“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda’s wisdom is applicable to all endeavors, not just becoming a Jedi Knight.

Tonight, a friend was telling me of her struggles with paramedic class. How draining it was, the financial burden, the long drive back and forth to class, how difficult it was for study groups to get together… blah, blah, blah.

My response: “Pull up your big girl panties and get to work.”

I told her of reciting a very similar litany when I was doing my paramedic clinical rotations, oh-so-many years ago. My paramedic class was 8 hours a day, 3 days a week. I’d get out of bed at the ambulance station at 0700 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, get showered and dressed, and drive to class. I’d attend class all day, drive back to the ambulance station, put on a jumpsuit, and be on duty until 0700 the next class day. That was my life for an entire year.

No social life.

No days off.

No study groups. Then again, I didn’t study much, outside of class. One of my gifts is that I require very little study.

When I started my hospital clinical rotations, it was more of the same. More than once did I pull a 48 hour stretch without sleep. On one memorable occasion, I had left a 12-hour ER rotation, worked a reverse 24 on an ambulance, went back for another 12-hour night ER rotation, and went directly from the ER to an OR across town for 6 hours of intubations and observing surgical procedures. During a lull between scheduled surgeries, I was dozing in the doctor’s lounge, in that quasi-sleep state that EMTs learn, where they can rest and still be aware of what is going on around them.

“Who’s that, a resident?” I heard one voice say.

“Shhh, let him sleep,” another voice whispered. “He’s a paramedic student. Been on the go for 48 hours now.”

“48 hours?” the first voice marveled. “For that kind of stress, he should gone to fucking med school.”

And you know, there have been many instances in the past fifteen years where I’ve told myself that very thing.

When I started paramedic field rotations, it didn’t get any easier. I worked for a little Mom-and-Pop ambulance service, and we didn’t have a high enough call volume for me to do paramedic field rotations there. All the nearby metropolitan areas were controlled by our direct competitor, a much larger service that had vowed to drive us out of business. Doing rotations with them was not an option.

In the end, our state ambulance inspector –  a personal friend – intervened on my behalf, arranging for me to do field rotations with a municipal agency two hours away, in central Louisiana.

“A word of advice,” he told me before my first shift. “Don’t look for sympathy from your preceptors. They’ve all worked much harder than you to get where they are. They’re not interested in sob stories.”

Well, I couldn’t let that pass. I worked pretty damned hard to get to that point, after all.

“Oh, and just what kind of hardships did they have to endure?” I asked sarcastically.

He went on to tell me how these three men took a night paramedic class at Angola State Penitentiary, two hours away, because it was the only one available. The shortest route to class involved taking the Angola ferry across the Mississippi River every night. Problem was, the ferry shut down every night before class ended. The only alternative was to take the main road out, which added an additional three hours to each leg of their trip – unacceptable.

So what they did was pool their money, and buy a beat-up car for $800, which they parked on the Angola side of the river. Every night they had class, they pooled their gas money, hopped in a truck one of them owned, and drove to the ferry landing on the other side of the river from Angola.

They then parked their truck, unloaded a 10-foot aluminum boat and a 5hp motor, and crossed the Mississippi River in that. They’d beach the boat on the other side, cable-lock it to a piling, hop in their beater car, and drive to class. When class was over, they’d do the same thing in reverse.

Three nights a week, for six months.

Three guys, crowded into a 10-foot aluminum boat powered only by a 5hp outboard motor.

Crossing the mile-wide Mississippi River.

At night.

Suddenly, all the trials and tribulations I endured during paramedic class didn’t seem so tough after all.

So there ya’ go. If you want to be a paramedic bad enough, decide what sacrifices are worth making, and make them. Shut up about it, and do the work.

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”