We’ve all seen the television programs of EMTs, paramedics, nurses, and doctors racing patients into the emergency room to save their lives. Those depictions are usually heroic, and occasionally, they show a quirky patient, or the exhaustion felt by the workers. But how true are those depictions?
Sherry Jones Mayo knows about these situations from real-life, and she writes about them honestly, simply, and always humorously. She is the rare person who can find humor in almost any situation, and I suspect that her sense of humor — which must spring from a very deep and caring soul with an unimaginable endurance — is what keeps her going on twelve and twenty-four hour shifts in a quest to help people who cannot help themselves, to save lives, and to receive nowhere near the appreciation she deserves. Perhaps writing about these situations is her way to make sense from and cope with it all.
Sherry’s first book Confessions of a Trauma Junkie opened my eyes to the realities of being an emergency services worker, especially as an EMT and a nurse paramedic. But Sherry has had a lifetime of experiences, and one book just wasn’t enough to say everything, so now, More Confessions of a Trauma Junkie fulfills that need.
This “sequel” offers humor to anyone needing a laugh, insight into emergency services for anyone considering such a career, and I think for Sherry’s colleagues, a comic and truthful look at the work they do every day to save lives. I’m sure emergency workers who read this book will laugh, perhaps cry, and think about similar situations they’ve been in — in fact, they could probably all write their own books.
Sherry does not disappoint in depicting the humor, the sadness, or the trauma associated with emergency services. The first part of the book is devoted to dealing with quirky patients, including a 350-pound woman who calls the ambulance, and then when the EMTs arrive, they can hear her run from the door to her bed, where she proceeds to thrash around, obviously faking her illness, yet the EMTs have to take her seriously and carry her enormous body on an extremely hot day from an upstairs apartment in a building without an elevator, down to the ambulance. And then there are the people wrapped in bubble wrap, the ones with homes filled with cockroaches, and the ones whose home remedies go wrong. There’s even a woman who may be demonically possessed following a voodoo ritual gone wrong. Seriously, you have to read this book to believe these stories, yet I don’t doubt for a second they are all true.
I daresay emergency services workers have seen it all, or at least they think they have, until they get that next strange call — whether it’s a fake call from someone who just wants an ambulance ride, or a person with a strange sexual fetish that when carried out, just didn’t go the way he wanted.
But More Confessions of a Trauma Junkie is more than a compilation of funny stories. It gets at the very heart of what it is to be an EMT, a paramedic, a nurse, or a doctor. It is a heroic, exhausting, and emotionally traumatic calling. Other people’s trauma can become the emergency worker’s trauma, even though the workers try very hard not to let these situations affect them. As Sherry points out, “Rule #1: People Die. Rule #2: Medics cannot change rule #1. (But boy, do we try!”)
Having this kind of job means a love-hate relationship with the role. You love the people you work with, and you love helping the patients, but you hate to see people die. Still, you are addicted to trauma; you can’t get wanting to save everyone out of your system. The last section of the book is told by a Hurricane Katrina Military Responder, who makes the point that many of the workers who responded to Hurricane Katrina came away feeling disappointed because they couldn’t do more. Emergency services workers want to keep the world safe. It’s impossible, but they want to try anyway.
At the end of the book is a mini-interview with the author. Sherry sums things up best, I think, when she is asked, “Why did you write this book?” She talks about people’s reactions when she tells them what she does for a living and then states:
“What they do not realize until it happens to them is that trauma affects someone who is loved and cherished, and lives are forever changed. I want people to see the world for a moment through my eyes, to walk with me through the broken glass, to sit next to me and hold the hand of the injured or dying, to fight against death thinking that sometimes we just might have the power to win those battles. And then I want them to see the complete lunacy of it all and laugh.”
One interesting personal story Sherry includes in the book is what it was like the day her stepfather died and how she experienced having emergency services workers she did not know arrive to care for him. In short, she has seen both sides of emergencies, which has made her both compassionate and dedicated.
What is next for Sherry Mayo Jones? She hints that a Trauma Junkie Anthology may be down the road. I’m sure we’ve only begun to hear the stories she and her colleagues could tell that will teach us a bit more about what it is to be human.