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Innocence Lost

January 3, 2008

Why do people always ask teenagers what they want to be when they grow up? I wanted to be an airline pilot or a veteranarian, yet the closest I ever came to either of those was when the United Pilot gave me a set of plastic wings when I visited his cockpit. Oh yeah, I did have a pet dog too.

I’ve often thought it was crazy to ask 17 or 18 year olds to pick a major that would determine the future of their lives. I was a freshman in college at age 17, what did I know about the future. I thought I was going to go on to take over my Dad’s pipeline contracting business; well the recession of the late 70s took care of that option. Next thing I know I’m working the busiest ambulance in the NW – running calls from NW Glisan and Broadway and having the time of my life.

Despite the ash from a spewing Mount St. Helens that turned downtown Portland intoa ghost town, the city’s pulse was a strong as ever and my journey into the heart of the city successfully took away my innocence.

I remember my first EMS call. Though it was 34 years ago, I feel it like yesterday. Just a 15 year old skinny kid standing in the old Cedar Mill fire station on a dark rainy night. The station bells ring, the lights come on, and the bay doors go up. As the two medics walked past me they asked if I’d like to go? Of course! And I jumped into the back for a wild ride up NW Thompson Rd.

Upon arrival, they gave me a handful of road flares and sent me down the road to light them. Standing in the dark, 100 yards from any light, people, or civilization, I could no longer see the hand in front of my face, let alone these unfamilar road flares. My comic attempts to light these flares belied my innocence, but eventually I was successful in my given task.

Little did I know, but 16 years later these two men would be just two of the 90 paramedics I supervised. Yet even more ironically, here I am 19 years later and I’ve walked away from EMS, but I’m still tasked for lifesaving.

Three careers in 30 years. Now ask me again what I planned to study in college…

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