Administration and Leadership, Columns

Riders Find Humor as They Near the End of National EMS Memorial Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride

National EMS Memorial Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride

Paramedic Mike Larson keeps a bucket of french fries in his jersey’s back pocket for quick energy.

Entry 13: Finding Humor Along the Way

I could smell bacon at least three blocks away, so I knew we were close. Bacon was a great motivator to begin our first 11 miles of the day on the second-to-last day of the Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride. Usually we have breakfast before we begin our ride, but today we had to earn it. Great psychology when you think about it, despite my initial grumblings about no coffee to elevate the heart rate above one beat per minute.

It was worth the wait. Thank you Lewes Fire Department of Delaware for hosting us for that wonderful early morning meal of awesomeness. Bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, diced potatoes and French toast—all consumed in under five minutes (that includes having seconds). I needed a good breakfast to ride the 95 miles that was required of us from Dewey Beach, Del., to Annapolis, Md. Besides, I was worried my HDL was getting way too low to maintain the paramedic lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to.

After having cycled over 110 miles yesterday, and with this being our 12th day in spandex, I personally needed a little more motivation than normal to sustain myself at my optimal level of cycling-induced chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, blurred vision, cerebral hypoxia and whimpering like a baby. Then I saw Mike Larsen, a paramedic from Toronto, pull up with his bicycle and I knew, at the very least, I would try to get some good chuckles along the way by teaming up with him occasionally.

Every year during the ride, a predictable pattern of specific personalities are always represented. Some like to whine, some like to race and compete, some lead while others follow. I personally look for the funny guy or gal who always finds humor (imagine that) in everyday situations—good or bad.

Mike has been a paramedic for 15 years and at first appearance looks a little rough along the edges, and I don’t mean that in a cruel way. His facial expressions, swagger and eyes speak of a medic who has been around the block enough times that nothing is going to get by him. He is confident in his demeanor and quick witted, but initially comes across as smart-ass and sarcastic. Well, I’m here to tell you: he is, but in a good way.

When I asked Mike why he joined the Capital-to-Capital ride, he told me he had been placed on modified duty back in 2011 secondary to a back injury, and during that time had met several other medics who had been placed on light duty. A few, like him, had physical injuries that restricted them from working the streets, but others, were suffering from PTSD. At that point he gained a new perspective about the suffering of others related to not only the mental stresses of EMS, but PTSD as well.

Mike told me of many individuals who were drawn to him for support in dealing with their PTSD issues. I myself am quite sure his natural sense of humor is part of the reason for that. I have always believed in the healing power of humor and that positive forms of humor draw people in.

Humor is a gift we are born with, but it must be nurtured. It’s a skill that requires attentiveness to the comic angles of everyday life. Humor is just one of many methods used to help us manage life’s more unpleasant upsets. Unfortunately we do no train medics to enhance their ability to cope with the stresses of EMS, much less prevent PTSD.

One of the great gifts the Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride and National EMS Memorial Bike Ride give to riders and support staff is the opportunity to not only honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to our profession, but to also celebrate and find joy in each other’s company.

Hats off to you Mike for making us laugh and keeping our perspective on mission of mental health—not only for those we ride for, but for those who bear the burden of spandex.

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