Sunday, May 23, 2010

Limbo (Part 2)

I'm writing this from memory, because of a fairly rough week. (bear with me!)

The other week, I found myself in the big city. I'd spent most of the trip down talking "transition" with my mother. I was in town for work, and on the last day, I decided to run some personal errands. In my travels, I stopped in to see Jon from The Body Temple ( I knew he was just the guy to have a conversation about motivation and getting yourself PUMPED. (Psychologically, AND physically.)

I started explaining my story to him, the way I was running on an empty tank, the week of hell I went through, and how I felt like my life pretty much fell apart. I explained the move home, the 2-3 weeks of doing nothing, and the short job hunt which lead me to a minimum wage job which is convenient more than anything. (Some people have called me lazy for taking a job that's 10 minutes from my house... but the nearest "medically related" job (patient transfer) is 60 minutes from my place.)

We started talking about what is needed (physically and psychologically) to get out of limbo.

1) Routine.
2) Exercise & Healthy Eating.
3) Self-Development.
4) Measurable Goals & Rewards.
5) Support Network.

1) Routine - Face it, your time during school/clinical/whatever (during your "busy" time) was probably scheduled by someone else. You didn't write the rules. I'm not saying you need someone else to plan your life, but you do need structure. Plan things that happen on a regular basis. Give yourself deadlines and cut-offs. It will help you keep your wheels from spinning. Write it down or calendar it, and keep it handy.

2) This one is HUGE. You are now at liberty to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. You don't have an excuse to eat fast-food anymore, and you certainly need to do exercise to make up for the physical labour you're not incurring during school, or at your placement. Seeing as this one's so huge, I'm going to make a few points, and maybe re-visit this one in an entirely seperate blog post.

Identify any gaps in your diet. Address them, or replace them with what's needed. Jon suggested to me that I might not be getting enough greens (Green Supplement will fix this), and maybe, not enough Antioxidants from fruits (can be obtained via a Berry Supplement). This is me though. Everyone's different.

Find a nutritionist. With the likes of facebook, six degrees of separation and the infinite number of blog posts and guides, this shouldn't be too hard. Document your diet for a week, get a feeling for your problem areas, and modify your recipes to address them. I suggest visiting sites like to find easy recipes that might suit your lifestyle. (Programs & Recipes like "Take 5" (5 ingredients, 5 minutes) from Clover Leaf exist online. Go find them! )

Re-think the way you live your day. Find new ways to involve exercise into your day. If you don't have the money for a Gym, there's plenty of ways to involve some exercises to preserve your required muscles for EMS. (also, a few ways to make an affordable home gym you can use to keep fit.

I can't tell you what will work for you, but after some conversations with Jon, this is my plan:
- Old Wooden Chair (free) : For Dips
- Push-ups & crunches (free)
- "PowerGym" Door-frame Bar (24.99$) : Chin-ups, pull-ups, etc...
- Home-made 10kg Medicine Ball (10$) : Core workouts, Twisting, Lifting, added to my Squats, etc... ( )
- Ab-Roller (15$, But mine was a gift) : Ab-rolls
- A set of 4 resistance bands (~80$, SmartToner by Twist Conditioning™) ; I decided on Medium & Very Heavy (6') and Light and Heavy (4'), total cost about 80$, but can be used with an anchor point to work just about any muscle in the body. (I will be working with Jon at The Body Temple to put together some videos on YouTube to demonstrate.)
- Planking. It's Free! There's lots of variations on it that can help build more core.

Guides like this can help:

Here's the biggest point that was carried across to me though. Isolation exercises suck. It's true. I've done them (when I had a gym membership.) Great initial reward, but I found weak spots between muscles. Make your exercises count. Mimic the lifts and work you'll be doing on the truck, and you'll strengthen the muscles that matter most. (ie: dumbell in each hand + squats = stair chair lift. Straight Bar + weights + curls/squats = stretcher lift)

There are ways to make every exercise more difficult. Tired of or out-done regular push-ups? Do military push-ups, add burpies, diamond push-ups, etc...

Other things to consider at this point? Ladders/Pyramids (1 rep, 1 rest, 2 reps, 2 rest, 3 reps, 3 rests, etc...)

