"...and that's how a picture is worth a million words!!! Amazing"
- Firefighter, Houston
"This is amazing!!Never stop doing such amazing art!!"
- Paramedic, Perth, Australia
"Your book was given to me as a gift for my birthday about a month ago. I was so excited to get through the pages to see more pics, but I was so overcome with emotions that I have tucked away for years and years , it took me almost 2 weeks to finish it. It is the most beautiful gift I have ever been given. The way you capture images shows so much intensity, so much emotion and feeling. You get right to the heart of why I do this job and love it, and hate it, so much. The raw emotion is almost too much at times, but I also needed this reminder of how much I really do love this job. I almost gave up and threw in he towel, but after reading your book I felt so refreshed to know someone understands how intense day to day can really be. I thank you, and am looking forward to your next book !!" - Jodi Beck, EMT
"I just retired from 30 years 'on the box'. Your pictures tell the story of my office like none I've ever seen before. Great Work. Thank You!"
- Paramedic, Birmingham, UK
"Every time i see one of your amazing works of art my stomach flips, after 30 years in EMS they bring back so many memories" - Paramedic, NYC
"This brought tears to my eyes! Your work is beautiful and amazing" - RN, Toronto
I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada June 19, 1967. I've been fortunate enough to live in several countries and experience many cultures from around the world. Travel....Music....Photography...Art, throw in a little Paramedic work and Firefighting for excitement and that's me.
I'm passionate about raising mental health awareness for first responders, many of these images are based on real calls I've attended over a 15 year career as a full time paramedic and firefighter. I put a lot of emotion in my work and as you look through these images you may connect with them if you're a fellow first responder. If you've never worked in emergency services then these images will give you a glimpse into our world.
Thanks for visiting my page and feel free to use the 'contact me' link above if you would like to get in touch.
All images © 2011-2017 DanSun PhotoArt
I often hear people say that suicide victims are cowardly and selfish “How could they do that to their families?” I’ve spoken with several first responders on the brink of suicide and I’ve also spoken with family and coworkers of those first responders who have ended their lives. This is what I’ve learned.
In one day I had a paramedic from England and a paramedic from New Jersey email me stating they wished for “the sweet life of suicide”. One of them told me it’s terrifying to contemplate suicide while not wanting to die. “I don’t want to leave my family but I feel there’s no other options for me”. Thankfully these two were reaching out for help but I think many don’t have the mental capacity to even know they’re in trouble. They are bombarded constantly by their demons and it only gets worse when they sleep. They need help but they’re too ashamed to ask for it, they feel they have only one option. I think a big step of getting out of that trap is to realize you’re not alone, don’t be ashamed for how you feel and seek help.
I have also heard from several family members and coworkers of suicide victims. Of this group it’s about 50/50 between anger and understanding. It’s my hope that this post pushes this group closer to understanding. PTSD changes the biology of the brain. After hearing from so many first responders who suffer from PTSD and are contemplating suicide I have no doubt they truly believe they have no other option.
There is a way back from what the military calls ‘a step sideways’. If you are reading this and you feel suicide is your only option then please call one of these numbers to receive the help you need –
USA 1-800- 273-8255
Australia 13 11 14
If you are not from one of these countries and know your national suicide help line then please add the country and number in the comments below.
Have a safe and healthy week everyone.
Most of us think about helping and treating the injured and never consider that it may be us that will need saving. I never thought about being saved by the ones we go into rescue until someone gave me the idea for this image.
Sometimes, I’m overcome with emotion…and I don’t know why.
Sometimes, I’m just so SAD…and I don’t know why.
Sometimes, I BURST into tears…and I don’t know why.
Sometimes, I get so ANGRY…and I don’t know why.
Sometimes, I just want to SCREAM!…and I don’t know why.
When did the comfort of everything will be okay evaporate into nothing?
Sometimes…I just don’t know why.
You’re not alone, reach out and get the help you need and deserve.
When I have people come to my gallery they sometimes ask me why some of my images are so graphic. This question is almost always asked by a non-first responder. They assume I’m adding the trauma and gore for a gratuitous effect.
I explain to them that this is the reality of our job. I explain to them that what they see in my work is what I actually saw on that call and in many cases it was much worse. If you are a non-first responder looking at this image imagine what this scene was like before this suicidal patient was sedated. Imagine the noise this patient made while trying to scream without a jaw, imagine trying to keep your shit together as a medic trying to save this persons life.
