Being Grateful and wanting that for others

This post is about being grateful….and wanting that for others. (However, I must make a VERY clear disclaimer here… the thoughts in this, and most likely a couple of follow-up posts, are MY thoughts, and NOT the official position or my employer)

Due to the many hats I have worn across my life I have the absolute pleasure and privilege of working alongside, with, for and on behalf amazing people like Firefighters, Ambos, Police, Doctors, Nurses, Allied Health and literally every associated profession, including cleaners, porters, administrative people etc that make a positive and ongoing contribution to the lives of people EVERY day. They all do it with out expectation of anything … simply because they are great people doing important stuff on behalf of others.

Today, I was celebrating a fellow firefighters birthday. A few drinks and feed. Then this beautiful women (no not my wife … on the left of the picture, but the one on the right in the red vest) wandered in. It is incredibly hard to explain just how much Maggie means to me and my family. This blog… really starts with the post how did I get here, and Maggie is a big part of that story. Running into Maggie today has resulted in a big chunk of reflection, and the shedding of a few tears, as I have thought about that day, the following years and the challenging experiences that came with them.

I will never get over the strength and tenacity that my wife showed on the day of Samuel’s accident. I will forever be grateful for that strength and tenacity, and her presence of mind in making an additional Triple Zero phone call and asking for a response of Firefighters as well as the Ambulance.  I will forever be grateful for our neighbours that assisted with the initial CPR and  for my fellow firefighters from 98 Stn who arrived on scene as the first emergency responders. I will for ever be grateful for Maggie, who was the first Ambulance officer to get to Samuel, to scoop him up and start our interaction with the NSW Health System. I will also be for ever grateful for the hundreds of people who then interacted with my family to care for and support Samuel and the rest of my family.

Twelve years ago, due to the strength and tenacity of my wife’s presence of mind to make an extra Triple Zero phone call, my family had access to a crew of Firefighters who trained in Basic Life Support and Advance Resuscitation, who had a truck with equipment on in it that could assist in an immediately life threatening condition like Samuel’s non-fatal drowning experience, AND they were the first ones on scene to begin providing support to Samuel and my family.

While I have written this… I’ve also been actively reflecting on just how far I should take this post…. I think on reflection that I am not going to go as far as my first thoughts… but I will leave it here, with a disclosure and a couple of questions. While I ponder how to further address the associated issues in an ethical and proper way.

Disclosure: Within my professional role I have been responsible for working on a proposed dual response model that would potentially see Firefighters responding with Ambulances to Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest calls.

The Questions: 

  • Why because of the presence of mind of my wife, and my association with a fire service, did MY family have access to a crew of firefighters and equipment that could save a life
  • Why twelve years later, does the public that I and my fellow firefighters serve NOT have the privilege of access to the same level of service
  • How many people could be walking around, or be having a reasonable quality of life, as opposed to being dead, if they had the same access to services as my family?

I know, there are HUNDREDS of questions that people can, and will ask about my families circumstances and the difference regarding availability of services.  I know, that there are hundreds of statements and arguments about “whose job is it really”, and what the REAL problem is about responding in a timely manner to medical emergencies in the community. I know there are questions about pay, about processes, about support for firefighters etc…. I know that there are hundreds of questions about the chances of people surviving, questions about increased exposure of firefighters to trauma, and about quality of life and length of survival for those who need help….   I may address these in follow-up posts… but I need to do more thinking first.

This question though, that is over-riding in my head is this……

“if it was you… or your loved one, wouldn’t you want the nearest, fastest and suitably equipped and trained response to give you or your loved one the best possible chance of survival?”

That little act of kindness in the midst of chaos

They are simple words, however they can really mean a huge amount to someone!

I have had what many around me have described as “a very tough week”. I know that the week has had an effect on me… a couple of sleepless nights, a couple of headaches. There has been some fairly extensive active reflection going on in the middle of these circumstances, ensuring that I’m being consistent with my framework for how I wish to live my life, and that the actions that I am taking around the circumstances are in the best interests of everyone involved in them.

One key observation I can make is that while intellectually I’m pretty sure I’m in an OK place around the circumstances of this week, the physical symptoms are telling me that there is definitely a gap between where my head is at, and the realities of the stress that the situation is creating. Being aware of this is invaluable, because it is a reminder that I have to look after myself in the middle of all this, and that I’ll know when I’m back in balance.

You are probably wondering why though this post is titled “that little act of kindness in the midst of chaos?”

The week has been filled with contact points with others who know what is going on and have looked out for me, and enquired about how I am going in the circumstances. That type of support is always appreciated. However it was another little act of kindness that really hit me in the midst of this weeks chaos.

A  firefighting colleague, who is no longer in the firefighting industry,  who I have not seen or had any real contact with for a LOT of years,  reached out on Linkedin by endorsing me for some skills. A little random act of professional kindness, which I immediately sent a thank you message for…. but that was not the powerful act…. it was what followed.

