Updated: Oct 17, 2017
"O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won"
I squinted against the scene lights as I lugged the equipment, dutifully following him to the side door of the truck. He stepped back and I peered in, the tall thin man struggling on the backboard, his back arching as the EMTs worked to secure and suction him. His profile was wrong, from where I was looking the shape of his head did not make sense. I heard the words "shotgun" and "face." The guy groaned and gurgled as they suctioned and manipulated the macerated flesh around his mouth.
In a small way, I was relieved at how bad it looked - there was no way that a student should try and manage that. I looked at Walter, the red lights reflecting off of his already bald head. Without missing a beat, he indicated the Captain's chair and said, "go on, get in there." I remember laughing incredulously and staring at him, I think I asked him if he was crazy or possibly hypoglycemic. His face grew serious and he said to me, "You don't get to pick the patient, you get to manage them. Now pony up and get in there, that kid needs an airway."
"Pony up." Put up enough money to stay in the game. Invest yourself, knowing that ultimately it's a game of chance and you won't know what the return will be. In the years since I have used that same phrase to other people who were lacking confidence and afraid to commit to a decision or action. It brings me back to that critical moment where he taught me that it wasn't the act, but the decision to act that was important.
Walter Drivet was my preceptor, he was my mentor, he was my partner and he was my friend. "Commander" of the B Team during its golden age, there is no one you wanted to show up more than him - no matter what it was. He is the one who gave me the nickname "Sister Mary F**king Fazio," for my patient whispering skills. His humor, his exasperated temper and his skill are legendary. I work in words, and will never have the ones to convey just how much he taught me about being not just a paramedic, but a clinician and an educator. I know of no single person in my circle who has impacted so many others with his life. He is part and parcel to any of my success as a paramedic and the reason I continue in the field today.
The desk that I am writing this on now, was Walter's desk. Just as he was the foundation on which I learned to be a paramedic, this block of scarred wood from him is where I have been learning to become a writer. So in a way, he continues to support me even now, as my tears pour down my face onto what I'm fairly certain are residual rings from years of diet soda cans. (Nice use of a coaster there buddy.)
He would say to me, "It doesn't matter. No male Drivet has lived past the age of 54 - so I got that going for me." I always told him that if anyone was going to raise the bar it would be him. That's what he did. With his natural leadership and confident skill you wanted to follow, because you knew you would become better and you knew you would laugh. His legacy is in generations of providers who will go on and teach those that come after them how to learn their craft and apply it with critical thinking, compassion and humor.
That kid, the one with no face? He got an airway.
Now go out there and pony up.