A Ride-Along Encourages Walking – In Another Person’s Shoes

December 02, 2016


I was assigned to Howie Mast, NRP, a night shift paramedic. We crisscrossed two counties over the eight hours I traveled with him. Some of it wasn’t so nice. Every situation was different and each patient encounter was unique. I just watched. Howie helped people without imposing any judgment. He was kind to his patients and co-workers. Truly, he was kind to everyone he came into contact with. He smiled a lot and it was both infectious and calming

As I’ve reflected on this experience, I’ve thought about the high level of stress emergency responders experience and the various parts of humanity they see daily. But life teaches us many lessons through each of the different experiences we go through. When you frequently see horrible things you either get hardened or you get empathetic. The depth of Howie’s empathy astounded me. As a paramedic or emergency worker—or for many of us in healthcare—it’s not to say you have a better or worse job than anyone else, but it is to understand that at that moment in time, the person in front of you has it harder than you.

This night made me think about being grateful for what I have been blessed with. It’s what I learned from watching and talking with Howie—his kindness, his empathy, his positive attitude, his love for his family, his enjoyment of fishing, his love of his profession, and his overall zest for life. What I watched this night is that Howie, like the other paramedics, EMTs, and Emergency Department nurses and physicians, works in the medical field to do his part to save lives. But what I particularly observed with Howie is how his job affected the way he lives his life.

I take away a great deal from this brief opportunity of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. During my night on the road with Howie, I was reminded that life is short and we need to enjoy the present for what it is. I will challenge myself daily to remember that living itself is a gift; it’s an opportunity, and it’s amazing.

The reality is that people die every day and to live one more day is an opportunity to do something great. How we view the choices we make is how we experience life. We know this at a basic level but rarely embrace it. The line I will cross daily is to remember to embrace it.

Kendra Aucker, President and CEO
Evangelical Community Hospital

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