I’m not athletic. So much so that my chances at receiving a medal in school for being athletic were nil. I remember signing up for track and field as a spare when I was in grade 8, only because I got to miss a day of school; I had zero intentions of actually running, or throwing, or whatever else you do at those things. But on this particular day, Susan got a nosebleed and I was up to run the 800 meter race! Sweet baby Jesus! I didn’t even know how far 800 meters was! I begged that the teachers pick someone else…but I was it; no other spares signed up. It was up to me and my New Kids On The Block t-shirt to run (hahaha…that’s funny) the 800 meter race. Long story short, I was last place and walked the majority of the laps around the track while people clapped and giggled and as I thought I would die from embarrassment. Oh, I also participated in cross country once and came in second last…only because my best friend Sandra had an asthma attack. That’s horrible! Oh the memories!
Needless to say, medals were never in the cards for me…or so I thought. Until the other day I came upon a bunch of speaker name-tag lanyards I have received over the years at conferences and events. And clumped together they looked like…medals. My medals. They of course are just plastic and paper, but to me they are as priceless as gold. As I looked at each one, I remembered the event (as well as I could) and said thank you to the universe for allowing me the opportunity to, a) still be on this planet, and b) to have had the chance to show people that even through the darkest times, recovery is possible.
I smiled as I hung each one back around my neck. They represent talks that I have given literally across this great country of ours. They represent healing and passion. And most of all, the represent hope.
So, as I stood in front of the mirror to take a selfie for this blog, I thought to myself, I may not ever adorn real medals like Olympian Michael Phelps and Clara Hughes, but to me, those pieces of paper sure do remind me that I have won.
Why it’s important to share your story! I couldn’t be more grateful.
Here are some of the letters Zoey and I received after presenting to a grade 10 and 11 class in Orillia.
”I’ve always been very closed off about my emotions. After you spoke to us I talked to my parents about how I’ve been feeling and it felt really good.“
”You coming in allowed me to also share my experience that I had never told anyone. There is no last piece that I wanted to say. I was suicidal. They were two summers ago. I thank you for opening me and sharing. As I wouldn’t of shared if you did not come in.”
“As students we don’t often get an outlet to talk about these types of thing opening and without judgement, but your presentation really felt like a safe space.“
”I’m able to better empathize with people dealing with mental health issues, especially after talking about the compilation book and hearing Zoey Raffay speak.”
“You made me feel safe enough to talk about my uncle, a topic I never bring up. Thank you for that.”
” I appreciated the talk around the room. It helped me to know I’m not alone!”
”Tell Zoey Raffay that I was glad to hear her story too.”
”(Your story) give an understanding of how mental health can affect you. Plus how it can affect people around you. Talking about it really helped some of my close friends.”
“I connected to some things that are a part of your story to the point where it hurts but because of you I have learned to never give up on yourself.“
”The talk touched a lot of our classes soft spots. and it meant a lot to me when you thanked me for supporting my friends.” — with Zoey Raffay.
“Only the the front wheels turn”, Jason says to his mom, my best-friend Heather, as she tries to maneuver the hotel baggage cart.
I must admit, it’s not easy to steer at all. I know this, not because I’ve tried yet, but because it seems to steer quite similarly to an old paramedic stretcher.
“I can help.” I say to Heather, and as we try to navigate the hotel lobby, elevator and room, we crash into more walls than, “Canada’s Worst Driver”.
I laugh out loud while I share ‘orders’ as politely as possible. “You need to back up”, “Don’t turn yet”, “Let me take that side”. It’s a hilarious episode that I’m sure amused the onlookers.
Heather and I manage to park the hotel baggage cart in the hall for the night, and when the next day arrives I wheel the cart back into the room and load it up while Heather is in the washroom getting ready. “You did that all by yourself?” She asks, when she sees this. “Ya, it’s all good! It’s sort of like a paramedic stretcher. It’s not easy to figure out right away.” I smile at her. And in my mind I can recall all of the stretcher mishaps I had as a new paramedic, and I feel the paramedic-teacher side of me make sure that Heather knows that she still did a great job.
Fast forward to the afternoon. After an amazing day of presentations to the Canadian Mental Health Association, by our not-for-profit, BrainStorm Revolution, I grab the hotel baggage cart and look for Heather so we can plan our destructive route back to our room. But then, Matt arrives! A fellow retired paramedic who naturally grabs the other end of the cart, and we maneuver with grace through the conference area and into the elevator. “Keep your hands in at all times.” Matt remarks…we laugh…and I know that we are definitely on the same page. “Always a medic. At least these halls don’t smell like cigarettes!” I say as we go up a few floors. “It will be the last room on the right!” I joke as we push the cart down the long hotel hall. I can feel that we are both making sure that we are doing our fair share of the pushing/pulling, just like a good, veteran medic does. And we chuckle at how the two retired medics inherently took up the causes to drive the cart correctly.
The experience reminded me so much of the old days. The GOOD old days; because there still are a lot of great memories. I miss some of the times I had with my partners as we navigated the toughest terrains with a stretcher. The wet baseball field, the car-piece scattered highway, the golf course, the snow banks, the sandy beach, the flooded streets, the hoarders hallways, the back alleys, the patron-filled restaurants, the icy driveways…oh the icy driveways! The muddy trails, the white carpets, the dusty factory, and the homes…of many. SO many. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
Hey, Matt. Thanks for the memories today. And Heather, you would have made an amazing medic!
Dear Premier Doug Ford and Honourable Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott,
I am writing this letter as City Councillor of Ward 6 in Barrie, Ontario, and as a retired advanced care paramedic from the County of Simcoe, in response to the latest report from the Provincial Government which states that shared ambulance grants are frozen at 2018 levels, and that any increase in service costs contained in municipal 2019 budgets will fall on the municipal taxpayers.
It alarms me greatly that tax rates of already financially struggling families will need to be increased to even maintain the level of care they receive from Ontario paramedic services. How are you not seeing that placing more financial strain on these families will only lead to greater stress levels in their homes, which in turn often results in negative health impacts, which will lead to more calls for paramedic services – straining an already inadequate number of paramedics, and cause more over-crowding of hospitals?
This will be a vicious and deadly cycle if you do not reverse your decision to amalgamate paramedic services from 59, to 10.
I do appreciate that you, Premier Ford, responded to my previous letter, and forwarded it on to the Honourable Minister Elliott, and I hope that you would be so kind as to answer these questions prior to forwarding this letter to anyone else:
1. If you do continue your plan to amalgamate the services, what will the public process be with respect to choosing/designing and implementing said services?
2. Can paramedic services appeal the government’s chosen model?
3. What data was used to determine that 10 services was ideal for the provision of paramedic care to Ontarian’s
And to the Honourable Minister Elliott, you have stated that you will work directly alongside municipal partners to engage in meaningful discussions about protecting and enhancing emergency support services.
1. Which services have you had discussions with to date?
I look forward to your responses and welcome any further discussion via email or in person at your convenience.