Gopher women's hockey goalie Sidney Peters traded in her skates for scrubs this summer. As an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Peters traveled to Haiti to volunteer her services earlier this summer. Participating with Project Medishare, Peters worked at Hospital Bernard Mevs, a trauma center in Haiti. Take a moment to read this question/answer session as Peters combines her professional career with a worthy cause, and adds great life perspective along the way.
Gophersports.com: When did you become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and how did you get started?
Sidney Peters: I became an EMT about a year ago and have been working for the University of Minnesota's Emergency Medical Services since then. My EMS team covers the collegiate (and NFL) sporting events on campus, as well as concerts, conventions, and graduations.
GS: You went to Haiti as a part of Project Medishare. For those of you who don't know, what is it and how did you get involved in it?
SP: Project Medishare is an American non-profit organization that strives to support and improve healthcare services in Haiti by donating human resources, technology, and medical supplies. As a volunteer with Project Medishare, I worked at Hospital Bernard Mevs, which is the country's only critical care and trauma hospital, as well as the only newborn and pediatric intensive care unit. I heard about Project Medishare from a few of the EMTs that I work with at the University of Minnesota who have been involved with it in the past.
GS: How long were you in Haiti and what were some of your responsibilities while you were there?
SP: I was in Haiti for eight days, and I spent the majority of my time in the emergency room and intensive care unit. I was responsible for backboarding and unloading all of the patients that were brought in by ambulance, as well as helping to stabilize and treat them once they were under our care. I splinted broken bones, dressed wounds, performed CPR, and even learned how to suture. The Haitians loved the fact that I was a girl and could keep up with the male EMTs when it was time to lift and carry patients. It was a very chaotic environment, so I just tried to make myself useful in every situation.
GS: Working now in both the United States and Haiti, how did an experience like this help you both personally and professionally?
SP: As an EMT, you often work with people on the worst day of their life. You are exposed to a lot of suffering and grief, and you learn what a "bad day" really is. My experience with emergency medicine has given me a lot of perspective, especially with hockey. I've come to learn that a bad day at the rink is typically still a pretty good day overall, and I have a lot to be thankful for, even when things aren't going my way on the ice. As corny as it sounds, every time I start to feel bitter or frustrated, I try to remind myself what a blessing it is just to be able to breathe adequately on my own, or to have the ability to walk around on my own two feet. My time as an EMT has also affected the way I treat the relationships in my life. Nobody leaves their house in the morning ready to get into a car accident or expecting to have a stroke, but unfortunately tragedies like these still happen every day. I want to make sure that my loved ones, including my teammates, know how much I care about them, and I want to be someone that they would want to have by their side on the worst day of their life.
Professionally, my experience as an EMT has taught me how to talk to and empathize with patients. Everyone handles pain in their own way, and as a healthcare professional you learn quickly that communication is a critical part of patient care. Depending on how you use them, your words can be a form of medicine or they can elicit even more fear and pain in your patient.
GS: What are your career goals and does this trip help you in that path?
SP: Ultimately, I would love to get into medical school and become a physician. This trip helped me pursue that career path by providing me with a lot of hands-on medical experience and an abundance of learning opportunities.
GS: If you could take away one thing from this experience, what would it be?
SP: If I could take one thing away from this experience, it would be the importance of living my life for others. It is incredibly tempting to be egocentric and self-serving, especially at times when you are uncomfortable or scared. My trip to Haiti was powerful, terrifying, and wonderful all at once because I had the chance to serve people who were even more uncomfortable and scared than I was. It takes courage not to run the other way when you encounter the pressure of being responsible for someone else's life, but it is the best feeling in the world knowing that you were there to take care of them when they couldn't take care of themself.
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