There’s nothing gratuitous about this image, this is what we see and this is what we do…and we love it.
I also wanted to create another image for my EMS sisters who kick ass in this job and who are just as good and in many cases better than some men I know doing this job.
Stay safe everyone.
The Grim Menace
I once had a dying patient ask me if I was death coming to take her away. I said, “No, I’m a paramedic, I’m here to help you”.
Despite our efforts she died a few minutes later in the back of our ambulance. I wonder if she thought I was death and I wonder if she felt I helped her anyway.
I always thought death was something we were trying to prevent or at least delay. On some tours it feels like I am death because that’s all we see…in some cases I’m sure death comes as a welcomed relief from the pain my patients are feeling. Sometimes it doesn't matter what we do, people just die.
Maybe death is more of a companion to paramedics rather than an enemy. Either way he’s eventually going to get his way.
Have a safe week everyone
Respectfully...and feeling a bit melancholy today,
My mind is always racing. I try to keep it controlled but I often find it’s on its own thinking about seemingly random things. A Buddhist monk would say I have a ‘Monkey Mind’. It’s not so bad except for when I sleep. At night it’s no longer restrained by my conscious mind and it’s allowed to run amok. I rarely sleep well and often when I wake I’m overcome with a feeling of dread. Luckily I can’t remember but know in the evening my brain was overflowing with nightmares.
I’ve been told a mind that never stops is a common symptom creative people share, is that it? Then why the nightmares? Could this be a result of 15 years working on the ambulance? I’m curious if any other paramedics, fire fighters or police officers have this problem.
This image shows an angel telling a paramedic to just relax, it’s going to be okay, I’ve got your back. Chill the f*** out!
I crave solitude
I crave a peaceful mind
I crave a good nights sleep
I crave silence and peace of mind
As a firefighter my biggest fear is dying in a burning building. We train how to breach walls and even jump out of windows to self rescue. So far 42 firefighters have died this year in the United States alone. Often a part of our training is to listen to the recordings of these events.
Recently I visited the dispatchers for the Edmonton Fire department. I never thought of what these dispatchers go through during these mayday events. In many communities these dispatchers are friends and family with the emergency workers they work with. They are the ones speaking with fallen police officers and firefighters during their last moments. They may not be on scene but managing communications during these events is crucial to a successful rescue.
This piece is for all the dispatchers who have managed a mayday event while at work. Thank you.
Stay safe brothers and sisters.
The False Okay
I’m feeling a bit dark today so if you’re in a good mood maybe just stop reading here, I don’t want to ruin your day.
When I was younger my older brother, who I love dearly, would put his hand an inch from my face and say, “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you”. It drove me crazy and he thought it was hilarious. It was all good fun and only lasted for seconds but the point is it was mental torture. I know there are people spending their days pretending everything is normal. They wake up with a pit in their stomach from a night of their brains running free while they sleep. They drag themselves out of bed and wonder how they’re going to make it through the day. They drive to work hoping nothing serious happens because they don’t know if they’ll be able to handle it. They make their way through the day faking it to everyone around them, pretending everything is okay while they are on the verge of losing it all. “How’s your day going?” “It’s great! how about you?” Do people really want to know how your day is going? What would happen if you really told them? If you’re reading this and thinking, how does he know exactly how I’m feeling? It’s because the way you’re feeling is not unique to you, many feel this way.
The trick is to realize you’re not alone and to get help. This isn’t something you have it’s something that happened to you. Rid your demon before it rids you. Call 1 888 288 8036 or 1-206 459 3020 to get help now. If you’re reading this and thinking, this guy is a loser and really shouldn't be a paramedic, I feel totally fine and I’ve never felt that way. Know that you have coworkers that are probably not okay and watch for them. You don’t want to find your partner dead in the ambulance from an overdose and tell yourself you had no idea he was sick. Here’s a link to some information and ways to recognize and help a coworker you may think is suffering from a mental health issue.
