By Andru McCracken
Eugene Jamin is retiring from the BC Ambulance Service after 26 years, and he can still remember joining in 1992.
Jamin had just taken on a new job at the mill and was excited about what other activities he could explore
“Let’s see what I can do here,” reminisces Jamin, with a grin.
He is reluctant to retire.
Jamin said he is retiring mostly for physical reasons.
“I would love to remain,” he said. “There are unique opportunities in the back of the ambulance to meet people at a fundamental level.”
He said the reported symptoms may be covering something else. He believes it is the role of the paramedic or first aid attendant to find out what it is.
He said one approach he dislikes is trying to figure out whether someone is “faking it” or not.
“If you are concerned about whether they are bullshitting or not, you are missing the question,” Jamin said.
He remembers a Junior Ranger coming forward with reports of a flu, but the initial assessment showed no signs of that and the young ranger was sent back. The following day the person was back with a similar report.
Jamin put two and two together.
“If it was flu last night and the nurse told you, you are okay, what is different?”
That prompting revealed the underlying issue, said Jamin. There was another symptom that the ranger was unwilling to reveal to a female nurse. Careful listening, beyond determining whether a patient is ‘faking’ was the key, he said.
“It illustrated the point that you need to know the story,” said Jamin. “You need to know why it is happening… It may not be obvious in the beginning.”
The paramedic job was full of big moments. Jamin said he was at his best when doing basic patient care.
“Believing in the dignity of each person and being able to put them at ease,” he said. “That’s been my greatest gift. I make no distinction in the back to whom I am treating.”
Jamin said his approach pays off especially with patients that struggle with mental illness.
“I am not frightened by the manifestations they may have,” he said. “I see the basic need to be accepted and loved. I can see them; they are not scary people to me.”
“In some ways, there is a real honesty in them. They are at the most basic level (asking) ‘Am I loved? Do you find me scary?’”
Jamin also serves with the Junior Rangers and helps with their First Aid Program. The rangers are run in conjunction with the army.
At times Jamin has responded to patients on a spiritual level and that hasn’t always been well received by BC Ambulance.
“I have had my fingers slapped for my approach,” he said.
He got the sense that a patient whom others concluded was having a psychotic break was actually having a spiritual crisis.
“This person claims that I saved her life,” he said. Jamin doesn’t agree with that but does admit he was the right person at the right time.
Jamin said a lot has changed since he began his work in 1992.
“It was much more a maverick operation,” he said with a chuckle. “Now there are many more rules and regulations about what you do and how you’d do it.”
Jamin said he is finding new outlets for his passion, like running for council and helping out with the Junior Canadian Rangers.
Still, he’ll miss the ambulance.
“It is very much where I want to be,” he said.