Whynot Theatre interviews Morgan Jones Phillips about:
The Emergency Monologues
by Morgan Jones Phillips
Directed by Evalyn Parry
Presented by Drinking Well
Featuring Morgan Jones Phillips
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?” If you ask a paramedic, don’t be surprised when the answer doesn’t give you warm fuzzies. This hilarious and thought provoking piece of story telling is sure to make an impression as it tells the bizarre, ridiculous and true side of EMS.
Morgan Jones Phillips worked in theatre as an actor and director for more than 13 years when he suddenly decided to become a paramedic. He had been the Artistic Director of KYTES, which was a theatre and arts program working with street involved youth in Toronto. For the first time ever, Morgan is creating theatre about his own true-life experiences. After working as a Paramedic for 5 years he decided to bring those worlds together in The Emergency Monologues.
Over 60 story titles are written on a giant Wheel of Misfortune which is on stage. Every night will be a unique experience with different stories as Morgan spins the Wheel to decide which story is the next to be told.
1.) Were you a paramedic?
I’ve been a paramedic in Toronto for 4 years. I’ve worked all over the cityI presently work downtown at Richmond and Church. Before that I worked briefly as a Paramedic in Peterborough.
2.) What would you say is that hardest thing about performing a one man show?
Coordinating the schedules.
3.) What is the worst thing that someone told you that they had seen?
Bad things are part of the job and you’ll usually never hear about the worst thing that someone has ever seen. You’ll hear the worst thing that they don’t mind talking about, but the truly worst thing a medic has ever seen is saved for their therapist or some poor unfortunate bartender.
4.) What are you like in an emergency situation? how do you react to them?
The goal is to always stay calm. I do my best. If you get excited you’ll make stupid mistakes. I was so nervous in the beginning that I spent the first year trying to slow myself down and stay calm in an emergency. Then I found that I was a little too slow. I’d be like, “Is that guy breathing? Damn, I guess we should do something about that.” So then I tried to hype myself up a little. You try to find that balance between being energetic, but not hyper. Now I’m mostly just trying to stay awake.
5.) How many emergency room visits have you made and why?
I go into an Emergency Room about 6 times a day. The reasons vary from major trauma to old ladies that haven’t pooed in a week. A lot of the calls we do aren’t the big scary ones you see on the news. Most of our time is spent dealing with people that would be better served with a taxi chit.
6.) Are people who live and work in extreme situations extreme people?
Some are, some aren’t. I’m not very extreme. Its like any large group of people, you’ll have some real characters, but most are normal people.
7.) How do people who witness such traumatic experiences go on with their daily lives? how do they let the images go?
Everyone deals with things in their own way. The reality is that truly disturbing things are, thankfully, pretty rare. I’ve seen some pretty horrible stuff but nothing that has ever kept me up at night. Other medics have old me about calls and I wonder how they come back to work. Sometimes, they don’t. I’ve been lucky, but I know that call is out there just waiting for me. It’s an occupational risk and you take that chance. Some people have therapists, some turn to drugs and alcohol, others are stone hearted bastards. People have their own ways of coping.
8.) Have you ever saved anyone’s life? or been in a situation where a life needed to be saved?
I’ve been in lots of situations where a life needed saving. You just try your best using the skills you have. I don’t try to keep track of lives saved, because then you have to take responsibility for lives lost. Nobody wants to do that.
9.) Do you think that paramedics are heroes? how do you define a hero? Do they think of themselves as heroes?
I don’t think paramedics are heroes. We’re people doing a job that we chose and are trained to do. A hero is someone who acts outside of their comfort zone to do an act that is beyond what is expected of them. I’m just doing my job. If I didn’t I’d be fired. Nobody calls a pilot a hero because he lands a plane safely and everybody gets home alive. Or an architect that creates a building that doesn’t collapse. It’s expected of him or her.
10.) why does someone choose to be a paramedic? why do you dedicate your life to saving people in those critical moments?
Most of the job isn’t saving people in critical moments. People who get into the job thinking that it is all guts and glory will become very disillusioned and burn out quickly. People do it for all sorts of reasons. I was looking for steady work that wasn’t 9-5, had no routine to it and not a lot of supervision. I always liked medical things.
I also haven’t dedicated my life to it, only 48 hours a week, with a week off after every 5 weeks.
11.) What is it like to try to save someone’s life and fail? how does someone deal with that? What kind of pressure is that when trying to save someone’s life?
Rule #1 of being a paramedic is that ‘people die’. Rule #2 is that you can’t always change rule #1. When people die, you feel shitty but you tried your best. It’s a lot easier when you never knew the person. I rarely feel bad for the patient who dies. I feel bad for the living sometimes. Especially an old couple that have been married for most of their lives and then one of them dies. That triggers a bit of emotion for me for the one who has to go on alone. When a family member is watching I try to make sure they know that we’re doing everything we can. It’s a lot harder to deal with it when you fucked up and they die. That is hard. You generally keep it to yourself and never make that mistake again.