12 June 2023
I’ve spent a bit part of my life working and teaching in the field of emergency health care.  This day I was teaching a particular course that has a well earned reputation for being very intense. The subjects are complex, time is short and patients lives are at stake. I had a student in the class who was younger than most, but very  quiet and reserved. Each day students would scatter like ants when I released them for lunch. One day I saw Donovan sitting alone in an unoccupied classroom with the lights off. He was hunched over an old leather bound book by the light of a window. He appeared to be writing or drawing. I quietly entered and asked if everything was ok. He looked up and smiled, offering to show me what he was working on. The old book with its well worn pages, was a collection of varied and beautiful pencil sketches. He explained that in times of stress or pressure, he likes to sketch. He explained that his art helps him to focus and clear his mind for the demands ahead.
The circumstances that paramedics, ER nurses and physicians face each day, take their toll, and for many the cumulative effect over time becomes too much. There are so many in this field that have walked away from their career or been driven to self destruction and even suicide due to the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’ve somehow escaped that same fate, due in no small part to my own “art”. There were many times when I would come home from work, numb from the stress and long hours demanding everything I have till there was nothing left. I would often grab my camera (my art) and just go shoot photos .. any photos …the subject didn’t matter. Looking through the viewfinder and composing my shot, gave me a brief respite from the stresses of my work. In short order I returned back to the real world and put my camera back in its closet. Nothing had really changed, but that brief interlude gave me a much needed break. It calmed my thoughts and helped me to focus and clear my mind to face another day.
As I watched Donavan sketch, I put my hand on his shoulder and told him “Never let that go! It’s your life preserver that will keep you afloat through the rough times”. I asked if he would mind if I shot a quick portrait to remember that moment. He said “sure” and quietly returned to his book. I shot this single frame and left him to his peace.
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