Before We Met

A letter from your patient.

Dear emergency medical technician,

I know we didn’t get along so great the other day when we met each other. I want to apologize for that. It was partially my fault. I admit it. I wasn’t the easiest person to get along with and I could see it frustrated you. By the time we reached the hospital I was pretty frustrated myself.

I just want you to know that I’m not always like that. You met me at one of the worst moments of my life. You probably experience stuff like that all the time. I could see that none of what was happening was much of a big deal to you. But I’ve never been quite so scared, I don’t remember feeling pain like that before.

Keep in mind that I was many different things before I was your patient.

Long before we met, I was a mother of four children, three of whom still stay in regular contact. I have nine grandchildren. My youngest grandchild loves my spaghetti. She usually won’t eat spaghetti, but something about the way I make the sauce is perfect for her. Cooking for my grandkids gives me a special joy. While you were splinting my leg I kept wondering how long it would be before I could stand in front of my stove again. When your my age, healing can take a long time.

Before we met I was an accountant for a big firm in Kansas City. As a project manager I was known for always getting the reports in on time. I’m fifteen years retired now but old habits persist. I was successful as an accountant because of my meticulous and often controlling nature. When there is a crisis, I’m used to being in charge and I pay attention to the details. I know you were annoyed with my questions about who had my purse and where my car was being towed, but this is part of how I respond to stress. I imagine you may be the same way someday.

Before we met I was once a thirteen year old girl. My mother was an inspiration in my life. I was her rebellious daughter. She thought I never listened to her but I did. It didn’t stop me from making a lot of mistakes as a young woman but I still hear her wisdom every day. My mother died too young. When that car struck mine and I felt myself trapped inside, I wondered about what kind of legacy I might leave for my children. I thought about what it was like to lose my mom so young. I never wanted that for my family.

So I’m sorry I seemed so emotional, and demanding, and short tempered. I hope you’ll understand that it was a difficult day for me. I’m sure with all the patients you see it must be hard to envision me as anything other than your patient. When you see me you see my injuries and my complaints. But I am something more. I am a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a coworker, a friend. I am still all the things that I was long before we met.

I’m sure I’ll remember you long after you have forgotten me, the crabby old lady stuck in her car. But I do hope that you’ll remember that I, like every other patient you’ve ever had the privilege to meet, was many, many things, long before we met.


  1. Shannon Davidson says:

    Wow, That is simple and powerful. We forget all the time that patients are people. What a great way to put that back into our heads and give some perspective to the other side of the scene.

  2. Unfortunately, one EMT I will never forget was the guy who was sitting behind me in the backseat of my totalled vehicle stabilizing my neck after I was rear-ended and nearly killed by a drunken teenager.

    The Jaws Of Life were being used to cut me out of my car, and the pain, noise, and fear got to me and I began to cry.

    Jerk Boy actually got annoyed with me and asked me (and I quote) “why the f**k” I was crying.