By Tara Hill, Paramedic
Kansas City MO Fire Department, Station 39
I have worked in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) as a paramedic for almost 20 years and with the Kansas City, Missouri Fire Department for 8 years. It is a position that requires alternating 24-hour shifts. Both I and my husband, Geoff, who is a firefighter, work 24-hour shifts. We have four daughters ranging from age 2 to 12 who have grown up with our non-traditional work schedules and have adjusted well. Family time is a premium, so we treasure every moment together. Our schedules in any given week are complicated, not to mention holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
The first year Geoff and I were married, he was scheduled to work Christmas day. My family had moved out of state the previous year, and it was my first Christmas without them. Geoff and I celebrated with his family on Christmas Eve, so I thought I would be fine by myself on Christmas day. I was wrong. I spent the day alone and crying. Since then, we have made Christmas day the one holiday that we prioritize every year. He generally schedules a vacation day, and I trade with other medics who choose a different holiday priority (e.g., Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve).
We celebrate Christmas Eve with my husband’s family if he is on duty that day. I get the girls dressed up to visit their dad at the station. We also take homemade treats for the fire crew. Then we head to my mother-in-law’s house to exchange gifts. Once we are home, they snuggle in their jammies for an annual storytelling of “The Night Before Christmas.” We leave milk and cookies out for Santa, then it’s off to bed. My husband arranges for someone to relieve him early, so he can try to get home before the girls wake up. It takes some planning, but it is worth every minute that we get to spend together.
The Easter Bunny doesn’t always deliver baskets and get into our flower pot every Easter Sunday. Sometimes the Fourth of July is a two-day celebration. Thanksgiving doesn’t always fall on a Thursday, and we often ring in the New Year via video chat. I have learned that most holidays are not tied to a specific date and that the occasion of bringing the family together and celebrating is just as special the day before, or sometimes two days after.
We love our work and our community, realizing that on any given day we will be called on to rescue or help someone who also has family that cares about them. We are glad to be of service.
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