Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey



3 Save-My-Life-School Excerpts

On this episode of BrainStorm: I read three excerpts from Save-My-Life School about being a paramedic;

  • A Paramedic’s Comfort
  • My Stretch of The Highway
  • I Was A Paramedic

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Get Save My Life School: Here

BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by


My Interview On The Agenda

Thank you again to The Agenda for this amazing opportunity.

You Can Preorder My New Book!


Click Here!

This inspiring book of quotations from Natalie’s Harris’s raw and gripping account of her mental health journey, “Save-My-Life School,” offers daily motivational and thoughtful lessons.


BrainStorm – PTSD Effects on The Brain

On this episode:

-PTSD effects on the brain,
-Terminology/language debates,
-Coping skills I use such as, specialized earplugs, guided meditation and anxiety distraction tools,
-…and more.

The Word Stealing Demon


I have been blessed with many things. I live in Canada, and get to celebrate its 150th birthday in my new home, snuggled up with my fur babies and microwaved popcorn. The popcorn is a big deal as I haven’t had a microwave in four years (don’t feel bad for me – I could have gotten one if I weren’t so lazy), and I’ve missed the smell of popcorn in my home. Popcorn and fresh coffee – the best smells of all time. Anyway, I digress. Blessings, yes I have many. My kids love their new home and are settling in well. Walter let me tie a Canada flag onto his back for a picture. And I have made a huge dent in the unpacking process – success. But along with success comes stress. Some good (eustress) and some bad (distress), and as a human with PTSD, I find the eustress/distress border difficult to navigate.

No one will argue that moving is stressful (and if you do, I won’t believe you), but it’s supposed to be a good stress for me this time around. New start, cute house, happy neighbourhood – and all of these things are true. But my PTSD brain makes mountains out of mole hills causing what should be good, to be bad. The effects that any stress has on my brain is extremely frustrating, but also intriguing at times. As a human who used to revel in the fact that my brain had a good grasp on intelligent things, like being able to rationalize and formulate things quite well, my now injured brain can’t help but to stand back and ‘looks at itself’ when life gets stressful and it screams out to me how obvious it is that I  am not able to rationalize or formulate incoming information the way I used to. I can’t help but wonder why my brain’s ability to do certain things has changed so much.

When my pre-PTSD brain was presented with a stressful situation, it would soak it in and enjoy conquering the task at hand. But when my post-PTSD brain is presented with a stressful situation, it forgets how to even speak properly. I lose my words and literally can’t find them. I want to say shelf, but that word in buried in the dark abyss of my broken mind – literally gone. What seems like a simple task often forces me to play an embarrassing game of smoke and mirrors so that people won’t worry about me. If they only knew how much of a broken puzzle my mind becomes in those stressful moments. Trying to find the word ‘shelf’ feels like a demon is holding it tightly in his hands, hunched over it and snickering at me. “Go ahead and joke that your brain isn’t working“, he whispers to me, “but I will keep this until I choose to let it go, and no one will know how you feel right now, just trying to find a word“. In those moments it’s like electrical shocks fire all over my brain, faster than light, consuming my breath because of how tiring it is, trying to find a word that should be so easy to find. I know that some of you are thinking that you get it because sometimes you can’t find words too  – and I appreciate your kind attempt at trying to relate to my feelings. But the only people who truly get it are those with a broken brain. If you are not part of the ‘broken brain club’ (the shittiest club I know), you lose words like everyone does, but you don’t have a demon that steals them.

You may be asking yourself why I use the word demon when trying to describe many of my emotions in my blogs – don’t worry, you don’t have to call in an exorcist. I do because that’s literally what I feel like I live with some days. Brain injuries are evil in my mind (pun intended), and living with one feels like someone or something is in control of it. I could use a marionette (also creepy – sorry) to describe the lack of control I feel some days as well. I think a huge part of me loves to blog because it provides me with the physical time I need to find my words…the time my brain needs to feel less broken.

Who knew that not being able to ‘find a word’ could cause so much pain and confusion.

Well Deserved Drool – An ACP Student’s Dream

If I could do one more thing as a paramedic, I would be an advanced care paramedic (ACP) preceptor for my friend Jill. I just love her – and I know we would have so much fun being partners. I’m not sure how much my post traumatic stress would like it – but man it would be amazing if I could! 

I miss being a preceptor. I miss feeling pride in my student after a call well done. I miss feeling the, “I get it now!” energy that radiates off of them when a concept clicks, usually after having a chance to use said concept on a call. Thinking about this reminds me of a call I will never forget. How a ‘concept’ was used much earlier than anticipated in an ACP student’s career, and how I know we saved a life that day.

