I remembered all the fears and worries that consumed my thoughts - thinking I would rather die than be stuck in a male-dominated environment 24/7 for weeks (or what seemed like eternity at times, seriously). Looking back, some of my fears were true; others not so much. But being in that regimented environment certainly helped me to reassess my life choices, to realign my thoughts. It has definitely widened my world view and forced me to view the world less in terms of black and white - it's a lesson I'm still wading through truthfully.
I made new friends no doubt, but without my darling RCrew (my lovely girls) I would have gone mad. I remember in the middle of the night, anticipating a call just to listen to the latest kpop song - which was SNSD's Genie. And then trying to practice the dance the next week. So darn crazy seriously. Of course, there was the whole incident of being punched for being sassy. I regret nothing.
After 4 weeks of intensive fitness-oriented camp, I was posted out to the 6 months long emergency rescue services (sort of like a lead firefighter?) course. Whether due to some administrative error or not, I hated my short 2 weeks there. The only thing that I liked was going down the firefighter's training pole. And no, I do not have a fixation with phallic symbols. It was just...exhilirating to let conquer one's fear, albeit temporarily with safety harness.
After resuming my basic training course or what was left of it, I was thankfully posted to the vocation of my choice - being an EMT/medic. I'll be frank and admit that I was so worried I screwed up my interview because when asked, "Have you been poked before?" I actually thought he meant the act of poking a friend's side (a variation of tickling I suppose) and answered that way. I think the interviewer thought i was rather dumb - he turned out to be my instructor for the course. So yup, didn't exactly started out on a very good footing.
Then it was a rather intensive period of learning and relearning the basic first aid skills (campfire first aid lessons need to be revised if they haven't - it's so so wrong to put toothpaste on a burn). And let's not forget memorizing protocols and body parts and functions. And here I thought I had left behind biology back in school. HAH. I remember I almost cried upon receiving my posting order because I didn't want to be posted to Stn 31 for several reasons; mainly peer pressure. ( I had friends in the station who promised to give me hell. Turns out I barely saw them.)
I wanted so badly to be a hospital medic because I was worried I couldn't handle real-life emergency cases. I'll readily admit that I was scared to be responsible for someone's life - it's an extremely heavy responsibility that I wasn't sure I could manage. It was nerve-wrecking that someone trusted me enough to be posted in the field - especially with my limited medical knowledge. Sure I never failed any of the tests but I wasn't amongst the best.
Call me an elitist if you will. Hell, I still berate myself for having the occasional elitist thinking - blame the educational system I was brought up in; very utterly shelted with the people around me of a certain class, of a certain standing. So yes, thanks to conscription, my world view widened; I finally saw the people I would write reports on; teenage fathers, dropouts, reformed offenders etc. Had I not been served my letter, I doubt I would have had the opportunity to interact with such a colourful mix of people. Alright, I am completely digressing, aren't I?
I remember my first call, elderly had a fall. I recall that one of the thoughts in my head was actually, "I'm not being kidnapped, am I?" Yes, it's ridiculously hilarious come to think of it but I was insanely freaked out - especially with the thought that it could be someone I know. There was slight relief when I came up and it was a complete stranger.
My first few duties were...terrifying. Considering the fact that I had problems handling the stretcher (I guess it was the method I was doing it) as well as the fact that I felt so overwhelmed by everything. The rush of emotions, the sights, the sounds, the smell. I recall being scolded upside-down by the senior medic I was attached to. Sometimes I wish I was as strict as him - perhaps then my juniors would be...better in a way.
He taught me just about everything I needed to know about the ambulance operation with regards to what a medic must do. He was firm yet understanding. Another senior medic I followed taught me to be less on the edge and to have fun on calls. And this may sound weird but I did not know there was a 7-11 store at the hospital until like...close to my fourth week? I was busy cleaning the alpha after every call, ensuring everything was tip-top. And after several duties, I was transferred to Stn 32. It was unexpected but one could say it was a blessing in disguise.
Stn 32 turned out to be more than just a workplace. People joke that I embodied the whole idea of 'My Station, My Home' but it was true. I saw 32 as home. Mayhaps it was due to my limited experience but I felt far more ready for calls - less green so to say. It helped that the senior medic I was attached to was somebody I could connect with - someone I could be rather close with, someone who understood me and my rather convoluted thinking. (Because he has similar thinking as well. XD) And then there's the paramedics some of whom are like my elder sisters, or my godmothers, my big brothers. I'd rather not name everyone because trust me, I doubt I can describe each of them in so few words.
Leaving the station was actually rather difficult as the days grew closer to the end of my service; so bad to the point that I think I'm the only medic thus far to have curfew to leave station at a certain time. Past a certain time without a valid reason, I'd be nagged. Hehe.
During the 1.5 years, I went for many calls; so many to the point that some calls just blend into one; I cannot recall every single call I've gone for - I don't have an eidetic memory; I have merely flashes and glimpses. Of course, there are several calls that I will never forget. My first call, my first cardiac arrest (collapse), my first fall from height, my first major RTA (road traffic accident), my first paediatric death, my first burn case, my first drowning case and my first maternity case. :)
This line isn't for everyone, just like the firefighting line isn't for me. There are times when you have to be emotionally detached (which I've found can sometimes be very very hard to do especially the call if for someone you know), times when you have to risk your life, times when you have to endure whatever treatment you get just as long as you got the patient transported to the hospital without aggravating their conditions and so forth. The healthcare and allied healthcare line is I would say, one of the most demanding jobs; both physically and psychologically. And it makes me rather sad that most of the time, they are not treated with the amount of respect they richly deserve.
To these dedicated unsung heroes, I salute you.
To Stn 32 personnels, I'll never forget you. If I do, then please do check my head for any signs of hematomas. :)
And now that one long chapter of my life has been written, what else lies in front me? I have no clue but I guess I'll just suck it up and just push forward - albeit with my usual amount of complaining. After all, as much as I would say that conscription has changed me, i haven't changed completely.
Not yet anyways. (Plastic's expensive.)