[Jon referred me to a great app called "Round Timer" for 0.99$ on the iTunes store for doing timed intervals which I *love* for doing planking, sprinting, etc... Can be found here: (US Store only?) ]

Like I said, fitness may be a topic that requires a seperate blog post. I'm not promising anything, but we may be "hearing from" Jon again shortly in the future. *tap of the nose*

3) Self Development. You need to keep up with your studies. "If you don't use it, you'll lose it." is true. Read up on new skills. Go over your protocols again. Challenge yourself to repeat old knowledge. Study a different part of anatomy/pathophysiology each day for 30 minutes. Whatever you do, however much time you spend into it, there is an important lesson to be learned here. This was reinforced hard to me by Jon. I knew it already, but you really have to sit and think about it for it to set-in.


Now, Read it again. Between points 2, and 3, you're focusing energy on YOURSELF, and making yourself healthier, and sharper. Every bit of time you spend developing yourself will open a new door at a job, get you a new friend, acquaintance or even let you accomplish something you didn't think was possible.

Everything you put in, you get out again. Nobody's trading it for money (ie; paycheck), nobody's stealing it from you. It's yours.

Read it again.

Print it off, even. Put it up somewhere. Whatever it takes to remind yourself. It's easy to forget in the chaos of it all.

Self-development doesn't need to come in the way of EMS specific skills, but spend time developing yourself so you can move forward on your goal path.

4) Measurable Goals and Rewards:
The rewards are easy. Find things you enjoy, and give them to yourself as a reward for staying on track, moving forward, achieving a goal, or simply having a good day. Having a way to measure these goals, benchmarks, etc... is necessary. Jon had a great idea for this; a book. A small (5x7 to 8x10) sized notebook with no lines (or lines, if you're a person who needs that kind of structure) to write down things like:
- When you got up and went to bed
- How you felt when you woke up. (Energy Level? Concerning dreams, etc...)
- When your workout times are, and what you did (how you felt)
- Meals throughout the day, including snacks. It is suggested to try to space apart your meals and snacks to keep your metabolism going evenly and constantly. Eat your first meal within 45 minutes of waking up. This will ensure you get the energy you need to get started on the right foot.
- Any awesome ideas you have along the way.
- Goals for the day, weather physical or otherwise.

This book will help you identify trends and problem areas to improve your lifestyle. If you're working with a life coach or personal trainer, this will also help them see things they can help you with.

5) Support Network. On this note, I am the luckiest person in the world. Despite not having anyone locally, I have probably one of the most comprehensive lists of people to reach out to when things aren't going as planned. If you have it, great. If you don't have it and need it, social media is your friend. I can't count the number of times a stranger has answered my tweets or added me on facebook by meeting me through someone else.

... My fingers are a little sore right now, so I think I'll stop. I hope this has been enlightening, and at least vaguely helpful. I'm doing my best to get back on track and kick myself back into gear. It's not easy, and it's often not very pleasant, but it's my life, and to quote a comment that came out during my conversation with Jon, "how can I care for other people, when I'm not taking care of myself?"

Stuck in limbo? Wheels spinning? Put some of my ideas above into play and let me know how it works. Maybe you'll get some ideas to help me too! :-)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Limbo (Part 1)

I am in limbo. Not just a little limbo, but full on transitional hell, limbo. As you may or may not know, I was in an accelerated Primary Care Paramedic program, and failed my final exam. On my re-take, I had food poisoning, and performed poorly.

This may in fact, have been a godsend. I'll explain why; It put me in limbo. Failing my final put me in a place where I had nothing to do (placement cancelled), no money (didn't plan on failure being an option), and to be honest, right burnt out. I would have been NO help whatsoever to my patients in that state. I might've even screwed up my preceptorship.