Several minutes later my phone rang, and it was that  colleague who reached out to say thank you. Initially it was a thank you around the story of how I got here on this blog and the work of the Samuel Morris Foundation. He let me know that via a completely unknown connection he had been informed of the impact that our work in the drowning prevention space had on this unknown contact, and he wanted to say thank you for those efforts and the difference they make, to that person and to the broader community. Then he went further, and he referred back to some ancient history of us as fellow firefighters and a particularly traumatic set of circumstances that he had found himself in professionally all those years ago. He acknowledged that one night in the midst of his own little piece of chaos I had picked up the phone and rang to check on his welfare and he wanted to say THANK YOU for all the difference that made to him in that moment.

There is no way that this colleague could have known about the circumstances of this week, or the impact that his little act of kindness via an endorsement and a phone call would have on me today in the midst of my own little piece of chaos. However, those little words that he started and ended our conversation with THANK YOU have had a big positive impact on my day.

My question to you  is…… how often do you say THANK YOU with some real meaning? Is there someone you can think of today, that reaching out and saying THANK YOU for something they have done for you (even if it was 20ish years ago!) would be valuable (because you never know what might be happening for that person right now!).

THANK YOU, for taking the time to read this post…. now go say THANK YOU to someone who made a difference for you!

Venting through the blowhole of grief

Blowhole

I have had grief described to me in many ways, and none of them have ever really described what it has felt like to me since losing Samuel. I’ve been searching for a metaphor that would adequately describe my experience and how varied it is from day to day.

After a lot of thought, the constant motion of waves against a rugged coast,  and the actions of a blowhole are the closest I can come to describing my experience of  grief.

The waves vary in size, sometimes they are a gentle swell rolling and sometimes they bring crashing waves, washing up against the rugged coast of my consciousness. Like a rugged coast my consciousness is full of cracks and crevices through which the the waves pulse and withdraw.  Sometimes as they surge and pulse …. Woosh.. There it blows..  emotion erupts releasing the pressure and I feel like I simply need to collapse, like the column of water after the eruption of a blowhole.

Sometimes there is a rhythm to cycle of the emotional eruption, some days I know it’s coming, I anticipate it and I can sit and observe the rawness and feeling of loss and sadness, other times the eruption seems to come from nowhere and just like standing next to a blowhole unaware,  I wind up drenched by the eruption.

As today marks two years since Samuel died, it is a day of expected emotion, and no doubt tears many times throughout the day. It is also a reflection on the passing of time. When Samuel was alive there were markers of time before and after his non-fatal drowning. We passed things like the point in time where he had been severely disabled for a quarter of the time that he had been our “normal” little man, then half the time, three quarters, equal time… and then.. well and then… it just was. Now that he is not here I find my mind watching that clock again…. two years.. almost as long as we had him “normal”.

  

Time ticks

Onwards time ticks,
its passing is stark.
Surging memories of moments sweet,
and moments ohh so dark.
Some dates are markers of time,
Defining our before, defining our after.

Through the pain we strive to remind,
ourselves of the moments of joy and of laughter.
That despite being apart,
with days sometimes flooded with tears
and the permanent cracks in our hearts
your memory will last all of our years.

25 years… where did it go?

25 Years

10 August 2015… an anniversary…..

An anniversary is a Day that commemorates or celebrates a past event that occurred on the same date of the year as the initial event.

This one marks 25 years in my chosen career as a firefighter. 25 years… where did it go?

It is such a significant length of time. So much has happened across that 25 years, and it is with a heavy heart that I can reflect that 25 years represents almost two and a half lifetimes for the one hero in my life… Samuel..my little man, who will forever be 10… and how nothing can ever prepare you for such a loss.

It is also 25 years that has given my family and I a lot… friends, education, stability and a lot lot more.

At the 21 year mark I reflected on some of the lessons learned to that point, and they still hold, so I’ll repeat a few of them with some extras.

Lessons Learned

I have learned how fragile human life is.

I have learned how strong and resilient the human body can be, despite what people and circumstances can do to it.

I have learned how indestructible the human spirit can be. (and sadly learned how the seemingly indestructible spirits of some of the greatest people you meet can be broken).

I have learned that there is always someone willing to help (including when you find it hard to ask for help), and some one willing to watch your back, and how to reciprocate such loyalty and friendship.

I have learned that there is strength in unity.

I have learned that life and death is a matter of millimeters and moments… where each 1 millimeter or  moment in one direction can save a live, and in the other cost a life.

I have learned….. that I have never finished learning…..and never want to.

What for the next 25?

In another 25 years it will not be a post about still working…. none of us know how long we have, in our jobs or in our lives. Very few people get to have careers like this…. but I am sure the next 25 years will have plenty of lessons in it as well.