The slightly darker side to adventurous travel.
I have mentioned in previous posts that I had a six year career in the travel industry. Needless to say I adored this job. So you may be wondering why I gave this job up. For many years during my job as a travel broker, I had a deep desire to become a Paramedic. The more I looked into it, the more I realised I wanted to help people, be out and about and have a job that throws me a new challenge every day. Travel did this to an extent, but it was different. I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes to be a Paramedic. I knew nothing of medicine or healthcare and had not even witnessed an emergency before.
I was in a travel job that I simply adored. I worked hard and played hard. I was on an aeroplane every 5 weeks either on an educational or prize trip. I was then offered a job to train as a Paramedic with London Ambulance service, the biggest in the world! The decision I had to make seemed like the hardest of my life, at the time. A week later I set off on a work trip to Miami and the Bahamas as I had won first place in a sales competition. (I miss those days!)
I was sharing a room with a female colleague who I confided in about my dilemma. I didn’t want to leave the job I loved so much, travel is my whole world. But the Paramedic training was something I felt I needed to do.
The following day, I decided to head out on a snorkelling trip with my colleague / friend, in the beautiful, clear shallows of the Bahamas. There was a Latin American group on our snorkelling boat too which consisted of young families, teenage children and what I assumed to be the ‘grandmother’. One by one, we all grabbed our snorkelling gear and slipped into the lush water, the only thing you could see above water was the boat and some 15 metres away was a rock wall. I dunked my head and couldn’t see many fish and figured the boat and hoards of people were scaring them away so I decided to swim further away from the boat. The fish here were beyond beautiful. So many colours and lights – amazing! It was at this moment that the light and colours became dark. Was it really what I could see? A still, motionless body, floating under the water. It looked like a young male in shorts. All I could see was the back of the body and it was floating near the rocks, fairly far away from the boat. I have never swam as fast as I did swimming towards the body. I shouted to the people on the boat for help. What they replied made me feel sick. ‘Nana!’ ‘Nana!’ The screams were repeating. At that moment I realised the body was the elderly grandmother that had been on the boat. I reached her and pulled her out of the water. I was clinging on to the rocks with my feet just to keep some momentum to hold her above water. Her lips were blue, her face pale. At this point, one of the young males from the group had swam over to the rocks. Together, we jointly held her head above water and performed the heimlich manoeuvre to get the water out of her lungs. I didn’t know what I was doing to be honest but just used common sense to try to save her. At this point the guides on our boat had called a speedboat over with a lifeboard which they threw into the water. I helped to lift her onto it and later saw she was being administered Oxygen, but still unresponsive. The boat returned to the dock so she could be taken to hospital.
By the time we returned, she was standing up by herself and actually looked straight at me. In that one moment, my life had changed. I had blood all by feet and realised I had actually lost one of my toenails whilst clambering about on the rocks to save her… But I didn’t care one bit.
The day I returned from this trip, I handed in my notice to my employer and accepted the job with the ambulance service. They say things happen for a reason and I think this was one of those inexplainable events. I have never looked back in my current job as an EMT, but I make sure I still travel frequently and writing this blog helps keep my passion alive.