(Original posting on my www.wordpress.com/dimcmath page – February 12th 2015)

“I just don’t want to do it anymore…..I can’t do it anymore” I said as I stood across the kitchen bench from my father as he sat there confused with a look on his face like many that I have seen before, when I explain that I simply cannot be a Paramedic anymore.

“Why?” he asks. – “Unless you’ve been there, you just wouldn’t understand.” I say. That’s about as far as the conversation goes. I know the look. It’s the look that a lot have given. The look that says something in their heads like “But it’s a good paying Government job! It’s secure, you studied for years to get the qualifications, and you play an important role in society! Why the hell would you just throw it all in?!!!”

Well for over 14yrs now, I have proudly donned the uniform, but I have to say that in the last few years it’s been a bit of a battle with my mind to do it.

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“You’ll be ok.” I’d say to myself. “Life won’t throw you anything that you’re not capable of handling.” “You know your stuff……what are you worried about? Suck it up, and stop being such a wimp.”

That’s just it…..I think deep down what has kept me going for the last few years has been the fact that I still had a little bit of belief that I if it came to the crunch – my inbuilt training and paramedic instinct would kick in, and I would do absolutely everything in my power to try and save the life that fate has plonked me in front of. Because that’s just what we do. It’s in our blood.

But that belief was slowly dwindling, and being swallowed up by an overwhelming feeling of ‘needing to protect myself’ from playing out anymore of this real life script – called “You must see some terrible things”.

Because unless you’ve been there….you just wouldn’t know.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to still vividly remember the jobs you’ve gone to.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to still see the look of helplessness upon a husbands face watching you do CPR on his wife who has just suicided by drowning. Who you just know that he’s going to blame himself for ‘ducking down the road to get milk’ and not being there in time to get her out quick enough.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to hear the chilling screams of the woman who was entrapped in her car after a speeding drunk motorbike rider hit her car, killing himself and his passenger….and knowing that she will never walk the same again, let alone her life being the same again.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it feels like having an 18yr old ‘birthday girl’ mutter her last words and die in your arms as you try to free her from a car wreckage on the night that she’s supposed to be ‘just going out to celebrate her birthday’.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to watch someone burning in a car – and not being able to do a thing to help her.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to have to tell a patient’s loved ones “I’m so sorry, we tried everything that would could – but we were unable to save him. He’s passed away. Now that’s something that you never get taught, nor do you get used to it.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to see a young man hanging from your local playground, and remember the ringtone coming from the phone in his pocket… which happens to be his worried girlfriend because they’ve just had a fight. – Then to have no explanation to your daughter as to why you won’t let her play at that playground anymore because you know you will just continue to see the image of his face as his body hangs lifelessly.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to hold that limp premature baby in your hands, and then have to resuscitate it – and having it spontaneously breathe by itself. Bringing ‘life’ back into the baby….but what sort of ‘life’ will it be, growing up in a household of poverty and neglect?

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to still drive around your local area even 14yrs after being in the job, and know that you’re mind will ‘vividly’ remind you about THOSE jobs- as you drive past where they occurred…(good, or bad outcome). Or that you would have an overwhelming sense of having to quickly change the channel when you see some sort of ‘trauma’ related drama series on tv, because it just all seems to lifelike.

Unless you’ve been there.

The highs are highs, and the lows are lows. So, yes – I may appear to be ‘overcautious’ or ‘over the top’ with safety, with my own loved ones or even yours.

Yes – I’m the mother who puts strict rules on riding on the pushbikes / motorbikes / climbing trees / being in a car-seat / the age kids have to be to travel in the front seat / being around bonfires, and many other activities, and gets annoyed with comments like “Oh don’t be so over the top – she’ll be right!”. Because you wouldn’t know what it’s like to see how it doesn’t take much for a child to die or their life (and their family’s lives) to be dramatically changed forever.

Unless you’ve been there.

Yes, I may appear a little over the top when it comes to drink drivers or text driving, but believe me…if you’ve seen the devastation that it causes….you’d be hard pressed to even hold back YOUR own disgust at the lack of disregard for how precious ‘life’ is.

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(pic source: nbcdfw.com)

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to hear a teenage driver boast about how he’s been “Slamming Bourbons all afternoon for his best mates 18th birthday”….and hasn’t yet been told that his drink driving has just killed his best mate who is laying in the passenger’s seat of the car that is still wrapped around a power pole.