It was my ACP student’s first shift. Like normal we arrived early to check the truck and the bags. I LOVED this day! Being able to zip open the ACP bag and unveil all of its amazing medications, and tools, and potential! Like a kid in a candy store, ACP students almost drool when they can actually touch the contents in that bag, and know that it would only be a matter of time until they get to use it. Getting to that unveiling point is HARD WORK! The drool is totally expected, understandable, and well deserved!

As I showed my student how to draw up a cardiac medication in a special way, (a trick of the trade that rightfully welcomed him to ‘the club’), we were shocked to hear the tones go off so soon (with the bag’s contents masquerading as a yard-sale on the bench seat). He didn’t have much drool-time as we were on our way to what would be a ‘career call’ for both of us.

Dispatch information was that we were going to a car accident literally around the corner from our station. It was a residential area, so we were anticipating a quick fender-bender call, allowing us to get back to the ‘candy shop’ in no time. But when we pulled onto the street, we immediately saw tire marks over the boulevard, barely missing a light pole, leading to a car which had crashed into a home’s garage leaving it half way through the bricks on the other side. I looked at my student, as he said, “Oh shit!” (Side note: paramedics hardly ever say oh shit – it has to be bad to say oh shit out loud).

As we pull up, I can see that the mangled car is most likely holding up the garage. In hindsight we shouldn’t have even went into the garage without it being stabilized – I actually take the safety of scenes very seriously, but for some reason on that day it looked ‘safe enough’, so I put my helmet on and headed to the car. My student was already there and could see the single passenger slumped over and blue. “I think he’s VSA (vital signs absent)!” He yelled. “Oh Jesus, here we go.” I thought.

My partner got to work wiggling into the passenger seat with the airway bag and started breathing for the patient who was a young male, maybe about 25 years old. His colour improved, and he had a pulse…but a weird pulse. My student and I grabbed the rest of the equipment, including the ACP bag we had just thrown back together in about 60 seconds, and began assessing the patient. Without getting into the medical details of the call, my student ended up having to draw up the exact medication with the trick I had just shown him how to do minutes before. There was a work bench in the garage – perfect! It became our drug table. I printed out the patient’s ECG as the fire department started to secure the garage roof. We would still have a bit of time on the scene because of the extrication that needed to happen safely. As pieces of the roof fell down around us (not big pieces, don’t worry 😉 ), our patient began to have a seizure. I yelled back to my student, “Oh you also need to draw up some midazlolam now”…an ACP student’s dream. After a base hospital patch fail or two for ECG guidance, we made some critical decisions together and got shit done…yet another ACP student’s dream.

With the help of the fire department we were on the way to the hospital with our patient in good time. He was in a very odd cardiac rhythm, so we were guessing he had taken some sort of drug to cause an apparent healthy young man to be this sick. My student and I loved to read ECG’s and both of us were stumped on what this patient’s heart was doing.

We transferred care at the hospital with our patient alive but still unconscious. As my student and I walked out to the ambulance bay, we stopped and starred at each other with wide eyes! If this was a sign of what calls were to come with him – we were in for a fun preceptorship ride!

Two days later we were able to check in with the hospital to see if our patient was still admitted. That was all we could be told though due to patient confidentiality. If it was a yes, he would most likely be alive, but with an unknown level of brain function. If it was a no, he could be dead and at the funeral home, or could have made a miraculous recovery and had gone home. He was still admitted and in the intensive care unit – not a great sign.

We took a walk to find his room. When we stepped inside there was what appeared to be his mom sitting beside the hospital bed, and what could have been a sister or a girl friend in a chair a little further away. Our patient was ‘not awake’, and hooked up to the monitor. It was his mom, and when we said that we were the paramedics who picked him up, she immediately started to cry. She stood up and hugged us both. The girl in the chair was crying too, but appeared to be frozen in time. After we answered a few questions about the call, we had a moment to ask how he was – at that time he was still ‘not awake’. Then just like he had heard us (and maybe he did) he rolled over and opened his eyes. His mom turned to him and said, “these are the paramedics who saved you”. He looked a bit confused at first, but without saying a word, he tossed his blankets off, sat up, disconnected the ECG leads on his chest, and walked over to us. He hugged both of us, still without saying a word. My student and I couldn’t help but join in the tears that were being sharing in the room.

He was so tall! It’s funny because one thing I remember when I was on the road was that when I’m focused on doing my job, and especially when that job is literally saving someone’s life, I never notice what my patient’s really look like, or how tall they are. Well this patient was young and tall, and lucky to be alive after a night of partying with cocaine.

I drove past that house many times after that call. The garage door now repaired and the boards that covered the hole in the side of the wall now back to bricks. Like nothing had ever happened there before – but I would always remember what had.

