In 2011, when I moved to New Mexico, I never thought I’d find a new vocation—I was a writer and my husband and I wanted to build a sustainable house and get off the grid. However, with it being 100 miles to the nearest hospital, I figured it was time to pick up better medical knowledge than stick a Band-Aid on it or give aspirin. We joined the local fire department as volunteers, and I started EMT training. And I loved it.
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) play a specific role in bad situations—it’s their job to get someone who is hurt or suffering to definitive care. In other words, EMTs are trained not to make it worse, and have a few tools to help keep someone alive on the trip to a hospital. In the US, EMTs come in several levels, and a lot of them are unpaid volunteers. EMTs may be attached to, or be part of, the fire department. But this depends on how the departments are organized, and varies by state. While there is currently national US certification, all EMTs must be licensed within a specific state.
Being an EMT has taught me that not only do the movies get it all wrong, there is also often more drama in getting it right in a story.
In fiction, we often go for the hero (or heroine) who is shot, stabbed, or who otherwise faces a life threat that tests that person to the limits. However, damage is damage, and usually leaves permanent physical disabilities. But every situation is different—one person will survive a sixty-foot fall, while another dies from a tumble off a six-foot ladder. One person survives six shots, while another dies of one hit—it matters what gets hit inside of the body and how soon does that person gets to care. Because every situation is different, you want to research how likely is your scenario.
In the Wounds & Warriors workshop, we’re going to go over a lot of different information—and you’ll have a chance to ask about specific situations, including how your protagonist might care for himself or herself after something bad happens. But it’s good to know a few basics:
- A person can bleed out quickly. The average person has about five liters of blood—loosing even one liter (one large soda bottle) of blood is bad. Confusion and weakness sets in. That person the bleeding to stop and fluids to be put back in.
- Head traumas are dangerous—some of the most dangerous ones are those where the person feels fine but was unconscious. This can mean there is an internal bleed and that could kill within forty-eight hours.
- Almost everything causes nausea—hit on the head, you wake up throwing up or wanting to throw up. Getting shot—your body tries to dump the stomach so it can focus on other things. This is never pretty and so gets skipped over in most fiction.
- One issue can hide another—and people aren’t always honest about what is the real problem. As Dr. House said, “Everyone lies.” And not always intentionally. Sometimes folks just forget, and this is particularly true when stressed.
- Children are not small adults—their bodies can’t compensate as well, so when they use up their physical resources, they’re going to crash fast. A sick kid is often a critical kid.
- Extreme heat and extreme cold are deadly elements—and any injury makes them even more so. If you want to add more tension to a scene, use the weather.
- CPR can and does save lives. Even more importantly it can mean the difference between someone coming back fully functional or with permanent damage. But a lot of folks are afraid to dive in and help—it take training to make sure you just do what you’ve trained to do.
Ultimately, you want to know what’s plausible for your situation—even if you’re writing about vampires and werewolves, know the rules so you can know how you can break them. Research your injuries before you write them and never assume. You’ll be able to get away from the cliché of that flesh wound in the shoulder that the protagonist survives or the knife fight that somehow ends up with no one disfigured or permantly damaged.
Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a nomination for Romance Writer’s of America’s RITA award, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.” In addition to her Regency romances, she is the author of the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burn and Riding in on a Burning Tire, and the SF/Paranormal, Edge Walkers. Her work has been on the top seller list of Amazon.com and includes the Historical romances, The Cardros Ruby and Paths of Desire.
She is also an EMT in New Mexico and a volunteer Firefighter. Shannon can be found online at shannondonnelly.com, facebook.com/sdwriter, and twitter/sdwriter.
Book 2 in the Regency Ladies in Distress series
Can an English lady find love and common ground with a French soldier?
In Paris of 1814, as a Bourbon king again takes the throne, the Black Cabinet—a shadowy group of agents employed by the British—is sent to unmask dangerous men and stop assassinations. When Diana, Lady Chauncey—known as Lady Chance—is recruited by her cousin to use her skill at cards to help him delve into these plots, she meets up with a man she thought dead.
Diana finds herself swept into adventure and intrigue, and once again into the arms of the French officer she tangled with ten years ago. But she is no longer an impulsive girl, and he may not be the man she once thought was honorable and good.
After the recent defeat of his country, Giles Taliaris wants nothing more than a return to his family’s vineyards in Burgundy. But his younger brother seems involved in dangerous plots to return France to a republic. To get his family through these troubles, Giles can only tread warily. When he again meets meet the English girl he once knew and thought lost to him, he finds himself torn between duty and desire. Can he find his way through this tangle—and if he does, how can he convince his Diana to give up everything for him?