Compassion will wait

It seems I have quite a few friends that are fire fighters. They work in several different departments in and around my city.

I had two of them over for dinner within a couple of weeks of making my decision to change careers. They both talked to me at length about not only the job, but the effects of the job, and the lifestyle.

One friend works in a relatively quiet rural department, and the other works in a busier metro department (and in the busiest house in that department).

They both confirmed that they would not change their choice of occupation for all of the world. They both stated that they loved being able to touch lives for the positive. They both also warned me about some of the down-sides of the job.

Down-sides include: dealing with hurt children, sometimes dealing with the worst sorts of people, and being powerless to change either of those situations.

I worry that going into this that I’m going to have a hard time with hurt children.

At the same time, I think I may be ok.

Once upon a time one of my daughters fell and split her face open. I was downstairs and heard her screaming bloody murder. I went pelting upstairs and was the first person in the room. In front of me was a scene right out of Carrie. My daughter’s forehead was split wide open and was gushing blood everywhere.

A strange calm came over me. I went into a “taking care of business” sort of state. I’m not sure how to explain it. I think composure or calmness are the only words I know that comes close. I quickly assessed what I was seeing. She was the only one hurt, and the cut, while bleeding profusely was relatively shallow. I could see exposed bone, but no apparent skull damage. In the space of 2-3 seconds I picked her up and told her calmly that I would take care of her. I carried her into the bathroom and grabbed a wash cloth. I rinsed it with cool water and applied it to the gash with a light pressure to stem the blood flow. With my other hand I began wiping up some of the blood from her face (before her mother could get to the room).

My wife came up and was relatively calm but I could tell she was freaked out. I looked her in the eye and said “Get the car keys, we are going to the hospital. She’s fine but she needs stitches”. I got my daughter laid across the back seat with her head in my wife’s lap.

I drove directly to the urgent care facility near our home. I drove rapidly, but not in a panicky way and I did not run lights. Once I got her into the urgent care, she was assessed, and received stitches.

At no point in this approximately 30 minute episode did I panick or freak out. Behind my eyes, all of my emotion just drained away and almost like a robot I kicked into action and handled the situation.

Granted this is a small example, but I feel a little more confident that I can put my personal feelings aside to do what’s best for the person needing assistance. That’s comforting.


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