Unless you’ve been there.

You’d never know what it’s like to witness many lives sadly taken from this world too soon, at the hand of their own decision – and the overwhelming sense of helplessness and sadness that they felt like they had no other choice to heal their pain.

Unless you’ve been there.

I think the straw that broke the camel’s back is when tragedy happens to people you care about.

Like the suicides of people you know, the deaths of people that have just left this world too soon, cancer, car accidents, the realisation that has been building over the years because you’ve seen it time and time again; that ‘Life can be too short – and it can all be gone or dramatically changed in an instant.’

This realisation left me thinking that “I don’t want to turn up to a job, and it be someone that I know.” It’s bad enough with all the dreams of turning up to people I know.

Then my best friend – my mother, was diagnosed with a Grade 4 GBM – the most rapid and aggressive type of brain cancer there is. Watching her pass away 16days after her diagnosis, confirmed to me that she was to be the last person that I would witness leave this world. It’s the hardest thing to say goodbye to someone that you’ve looked up to your whole life. Although it’s been close to 2yrs since her passing, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her – I think I have dodged a bullet by having still done the odd shift (not many…but enough to pay the bills), and not been to any deaths since, and for that – I thank the universe!

I’ve had this conflict in my head with one part saying “You’ve got a good paying job…stick at it, to pay your bills” and another part saying “What is this really costing you?” The later part has now won, but it has taken some self-evaluation to come to that decision.

So my years of personal development has paid off to help me make these decisions in my life, and now I’m just trusting that everything will work out the way it’s meant to!

I look at it as if I’ve just written an awesome chapter in my book of life, and now I’ve turned the page and bring on the next!

Look, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom, and I have actually loved my career!

The feeling of gratitude and accomplishment when you save a life – is one that you just can’t describe.

Or being the first person to catch a baby as it comes into the world is amazing.

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Or seeing the relief and joy on a family member’s face – when you get their loved ones heart beating again, or when they hear the cry of their child that was once not breathing, and lifeless….is something that no other job could begin to match up to.

That’s the positive side of the statement unless you’ve been there – you just wouldn’t understand’.

The long-term friendships that are more like being ‘my other family’ would have to be one of the best things that I’ve gotten from choosing to become an ambo though.



There’s a real understanding between ambos about what each other may be going through; knowing what jobs would give you the ‘highs’…and what jobs would give you the ‘lows’ ….. because they’ve been there.

So I have no regrets about being an ambo or anything in my life for that matter! Everything that I’ve done, and everything that happens – has happened for a reason and a purpose, I truly believe that. There’s a quote that I love that says

‘You can’t change what happened, but you can change how you react to it.’

-Unknown –

So, would I choose it as a career again if I was to live my life over? Absolutely! However, if I can pass on any advice to the up and coming ambos of the future – it would be to:

  1. Take care of yourself – Mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Being ‘brave’ is talking to people who are there to support you. It’s not a sign of weakness. You can’t look after others (patients, your family/loved ones) if you don’t look after yourself first.
  2. Treat every patient as if you were in their situation, with their problems, with their backgrounds, with their lack of understanding and support in some cases. It’s called empathy. Never lose it. Feel it, show it – and BE that rainbow in their clouds, and you will not only fulfil their needs, but keep your own heart filled. Don’t ever lose heart. We are all important as each other.
  3. Never stop having fun, enjoying and loving what you do. If you do…..it’s time to close that chapter, and find that inner spark again – in something else.
  4. Always be kind. To ALL those around you. Even if they aren’t showing kindness – keep your standards high. You are worth it.

Xox. Di.


Di McMath now has an online Resilience & Wellbeing program for First Responders. Click HERE to find out more.

*FOLLOW UP BLOG (POSTED 6TH MARCH 2015) = https://dimcmath.wordpress.com/caring-for-the-invisible-wounds-a-former-paramedics-mission-to-help-build-resilience-in-the-lives-of-emergency-workers/

August 2015: Di is also Author of  – Amazon.com *Number 1 Category BEST SELLER*

‘ICEBREAKERS: How to Empower, Motivate and Inspire Your Team, Through Step-by-Step Activities That Boost Confidence, Resilience and Create Happier Individuals’

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