I came home to lick my wounds. The school would not be notifying me of my returning situation (date, price, courseload, etc...) for another two months. I was officially in limbo. I unplugged, and spent my home-time between going through "stuff" and playing xbox. (oh, and I do mean, STUFF). 6 years of accumulated crap from my various living abodes and jobs. Where am I going with this you ask? It's emotional (and physical) baggage. I don't realise it yet, but I'm about to hit psychological bottom. I have no social network in the new town that I'm living in, and my motivation tank is running on fumes. I managed to get myself a job for minimum wage working at a copy center to start filling the bank account again. Some regard this as "lazy" because it's really close to my house, but it's a tough call. It's a reasonably challenging (and portable) job that pulls on similar job skillsets as paramedicine (with regard to planning, management and paperwork). More on this in another post though, that's not what I'm here to talk about today.

What I'm here to talk about today is the switch that was flipped on in-- no, that *I* turned on inside myself today.

"You can't control anything in life, but you can control how you feel about it, and what you do about it." - Jon @ the Body Temple (This is far from his most epic quote. More later!)

My mother (a management, employment and business skills trainer) has been telling me the same thing for the past few weeks, as I approached my "rebooting" point. You know what? It's true, but it does require a fairly aggressive stance on the world around you to prevent it from steamrolling you over.

... this post is the beginning of a series of posts I'm going to be preparing about being "in limbo", whether you're;

- Between semesters in school
- Failed and waiting to go back to school
- Passed school and waiting to get a job
- Moving from one state to another and waiting for a job
- Preparing to go to school for the first time.
- For any reason, without a focus/target, and in transition.

Look forward to a few podcasts on GenMed about the subject as well! I'll try to get the next section of this typed tonight.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I bet you a dollar...

Here goes folks. I've been having trouble finding the time, motivation, and to be perfectly honest, stories or topics that people want to read. This came to me last night while laying in bed, trying to get to sleep.

Last night, we witnessed the #CoEMS ( Tweetup at Gordon Biersch in San Fran. We witnessed an EPIC arm-wrestle between Chris Kaiser (@ckemtp) and Mark Glencorse (@ukmedic999). I bet 25$ on Mark, to go to #CoEMS, to go on top of the 25$ I donated last week.

Suddenly (jokingly?), there was bets everywhere, for everything. I think at one point somebody put up 10$ to see Mark's bicep again, 10$ for @setla to undo one of somebody's shirt-buttons, and somebody offered another 50$ to see someone's shirt come off.

Regardless of the shenannigans and horsing around... Here's my challenge.

Are you a betting person? Challenge the other person you're betting with to put the money laid down towards supporting #CoEMS. They have a great agenda, and not much time and money to achieve it in. We're less than a week away from Justin ('s trip overseas to join Mark Glencorse ( for a week-long rideout with the NHS like Mark has been doing here with SFFD for the past week.

So off I go to paypal to honour last night's bet. I was willing to lose that 25$ regardless if Mark won the arm-wrestle or not... I might as well lose it to a good cause!

The paypal link on is broken at the moment, but I think if you log in, and send the money via, it should get to the right place.

EDIT: Just called Ted Setla, and he says until he fixes the button, which should be in the next hour or so, this will work just fine.

Don't forget to follow them on twitter:
Don't forget to "fanpage" them on facebook:
Don't forget to keep supporting initiatives like this that are shaping up to be a HUGE positive for our industry.

It's time to re-shape minds, do what's best for our patients their families; A new generation of medics and new ideas are coming to EMS, and rather than ignore them until they're forgotten or lost in the chaos, we should pay attention to them and see if there's good to come of it at all. We can learn from those before us, and learn from those to come after us.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's hard to be the guy who wants to help everyone learn in class.

Let me try that again...

It's hard to be the guy who wants to help everyone learn in and out of class, especially when the teacher cracks jokes about you, and people don't show an extended interest in learning beyond class.

If you're in this for a career, you should be like a sponge. You should want to know EVERYTHING about everything you come across. Knowing "the minimum" isn't enough to get by. That's like taking the FR or EMR class, and not doing any A&P & Patho studying outside of class.

With resources like , , and the various podcasts; MedicCast , EMS Garage , EMSLive , you should spend a certain time per week brushing up on your knowledge, or learning something new.

Medicine is always changing & expanding. Stay ahead of the game.

You should be eating/sleeping/breathing this stuff, so you can be the best possible advocate for your patient.