My student and I did have a preceptorship filled with many dynamic calls where life and death walked a tightrope before our very eyes, sadly often with a very different outcome than the call above. But that’s just the way in goes, actually saving a life doesn’t happen that often even after many years as a paramedic. I still miss the road every day. But thankfully I will always have the memory of that patient (who was blue when we found him), giving us a hug with a second chance at life.

Alien Contemplation Time


I was at my therapist appointment yesterday (whilst hovering between layer 1 and 2 of my depression), and she said that maybe we could work on me not calling myself an alien anymore – maybe we could choose a different word for the out-of-this-world sensations I experience while I’m in those layers. I replied that I was a nice alien (for fear that she was thinking that all aliens are bad), and she politely laughed and said she knew that, but with one eyebrow up, she still thought that maybe there was still a better word. I sat there in silence, because I didn’t know what to say, as I sort of didn’t mind the word. Although I knew her intensions were good, her remark made me feel alone, and it reminded me that she (like so many others) has never felt like an alien before.

Maybe my silence caused her to feel my uneasy energy as she quickly changed her point of view and said that maybe I didn’t need to change the word ‘alien’, but that I needed to learn how to cope with, and accept, the sensations that descend when I feel like I’m out of this world – that sounded like a better plan to me.

You see, my alien sensations have been with me for many years, but peaked while I was at Save-My-Life Boarding School when I was recounting traumatic experiences. I don’t experience them as often, but they ARE a part of my life. I haven’t liked to experience them because they make me feel different. They remind me that my brain works very differently than other people’s brains, and that the best blog or book can never truly articulate what it feels like to be in that different realm – a dissociated realm. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I’m outside of my body and that the world and all the human beings on it are in a slow-motion movie and seem like ants on auto-pilot. It’s not a happy or exciting movie – it has a glum filter, and just seems to keep going and going relentlessly.

Today that feeling is gone, just like that! I don’t know why, and I don’t know when it will return.

I plan on documenting more about how I feel this way. And I hope that with time I can accept that when it happens it will pass, and to stop comparing myself to other people who I think are ‘normal’ – because what the heck is normal anyway? Maybe it’s a gift to be able to feel like an alien?…I’m still on the universe-fence about that one.

Toronto Eaton Centre Book Signing


Former Simcoe County and Peel Region paramedic turned author, Natalie Harris, pens raw and honest memoir about her battle with PTSD, depression, addiction and suicide titled Save-My-Life School, ISBN 978-1-894813-91-4.

In 2012, Harris attended a grizzly double murder that caused her to spiral into a challenging battle with mental illness. As part of her recovery, she started a blog that has since had almost 200,000 hits and grabbed the attention of Canada’s favourite Olympian and mental health advocate, Clara Hughes who wrote the Foreword for this title.

Clara Hughes writes, “There is no one audience for Natalie’s writings; I truly feel she writes for us all.”

Harris’s book, Save-My-Life School expands on her recovery process, giving a real-life glimpse into the mind and thoughts of someone suffering with mental illness. In the second week after its release this January, the book reached the #2 spot on the Kindle Store’s “Hot New Memoir List,” one spot ahead of Anderson Cooper’s The Rainbow Comes.

Harris will be at the Eaton Centre Indigo, April 3rd for a book signing from 6 – 8 p.m.

For more information or to book media appearances, please contact:
Heather Down (PR Manager)


Book Launch Jan 25th!


This intense and engaging memoir is based on the true-life of Natalie Harris. Mental illness, post-traumatic stress injury, overdoses and addiction are some of the demons this paramedic-turned-author deals with–stemming from a horrific double-murder call. This incredible story makes public the very private battles many face. This book is raw, honest and a window into the mind of someone facing mental illness. Although a serious topic, this biography is at times laugh-out-loud funny, poignant and simply a good, entertaining read. This is a must-have for anyone who wants a cover-to-cover book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. To me, it is a Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Girl Interrupted.

Obviously, this title will appeal to first responders such as paramedics, firefighters and police officers. However, this title will also be of interest to those suffering with or suffering beside people experiencing mental illnesses and/or addiction. In Canada alone, there are 4.5 million people with mental illnesses.

Last year, Jody Mitic released Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper. Like Natalie’s book, Jody’s had a specific audience as well as widespread interest. His book touched on PTSD; and akin to Natalie, he worked in a field with a very unique culture.

Natalie and her writing are highly supported and endorsed by many people with influence. The foreword is written by six-time Olympian, Clara Hughes. In addition, all three levels of government officials have written endorsements for the book. This includes, Arif Khan, Barrie City Council, Ann Hogarth, MPP, and John Brassard, MP.

Link to Book on Indigo:…/sa…/9781894813914-item.html

You can also preorder at

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