Author Taylor's informal, conversational prose style used to string together anecdotes from his time on the ambulances, responding to heart attacks, car crashes, suicide attempts and other human catastrophes
A Paramedic’s Tales: Hilarious, Horrible and Heartwarming True Stories
Graeme Taylor | Harbour Publishing (Madeira Park, B.C.)
$24.95, 240 pp
First responders are heroes. They are the ones who run toward disaster, not away from it.
These remarkable women and men risk their lives and health every day to make us safer, but not because they are fearless. They do their jobs despite their fears.
This fact has been recognized more widely since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and it is in excruciatingly high relief since the current pandemic arrived. And while we are more aware of their heroism now, and it has become almost a cliche, it does bear repeating.
First responders are heroes.
Graeme Taylor was one of this province’s heroic first responders for 21 years. A Paramedic’s Tales reflect those two decades of service. (The author has, since his paramedic days, moved to Australia, acquired a PhD and published an earlier book, The Coming Collapse and Transformation of Our World, winner of the IPPY Gold Medal in 2009 as “the book most likely to save the planet.”)
Taylor has an informal, conversational prose style and uses it to string together anecdotes from his time on the ambulances, responding to heart attacks, car crashes, suicide attempts and other human catastrophes. The pace of the storytelling is brisk and entertaining, with most of his stories told in chapters of only a few pages.
Some of the stories are funny and many are tragic. Although Taylor’s years of service occurred well before the current opioid overdose crisis and before the COVID-19 outbreak, his stories serve as a valuable reminder of the skill, courage and tenacity the paramedics of 2020 bring to bear as we struggle as a community to confront these disasters.
Although Taylor does not make this point explicitly, his stories illustrate how important, if belated, was the province’s decision in 2018 to finally recognize the impact of post-traumatic stress on first responders by adding language (the presumptive clause) to WorkSafe B.C. legislation, language that allows first responders to more easily claim compensation for the mental stresses of their work and their ensuing PTSD. This language was extended to cover emergency dispatchers, nurses and health care aides just last year.
Taylor’s comment that “you also need to learn how to put difficult memories in a mental closet and close the door” suggests how PTSD can develop in first responders without being noticed. It may also account for this book’s occasionally disturbing lack of emotional depth.
Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
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