In 1989, I received my certification as a cardiac technician, and in 1991, I became a nationally registered paramedic. So, for over twenty years, I did Advanced Life Support as a firefighter. This certification required numerous hours of continuing education and the requirement to renew my certification through the Virginia Office of EMS every two years. I retired from active duty firefighting in 2010 and allowed all my medical certifications to lapse. I have been asked by some, “Why would you ever let your certifications lapse, after all that it took for you to obtain them?”
My answer has been that me becoming a paramedic was a part of me being a firefighter and lasted for that season. The funny thing is that I am still using the knowledge.
Two of my life goals that will never be achieved were to be a part of a Coast Guard helicopter flight crew and to be a Medflight paramedic. The closest that I ever came to both was that I flew on one Coast Guard mission, sixty-five miles southeast of Hatteras N.C., for a sailboat taking on water. Concerning Medflight, I was due to be transferred there, but removed my name from the list at the prompting of my lieutenant and battalion chief. I share this because my life has truly been a journey where the Lord has directed my steps.
You may wonder, “How is he using his paramedic knowledge today?” I am glad you asked. I became a pastor in 2005, five years before I retired from the fire service. I have probably given as much medical advice and direction as I have spiritual advice. Once you have done something for over a third of your life, it does not leave you. I continue to be faced with COPD patients, heart patients, medical emergencies of every type, and the occasional trauma case. When you truly walk with someone, you practically experience what they are going through. Though I do not have cancer, I have learned more about cancer as a pastor than I ever knew as a paramedic. The difference in the then and the now is that I am one of the ones calling for 9-1-1, but what is most different is that I have a personal relationship with the people that I am now helping and advocating for.
You may ask, what does any of this have to do with me? I believe that all of us are on a journey. Along the way, we do things or learn things that stay with us long beyond “our profession.” I want to encourage you to continue to use your knowledge, skills, and abilities, in every facet of your life. I may not possess the certification necessary to start an IV or to intubate a person any longer, but the knowledge is still there. I remember being with one of the ladies from our church when she was about to have surgery. The anesthesiologist came in to talk with her. Once he was done talking, he asked her if she had any questions. She looked around him and asked me if everything he had just said was correct. I said that it was, which prompted him to ask who I was. When I told him that I was a pastor, he immediately replied, PASTOR! Bottom line, I have sought to use my knowledge and experience to benefit others. What will be the legacy that you leave? Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. He is my example. The hardest thing about serving people the way that I do is that others tell me that I should not be doing that. Instead of saying that, ask, “What can I do to serve others?”