I have been a paramedic with Ambulance Victoria for years now. Over the course of that time I will have seen many times over the amount of trauma and mayhem that all but a select few (veterans, police, firefighters and other ambo’s) will see in their lives.
Over that time, I have not been able to avoid picking up some “ghosts” that stay with me to this day, and indeed will most likely be with me until I die.
The cases are many and varied, from the one-year-old girl reversed over in her driveway who died in my arms to the arsonists who attempted to burn down a pizza restaurant in the early hours one morning in the middle of summer when it was still 30 degrees and the petrol fumes they were splashing around met the pilot light on the hot water service.
From the young man who had an argument with his wife and went to the pub for a few beers to calm down. He never made it home that night, he lost control of his car and struck a power pole. He was conscious and talking to me when we arrived, but when we lifted the dashboard he was trapped under he quickly bled out and died.
Or the man who was murdered by being beaten to death with a bourbon bottle by his drinking partner, and then when the bottle broke had his throat cut. I still remember looking up at on point in the mess and seeing a terrified young boy peering at us from behind a laundry door. As I later discovered the poor little bloke had just witnessed his father beat his step father to death and then cut his throat.
Or the elderly lady who had passed away from entirely natural causes, but unfortunately like a lot of the elderly she was socially isolated so she wasn’t found for a week or so. But in the mean time her Jack Russell had got hungry.
These are just a few of the memories that are now stuck in my head, and get added to with monotonous regularity. How exactly is this not going to affect me.
When this does affect me, how does it not effect my family? They see me come home moody and withdrawn, how can I be otherwise? How can I tell them the horror story that is my working life at times?
The endless grind of shift work, and the pressure to do overtime to cover shift vacancies takes its toll too.
Over the years this takes an effect, my family notice long before I do. I am withdrawn, I don’t want to see people, and why would I? I don’t ever see happy friendly people.
I am tired and cranky, I don’t sleep much anymore. Those ghosts that I told you about keep coming to visit in the night, and scarily in the day sometimes too.
When I am obliged to leave the safety of the house, danger is everywhere, anytime I am with my toddler aged daughter in a car park the danger to me is overwhelming. I am holding her hand for grim life. She knows no different and thinks all dads are like this, I at times don’t know who is looking after who.
My wife sometimes jokes she is the single mother of two children, she just wants her husband back.
This sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen to emergency workers. We burst in on other people’s worst days and take control. It’s central to who we are.
But it’s just not working anymore.
The one thing I am still managing is providing for my family.
But now the wheels are falling off, and I cannot work at the minute, the doctors are telling get me I may never be able to go back to emergency work again.
So what the hell am I going to do.
I put in a Workcover claim but am told they don’t have to accept my claim, and will let me know in their good time.
Now I have to recount my story to the Workcover person, in minute detail which only serves to make things worse. This person is an insurance agent, never having worked in emergency services and cannot possibly understand what I am talking about no matter how hard they try.
The service is dragging its feet with the paperwork, can’t find any record of some jobs. I am trying to explain that it’s not really any one job, it’s many over an extended period. The final job was just the one that “popped the cork” and all this other stuff comes out.
Unfortunately, that’s just not the way Workcover works, they want a specific incident. They are so rigid in the way they do things.
I have had to explain all this to my doctor already and it was near soul destroying and I have known him for nearly thirty years, and now I am expected to bear my soul to the insurance company.
I still have no idea whether the claim will be accepted, no idea whether I can continue to provide for my family. My only saving grace is that as such a dinosaur I have quite a bit of sick leave up my sleeve, otherwise I’d be stuffed with the mortgage.
I had been referred to the PTSD clinic at the repat hospital, but they only accept “compensable injuries”, so even though they agree that my injury is caused by work I still don’t know what WorkCover is doing.
I have had to go through yet again my story in minute detail at the repat, but at least they have a better understanding of my situation so it’s not quite as soul destroying as the last time for the insurance company.
The insurance company must be looking into my claim, there are now two guys sitting off my house in a Silver Lancer and they have been there for several days.
In my mind, whether it’s true or not, they must not believe me. They are trying to catch me out, this only makes things worse, I can’t even leave the house anymore.
And I still don’t know if Workcover have accepted the claim, and if they have investigators watching me what does that mean?
I’ve only got so much sick leave, how the hell can I pay the mortgage if this goes on much longer. I’ve only got so much sick leave, and I have a lot more than the younger guys.
The insurance company then sends me off for an independent medical examination, now I am supposed to bear my soul to a Collins Street psychiatrist whom I have never met, or who has never met me.
This will be fun; I basically don’t leave the house anymore so I am not even sure I can make it into the city let alone see the IME.
Eventually after the IME, they finally let me know they have accepted my claim.
The statutory time limits have long since passed.
Now I really don’t leave the house except to go to appointments, I am worse than I was when I originally went off work because of this dragged out inhuman process that is Workcover.