Back in the nineteen-seventies, when I was in my twenties, I began putting words to my experience as one of the first paramedics in the country. I grew up within the context of that profession.

At first, I began working on building favorable local publicity. I focused my writing on educating the public about the world of emergency services and its value because people (and this included Fire, Medical and Police personnel!) were not buying into the program.

I became a voice for paramedics in private ambulance companies. While the government and companies slugged it out regarding service areas, monetary support and competition with the Fire Departments, I started reaching out to the people and advocating for standardized service throughout the county. I was co-founder of the first union for ambulance personnel West of the Mississippi.

In the process, I was exposed to the harsh realities of the US health care system; how underneath it all is the ebb and flow of money and the commodification of altruism.

My passion lived in giving words to the interior landscape of someone working on the edge of life and death. In that world, I was exposed to so much more than what I was trained to handle. The territory I was asked to function in was in the physical and psychological, yet I could not avoid the fact I was living in the realms of the spiritual and emotional as well. In those realms, however, there were no guideposts to follow at the time, nor was there any support to explore, let alone articulate views of healing that were not in the textbooks.

From almost the day I left the field (after a twelve-year career in emergency medicine) I labored in every medium I could find to integrate my experience with what I was taught. There were huge discrepancies between the two. Even within the context of the highly mechanized world of pre-hospital emergency medicine there were underlying and unavoidable themes of the more esoteric aspects of being a healer.

As I became exposed to more faces of the healing arts, which included, alternative, shamanistic, and performance-related applications, I kept referring back to my experiences in the back of an ambulance. What I looked back at and saw was that while being asked to function as a “Flesh Mechanic” I was also being trained to learn about the powers of energy, intent, presence in the moment, connection, honesty and surrender.

Pre-hospital emergency medicine provided me the metaphor I've needed to examine the world of healing and the healer. It demanded of me that I find the healer in myself, otherwise (and like most of my peers) I would have burned out after three years or less.

Popular literature has fixated on spectacular burnout stories, usually within the context of high-volume ambulance services. Their narrative is based on the mechanized Johnny and Roy characters brought to us through Jack Webb's seminal TV program EMERGENCY! Its “stick to the facts, Ma'am” orientation is what most people understand of the profession. But the focus of that flashlight is so narrow it is akin to blindness.

My life experience in the back of an ambulance has had so many rich and valuable metaphoric applications it has been the hub of everything I have done since. It keeps showing me new views into the human condition and reflects so well the society that has spawned it. No matter where I turn, I can apply it.

I share these words so it can be shown that you can be a healer in the back of an ambulance, and that means living in many more dimensions than the current allopathic medical system “allows.”

In the twenty-two years since I have left the profession, the practice of allopathic medicine has gotten even more entrenched in the head-oriented mode at the expense of the hearts of many of its practitioners.

Emergency Medicine, because it is amongst (if not THE) most allopathic of allopathic approaches, is the perfect springboard to get practitioners of healing - no matter what modality they practice - to look at themselves – and begin talking about themselves -- in new, sustainable ways.

Author's Bio: 

Russ, a firetender, has been exploring the healing arts since 1969, and now makes himself available for speaking, photography, writing, counseling, music and more.