Adrien Sutherland enjoys using his paramedic skills to help people who are in a medical emergency.
April 29, 2010: Volume 37 #9, Page B13
“It is gratifying knowing you have helped somebody that is in need or distress or has been injured,” Sutherland said, explaining he is not looking for thanks when helping others. “I don’t think there is a paramedic who is out there that will say we do it because we want to get appreciated. We initially want to do it because we enjoy helping people.”
The Attawapiskat band member began his paramedic career as a volunteer in his own community in 1998 before enrolling into a two-year paramedic program at Northern College in Timmins the following year.
“I graduated with honours and I came back into the community and worked for my community right away,” Sutherland said. “At the time the market for paramedics was really big – you could literally walk into a job anywhere you wanted to anywhere in the province. I had offers come in before I even had my provincial certification.”
Sutherland turned down opportunities to work in Toronto or Ottawa at the time because he wanted to work for his own people in his home community.
During the mid-2000s, Sutherland moved to Alberta to pursue his career in the Yellowhead corridor near Jasper.
“I also worked in northern Alberta for a reserve,” Sutherland said, explaining he needed to qualify for the Alberta provincial certification to work in that province. “I served all the northern reserves. We were doing a lot of OB calls, obstetrics.”
Although Sutherland didn’t have to deliver a baby while on call, he said many of his colleagues did.
“We are definitely a different breed of people,” Sutherland said. “It is not an easy job to do by far. It is very challenging and emotionally it can be a burden as well depending on what kind of things you are dealing with or seeing. In the smaller centres it is more of a relationship with the community.”
After focusing on other career options over the past three years, including music and the resource business, Sutherland is now looking forward to returning to work at James Bay Ambulance Service in his home community.
“It is a busy little service considering Attawapiskat’s population is about 1,700,” Sutherland said. “It’s mainly transfers, medical (calls), and we get our share of traumas.”
While Sutherland grew up in Attawapiskat and knows just about everyone in the community, his biggest challenge is that people expect him to speak Cree while attending to them.
“Naturally people want to speak Cree to me when they see me walk in,” Sutherland said. “I’m fluent in Cree, it’s not a problem for me to speak Cree, but to try and communicate in the Cree language with medical terminology is not as easy because there are a lot of words that are not there.”
Sutherland also finds it difficult from time to time when he is called on to help a member of his family.
“If there is family it can be emotionally stressful for me,” Sutherland said. “What I try and prefer to do is to have my partner attend any family and I do the driving. But it doesn’t always work out that way.”
I grew up in my home community of Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast and there were a lot of challenges living in the far north.
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