Monday, October 5, 2009

... our second week of mis-representation in the media.

In light of watching NBC's "Trauma" for the second week (thanks to, we've decided to officially start listing the rules for the drinking game.

(disclaimer: I do not encourage or condone drinking to excess, yada yada yada. Know your limits and be smart about it, but this show doesn't do anything to help...)

Drinking Rules for NBC's "Trauma"
  • one-handed CPR
  • breaking protocol (medical)
  • breaking standard operating guidelines
  • any ethically questionable choice
  • unsafely driving ambulance or flying helicopter
  • sex anywhere where a dead person has been (ambulance, hospital bed, chopper, etc...)
  • entering when scene isn't safe (or failing to retreat when it becomes unsafe)
  • stethoscope backwards in the ears ("Nurse Jackie" is guilty of this too)
  • washing gloves... ???!!! (S01E02, just before Kid + Rabbit cutesy scene)
  • touching your face with gloves on (Rabbit, I'm looking at you! You put your finger in your mouth in S01E01)
  • stupid EMS games (darts with syringes?)
  • unprofessional talking down to a medic in the middle of an active scene
  • loss of control of C-spine (throwing the stretcher into the heli and watching the pt jump 6")
  • use the word "ambulance driver"
Who's with us next time? We may need an ambulance sooner rather than later, if NBC doesn't start listening to their consultants...

Friday, October 2, 2009

The past few days have been testing.

Let's start with a quick tip I just made up to help remember GCS (Motor). Eyes are easy. Spontaneous, Verbal, Pain, None. Motor seems to always stump me. Here's the tip:
"Spontaneous", "Pain In" (Localizes), "Pain out" (Withdraws), "Core in" (Decorticate), "Core out" (Decerebrate), "None" (None)

More tips to come later as I figgure them out!

It's been a rough week. I'm guilty of not updating, and writing down some of the things I wanted to blog about.

Good things? I got 97% on a test, was able to fire off some information that the teacher wasn't expecting to know. Bad things? Messed up a scenario pretty hardcore, Internet's cut off for a week, and didn't get the chance to run a scenario in yesterday's class.

Also, our "classroom ambulance" platform got approved. I will post photos as that project evolves.

Wednesday we got the opportunity to listen to 4 case studies presented by the graduating class. If you ever get the chance to sit in on case presentations, DO IT. If you're a class and the teacher is willing to let you do a project like this, do it. Learning about all of the lab values, etc... is a great way of stretching your Pathophysiology knowledge.

Short post for now, more will come later as I work out some topics to write about. Anything you'd like to see me write about? Feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

... the temptation to write "FIRST!!!11!``1!" is overwhelming.

Hey all. A little history about me first;

I took 4 years of Theatre Production studies, and managed a theatre's (think; shakespeare, not hollywood) technical operations for 2 years. During these 6 years, I helped start a Campus EMS Squad at one of the few Canadian Universities left to have one. I moved my way up from not even having my CPR/First-Aid to being a First Responder (EFR/EMFR) through to being an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) and even added a Symptom Relief Drug (SR-P) Certification to my knowledge. I've been doing standby medical coverage at events for most of this time, and a few on-call shifts here and there. Lots of fun, and always interesting, clues to understand & interpret to do my job (albeit volunteer) well.

Fast forward to the spring of 2009; I realised it was time for me to start laying down the bricks for a successful career, and I realised I needed to make a tough decision. Stick with theatre, or take my volunteer EMS experience to the next level. I decided to take a gamble, drop my entire life in Toronto, and make the move up north to a remote mining community where they have a small college with a good teacher to student ratio (8:1), and a reputation of good instructors.

This blog will try to share some of what I learn every day, and tell some of the entertaining stories along the way to me getting to my Career goals, as they come!

Excuse my writing at first... this is my first step back into having a blog in a long time. Ages ago, it was "livejournal", wordpress during my thesis and in a certain way, twitter and facebook have been used to document my life for a while.

I'd like to take a step back into that, and more than share my life, share the things that I've learned each day, so that maybe if you haven't come across something new in your day yet, you can learn something new here.

Sound good? Alright, let's go!