day for 50 minutes. My goal is to swim the fastest 50 yard freestyle I can. I warm up slowly, and then do 6 sprints spaced out for recovery. Most of the sprints are from the racing block, down 25 yards, flip turn and take a couple of hard strokes back before flipping on my back and doing a slow backstroke to the start. Occasionally, I do the full 50 yards all-out. I am slower than I was a couple of years ago. I need to take more breaths than I used to and my leg kick at the end weakens considerably. I haven’t officially timed myself, but I don’t think I am close to my record of 28.6. I will be happy if I can break 30 again, but I feel like I am around 33 or 34.
Strength training: I have made a small gym in my basement with dumbbells, kettleballs, a slam ball, ropes, and a jump box. I work out two or three times a week, and not as hard as I should. I need to get some heavier weights. I am feeling fitter. I am particularly proud of the jump box. I bought it off amazon and assembled it myself. I am no handyman. It has three heights, 12” 14” and 16”. I have already reached 16” although I am cheating slightly by jumping off a matt to begin with. I can do 12 jumps at 14” and my heart pounds afterwards. I don’t know if I will ever be able to get up to 20”, which would mean buying a bigger box, but it would be an accomplishment if I did.
Jumping Rope. Okay, so I managed to do 50 jumps in a row that took my 27 seconds. My short term goal is to be able to jump rope for a minute. My long term goal is to jump rope like Muhammad Ali boxer-style, doing all those fancy moves. I have watched the videos on how to do it, but I am not close yet. Not by any stretch. I probably will never be, but a man can dream.
Basketball: I don’t have anyone to play with but my daughter. Sometimes when her team practices at an indoor facility, I pay the owner of the place $20 and he lets me shoot if there is an empty court. When I toss up a jumper and it rips through the net, it brings me great joy. I am hoping my jumping practice will help me be able to touch the rim, but I can’t do it yet. Once when I was 6’ 9” and 20 years old, I could actually dunk. Now, at maybe 6’ 8” and 62 years old, it is sad I can’t even touch the rim anymore.
Reading: I used to read at least a book a month from Amazon’s best books of the month list, and am trying to get back to doing it. For January, I chose Drug Use for Grown-Ups, which I am about a third of the way through. It is a provocative look at the effects of drug use on stable, healthy adults, from a doctor, who admits to being a recreational heroin user. His argument is when used responsibly, drugs can enhance your life. He writes well and makes many good points, but I am not drinking the Kool-Aid yet. While I can agree that drug use likely can be good for some people, it so devastating to others that it is hard for me to see the way to make it available blanketly to all. I do support decriminalization of possession, safe injection sites, widespread testing of drugs for contaminants, and could envision a country that made prescription grade heroin available to people instead of forcing them to buy the poison sold on the streets today. I will likely write more about this book when I am done with it.
I just finished two books this week. One called Breath, which is all about how we need to breathe through our noses to be healthier, rather than mouth breathing. It had a fantastic tip in it. I now tape my lips shut at night with a little piece of medical tape in the center of my mouth to force me to breath through my nose. My wife reports, I no longer snore. Instead of getting up three times a night to pee, I am only getting up once and some nights not at all. I do feel healthier. A medical miracle, just like the COVID vaccine that I am ever grateful that I received. The other book I just finished I listened to rather than read. Promised Land by Barrack Obama is an account of his life and presidency right up to the point where they kill Osama Bin laden. I really enjoyed the book, which he narrated. Listening to this book, while also watching the three seasons of the show Designated Survivor on Netflix in which Kiefer Sutherland, an independent cabinet secretary, becomes President when the President and the Congress are killed in an explosion during the State of the Union. He is an awesome President, always managing to do the right thing and save every day with dignity and compassion. That is right up to the last episode, when he has the chance to exonerate a racist with information he has, but doesn’t because it will likely lead to the bad guy becoming President instead of the hero. In the end, he wonders if he isn’t the one full of shit now. Great ending! Between Promised Land and Designated Survivor and all the news about Trump and now Biden, I feel like I am West Wing veteran. It makes me glad I am not president. What a difficult and often thankless job. Everyone else is always looking out for their own interests. Republicans and Democrats fight each other as if the game is their own power and not the country.
It make me appreciate being a paramedic because no one can really say what we do is thankless. Some of us are liberal, some of us are conservatives, but when do the job, it is just about helping our patients. We are the good guys, and that is a nice feeling.
Chess. I am studying chess because chess supposedly helps keep your mind fresh and your brain synapses firing. I am not great at the game, but I am taking on-line lessons and playing against different levels of computer bots on the chess.com site. (I easily beat the beginner bots and some of the lower rated intermediate bots.) I have also been reading much about the game. Some of the things I have read suggest that chess can swallow you alive and that it ends in madness for those who plummet into its depths. I like beating the bots I can, but I admit to being leery of the ones I have difficulty with. I make stupid blunders and don’t have the ability to see too many moves ahead. I can easily while away the hours playing it. Fortunately at many of my daughter’s sports events and practices, they don’t allow parents in due to COVID so I sit in the car playing chess on my phone. I hope that it will keep my brain functioning, but sometimes I feel that it leads to nothing but lost time. If I play for twenty years, I will still never be much more than a duffer at it. I will not make the world better by playing the chess.
This leads me to the point of all this. I feel that when I am being a paramedic, I am making the world a better place. It doesn’t matter if I can jump 16″ or jump rope for one minute or touch the rim or checkmate my opponent. I just have to show up with an open heart and do the job I was trained to do. I know that as soon as I step out of the seat, someone else will sit it in, and the calls will go out and be answered, and lives saved, and people reassured in their fearful hours. Even though we are just cogs in the EMS system, time spend as a paramedic is time well spent. A life spent as a paramedic is a life well spent.
I hope to keep working as a paramedic as long as I can. If it is only 10 hours a week, it is still 10 hours well spent. Maybe all the physical and mental fitness activities I am pursuing will lengthen my career, even if it is now only part-time. I hope so.
Be safe all.