This is Belinda Keith, a small-town paramedic in Ontario. She loves her job, but she's also at risk of losing it. That's why she wrote a powerful letter sharing the toughest moments of what she does.
Titled "We Are Paramedics," Keith wrote of the trauma, the pride, and the camaraderie of her profession in the letter to a local newspaper:
Every time I tell someone what I do for a living I get the inevitable “What’s the worst thing you’ve seen?” And every time I have to relive a bunch of horrible moments I was witness to. Why? Because I can’t choose.
Was it the time I had to pull a dead child from his mother’s arms in order to perform CPR?
Maybe it was the time I had to tell an elderly man that the love of his life has died. Yes, died. I have to use that terrible word. I can’t tell him she passed away or is gone or is with God now.
We are taught to use the word “dead” or “died” in order to not confuse an already emotional situation.
The municipality of Chatham-Kent is considering amalgamating its EMS with its firefighters. Keith said that means she and the 100 or so other paramedics in the area would have to go through firefighter training, then reapply for their jobs.
With a council vote coming up, Keith wrote a passionate plea to keep the services separate in a letter to The Chatham Voice.
"I figure if I'm going to lose my job, someone’s going to hear my voice," she told BuzzFeed Canada.
The letter continues with more stories of what Keith has encountered on the job:
Or maybe it’s the calls I do day in and day out in nursing homes. Paying witness to the forgotten. Men and women lining the hallways hoping that today is the day someone remembers them.
Or the blank stare on the driver’s face as he sat patiently waiting for his legs to be freed from the wreckage?
Or the time I watched the spirit drain from that young man’s eyes as his friend’s dead body was being hauled off on a stretcher, and he realizes this is his fault.
Or the man swinging by his neck from his garage rafters?
Or the time I had to determine if I was looking at brain matter or clotted blood?
This is only a handful of a thousand stories we as Chatham-Kent paramedics have witnessed. But that’s not the worst of it.
She finished by saying that while her job can be hard, it's part of who she is. And you can't replace that easily.
But to be disregarded? Now that, that’s the worst of it.
We are not replaceable. We council each other, advise each other, use each other as soundboards. We trust each other with our safety, in each other’s knowledge and ability to do the task at hand. We vent, we laugh, we share, we eat, we drink, we celebrate and we mourn together.
My fellow paramedics are not replaceable.
And the letter has gotten a huge response, with messages from other paramedics across the country filling Keith's inbox. It's been shared hundreds of times and people — including fellow medics — have been leaving messages of support.
"I’m flabbergasted. I’m so humbled," said Keith. "I thought maybe I was just getting jaded… but it turns out no, I'm not. I’m not alone."
Keith is hoping to have the video shown to council on Monday as they vote on the future of the area's emergency services.