We choose our career for many reasons. From day 1 we know it’s chosen us.

It’s not just a job, it’s not merely a career; it’s a passion, our passion.

No day is the same, no patient is the same, no scene is the same but we handle it.

It’s not normal for a human being to be exposed to daily sadness or tragedy but somehow we manage.

No routine shift; no routine breaks- grab food, junk food mainly at any given opportunity to take that break.

Why do we just swallow our food, why don’t we chew and enjoy it like “normal” human beings? It’s our life, it’s our lifestyle.

“Organised chaos” has popped up many times before.

We become immune to the sights we see. “How can you show no emotion?” I have heard before….It’s our way of coping, our coping mechanism. If it wasn’t there we wouldn’t be able to do it.

“What do you earn? ” I’ve heard too….it’s not about the money. I don’t do this job, this career for the money. Yes I’d love that double storey house along Millionaire’s Paradise over-looking the ocean;

Yes I’d love that sports car with pop up lights and a spoiler on the boot*…

But what matters for me is I’m happy, I love what I do; I appreciate life and don’t take things for granted.

I survive; I live, I’m happy and healthy.

Tragedy strikes so many people daily, some of us cope just fine, others can’t.

But we are a family, brothers and sisters of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) who somehow and amazingly do cope. We have to….

On a scene we can’t show emotion, we focus on that one thing and that one thing only…our patient; knowing full well they might not make it or telling the family their child is dead.

You may see us smiling or joking around after completing a very sad call; no we aren’t heartless, it’s just who we are and how we cope.

“Cowboys don’t cry” has slowly faded over years where it was “normal” not to show emotions on scenes or around loved ones who have just lost someone. We are human after all, not robots and just sometimes we need that cry; that chat to colleagues. It’s become a cliché that “public won’t understand” and maybe that is true. It’s difficult to explain. We love our paths in life we chose, our careers.

We seem emotionless at carnage, smiling near tragedy but it’s who we are and that much used “coping mechanism”. We aren’t heartless, we do care- we care a lot. Our main concern is the well being of that stranger trapped in a car or that homeless person lying in the wet streets on a freezing night after collapsing due to not being able to eat. We care for anyone come rain or shine. We tend to victims out in the elements, nature testing us with torrential rain; drenched to the bone in our uniforms; cold; tired and hungry. But it’s our patient we need to worry about first. They need us; they need our help…we can eat later; our clothes will dry.

We cope with stress, we cope on empty stomachs, we cope cos we do.

Our job; our career, our path we have chosen isn’t easy; it isn’t always pleasant, it isn’t the best paid job but we don’t care cos at the end of the day we can go home and say “I saved that person’s life”…A feeling that cannot be described to anyone who hasn’t experienced it.

Even though that same day you declared a 2 year old boy gunned down by a stray bullet or the 95 year old granny that fell down the stairs whilst out shopping and won’t walk again for a long time, due to fracturing her pelvis and now is too unstable to undergo an operation. Or the teenager overdosing on tablets cos he had an argument with his girlfriend.

The stress of getting to scenes where public don’t move out of our way, and sometimes deliberately. But we keep our thoughts to ourselves and not scream and curse to the selfish driver. No we don’t abuse lights and sirens but public tend to think we do.

It can sometimes be a thankless job but we don’t take that to heart.

It’s the career and our passion which chose this path for us. To see happiness even if once a day makes it just that little bit worth it.

AND THEN to be told a colleague has been killed the previous night in an accident; but we still have to carry on- this shows that we are somehow “chosen” to do this. You carry on knowing that just yesterday you spoke to him and now he’s no longer here but we carry on…somehow we carry on.

Why didn’t I choose that Monday to Friday desk job with little stress and have every weekend off ; like “normal” people…well…I’m not normal…I don’t want that normal job. Appreciate life and live it; is all that matters.

I get to see almost daily how fragile it can be and one can be taken away in an instant. And then you are no more…….

When I get home from shift…….


By Alan Rudnicki.


* (In South Africa we refer to the car’s “boot” as what you call the “trunk”).

I’m a Medic in Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve been working for the EMS for the past 25 years.

I wrote this piece mainly for the ‘general public’. An insight into our world.


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