Be well. Practice big medicine.

Newman | The Positive Paramedic Project #45 Accept the role The Karma Police assign you

Soph checking out the gear & the crew at a 2008 CSL EMS Open House

A nugget of Big Medicine every day. #45 Accept the role The Karma Police assign you

For many of the emergency services communications specialists/dispatchers who worked with me over the years at CSL EMS, a lasting memory of our time together was the inevitability that I would call in on the radio to report a road traffic crash [RTC] somewhere on Highway 20 between The EMS House and our home in Pointe-Claire.

When I left CSL EMS, one of our trusted cadre of comms people, Fred Ducharme, actually wrote on my farewell card “You were so much a part of my experience in CSL that I’ll still be expecting you to call me about an MVA [motor vehicle accident] on the 20W when going home…”

The crash wasn’t really a surprise. I was cruising home on Highway 20 listening to a mixedtape from Triple J thinking that folks were driving entirely too fast for rush hour on a Friday afternoon. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the need for speed as much as the next human being. However, weaving in and out of bumper-to-bumper traffic moving at 120 klicks is not my idea of big fun. I was quite happy to turn up the tunes and settle-in to a middle-of-the-road existence for the duration of the commute. I remember thinking that I’d be best to leave a huge window of escape between me and the cars in front. Way too many sudden brake lights for no apparent reason.

Like I said, the crash wasn’t a surprise. There was another sudden flash of brake lights ahead and then the black Acura in front of me swerved into the right lane. I could actually see the driver struggling to regain control of her car – hands tugging at the wheel. I hit the brakes and watched the real-time real-life drama unfold. The Acura began to fishtail – white smoke pouring out of the rear wheel wells. Then in that weird time-slows-down-when-sh*t-happens effect I watched the Acura spin around on the highway. The driver’s head smacked the side window and she completely lost control.

I don’t think she was conscious when the car rocketed across two lanes of traffic and smashed head-on into the concrete dividing wall. The driver’s window exploded on impact. I had a frightening glimpse of the underside of the car as it popped up onto two wheels and desperately tried to defy the law of gravity. The Acura rolled slowly away from the center of the highway and somehow came to rest in the breakdown lane facing oncoming traffic. The driver’s head lolled to one side and there was no further movement inside.

Traffic paused in that jaw-dropping eyes-wide-open moment that comes when something awful happens and those few seconds afforded me the opportunity to move just ahead of the wreckage and park. And then, as if it were only a hiccup on the road-of-life, the rush-hour commute began anew. Cars and semis rolling past the smashed car, its injured human contents, and the debris that comes in the aftermath of a car versus firmly fixed object collision. For the third time in as many weeks, I found myself standing on a section of busy highway attending the scene of a crash.

I found myself walking slowly toward the crumpled Acura with nothing more than my CSL EMS portable radio in hand. I had just lent my personal trauma/airway kit to a medic for the weekend. I didn’t know what to expect. I guess I thought the driver was going to be a multi-trauma mess given the crunch of impact. To my great relief and surprise the driver had regained consciousness and other than the expected head and neck pain did not seem to have incurred any other injuries. She was emotional and quite shaken up by the experience. My intervention was limited to maintaining her c-spine position and providing TLC until the police and the paramedics arrived. The driver was a twenty-four-year-old woman on her way home who would live to do it all [hopefully not including the crash] over again.

The driver’s name was Angel.

As I walked back to my car, a warm gust of wind came out of the South and tickled my head and neck as it blew by.

I’ve never questioned why I come across more wrecks during my travels than the average human being. My wife, Dianne, used to tell our friends that I was the EMS Angel of the Highways. I prefer to think of myself as Karma Police, EMS Division, but hey.. whatever works.

Be well. Practice big medicine.


NB: Big Medicine is my nod of respect to a First Nations expression that, roughly translated, means the right people working together at the right time will be Big Medicine. I’ve been saying ‘Be well. Practice big medicine’ for as long as I can remember. It is my own very personal version of ‘Sawu Bona’, the Zulu greeting which means ‘I see you’… I see all of you, I see your good works, I see the difference you are making in the world.


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