Confessions of a Trauma Junkie: My Life as a Nurse Paramedic
(5 stars) Humorous, Meaningful and Overdue Look Into Emergency Services Worker Experiences
Sherry Jones Mayo has written a tremendously informative and humorous book about the daily experiences of emergency services personnel, whether paramedics, EMTs, doctors, or nurses. After twenty years in the field, Mayo reveals multiple aspects of the job from caring for people who need emergency care, to experiencing tragic losses, difficult and often humorous patients, and coping with fatigue, emotional breaking points, and personal issues.
Most books about trauma are written for the victims and their caretakers—so the caretakers (counselors, responders to an emergency, even family members) can help the victims. Although television dramas pay homage to the courage of emergency services workers—especially in the ER—these programs tend to treat the situations as heroic and dramatic rather than showing the actual real effects—the emotional and physical toll—these experiences have on the workers. Mayo provides multiple aspects of how emergency services personnel respond to trauma, most of it becoming their everyday work, but the deaths of children, cases of child abuse, or situations that resonate with their own personal tragic experiences can require immediate counseling and crisis intervention to protect the workers. Burnout is common, but so is the deep feeling of reward when the greatest efforts pay off.
This book is rich in a variety of experiences ranging from doing emergency care on an airplane to helping overweight people out of their homes, and an emergency services worker experiencing an accident and then seeing things from the patient’s side as her co-workers care for her. Mayo shares her own experiences throughout, but she also shares the stories of co-workers, her daughter who was inspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and numerous other first-person accounts of helping in an emergency.
While “Confessions of a Trauma Junkie” has numerous telling and moving stories, what I appreciated most was the humor. The humorous passages actually made me better understand how emergency services personnel respond to the most difficult situations, the boredom they have to deal with, and the need for humor as a coping mechanism. The workers also do not always receive the appreciation and respect they deserve. They become rightfully irritated when treated like servants, when they are threatened with lawsuits, or when the lazy try to take advantage of them, refusing even to sit up by themselves because a worker can pick them up. While Mayo’s experiences occur in the greater metropolitan Detroit area, and a larger economically and socially challenged population exists there, I imagine emergency services workers need to deal with rude and inconsiderate patients constantly, whether in rural or metropolitan areas.
The humor in this book was so rich that I would recommend it to any emergency services personnel simply as a way to cope and relieve stress with a good laugh. Among the many humorous passages, one of my favorites was the response received from a patient when the admitting nurse asked for her name:
I’m too sick to talk. Ask my husband what my name is…can’t you see I’m sick? What’s wrong with you people, asking me questions when it’s obvious I can’t breathe? You want to know anything, you ask my husband. I don’t have enough breath to answer your questions. You supposed to be a Nurse, you should know that.
Many similar stories are told regarding simple questions asked to patients, as well as shenanigans by patients that range from urinating on the hospital walls to showing up for free pregnancy tests and free meals, and another favorite, the man who complains he’s having a heart attack, and when the nurse diagnoses that he is not and asks him to wait, decides to go out for a smoke.
Mayo also tells many stories of rewarding experiences, most notably of going to help people in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane victims offered emergency services workers the last of their food out of gratitude; gas station attendants provided workers with free fuel and snacks, and people in airports, when they saw workers in their emergency gear and learned they were returning from assisting the hurricane victims, said, “Thank you. Thank you for whatever you did.”
I say, “Thank you, Sherry Jones Mayo, for writing this important book so you and your co-workers who work twelve hour shifts, stay overtime, wear down your own bodies caring for ours, and put up with situations no one should have to, will get the recognition you deserve for everything you do for the rest of us. Thank you for caring for us, even when we are not desirable patients. I don’t know how you can do it—it’s not a job I could do—but I won’t forget what you and your co-workers go through everyday next time I need care.”
I know several EMTs and nurses to whom I’ll recommend this book wholeheartedly. I trust anyone who reads it will do the same.
For more information about “Confessions of a Trauma Junkie” and Sherry Jones Mayo, visit her website at www.SherryJonesMayo.com
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., author of the award-winning Narrow Lives
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