There are many of you that may think I’m sensationalizing PTSD and only mention the dark side of EMS. Many more of you are believers in the negative stigma when it comes to mental health among emergency workers. “You knew what you were getting yourself into, get back to work!” “If you can’t handle it do something else” Well, here’s something for you to ponder. This year in Canada 14 paramedics, 2 firefighters, 1 corrections officer, 9 police officers and 5 military personnel have taken their lives. According to Stats Canada 11.5 per 100,000 people in the general population commit suicide. For Paramedics in 2015 it was 47.16 per 100,00 people. I’m trying to raise awareness so that someone who feels like the medic in this image realizes they’re not alone and hopefully decides not to fill their veins with narcotics and sleep forever.
Getting back to my brother’s “I’m not touching you” game, image something doing that to you for years and never quitting. No matter what you did you couldn’t make it stop and the torture only intensified when you slept. How many years could you handle it? what options would you think you had to make it stop? The answer is to call a friend and have them beat the shit out of this mind game. Have a safe week everyone. Take care of yourself and your fellow coworkers.
We recently worked a cardiac arrest where a woman collapsed while enjoying a dinner her husband of 50 years prepared for her. When we arrived he was doing CPR on her in the middle of the kitchen floor while following the instructions given to him on the phone by the dispatcher. Other family members were in the living room in a state of unbelief and worry, they greeted us with such relief. People seem to think when we arrive we’re going to save the day and everything will be okay.
While trying to resuscitate this woman her husband was stepping over us to clear the dinner table and began washing the dishes. I could see in his face that he knew his wife was gone yet he continued on as if it hadn’t happened, he even offered me some dinner while I was trying to locate her vocal chords with my laryngoscope to intubate her. He then started to show us their wedding pictures while we were in the middle of performing CPR, starting a second line and pushing our meds.
The mind is an amazing defence mechanism. This poor man knew what the outcome would be yet he continued on as if this was a regular occurrence in his home. We tried to resuscitate his wife and worked through every protocol we had but it was pointless, it was just her time, her initial rhythm was asystole and it never changed.
I sat him down in another room and explained to him that despite our best efforts his wife was dead, one of the worst parts of my job. Thankfully our Victim Services unit arrived and took over care for the family. We packed up our things, cleaned up our garbage and returned to our station. Just another routine cardiac arrest for us but a life changing and horrific evening for that family and that poor man.
Have a good and safe week everyone. For all of you who will have to tell someone their family member has died this week know that myself and 80% of the people who have seen this post have been there and you’re not alone, we’re with you.
Respectfully your brother,
Where I’m from the average career span for a paramedic is 7 years. At that point we usually move on to something else in a similar field or take advantage of the many doors that have opened up for us. Many of us just quit and move onto something completely different. I’ve been a paramedic for 14 years and looking back on my time I’ve noticed I’ve gone through distinct stages as I’ve moved through the years.
As a new graduate medic I had a huge sense of accomplishment and along with that came an arrogant sense of superiority. That quickly vanished after a few hot calls where I had no idea what to do, this is where I learned to appreciate an experienced EMT partner, they've saved my butt sever times. For the next two years I lived in a state of fear as I cringed every time the tones went off. Eventually by years 3 – 7 I felt comfortable in my responsibilities of being the paramedic on my ambulance.
After year 7 even hot calls became mundane and it seemed nothing could get me excited about my job anymore. As the years went by my ‘know it all’ attitude began being replaced with ‘the more you know the more you realize you don’t know’ mindset. The tragedy and hardship started building up to point where I fear I’m on the doorstep of becoming an old burned out medic.
My question to all the EMT’s and Medics who have over 15 – 20 years under their belt is what happens now? How did you get past the burned out stage of this job. How do you still recognize the fun and excitement after doing this for so many years? I would really like to know.
Have a safe week everyone.
End of Watch 132
132 police officers in Canada and the United States gave their lives while protecting their communities in 2015. This art piece is for the fallen and their families who have also sacrificed in their loss. Stay safe my brothers and sisters in blue.
Just before I created this piece I checked how many firefighters had died in the line of duty in the United States and Canada this year. I'm sad to say it's 81, 78 in USA and 3 in Canada. It's hard to get an accurate number, I decided on 81 after looking at several sights and I went with the most common numbers. Please comment if these figures are not accurate. This one is for the 81 Fallen and their families who will be spending the holiday season for the first time without them. Stay safe brothers and sisters.
Christopher A. Tindall South Metropolitan Fire Protection District Raymore, Missouri Jan 8, 2015 Franck W. Tremaine Jackson Fire Department Jackson, California Jan 10, 2015 Leslie “Les” W. Fryman Rosendale Volunteer Fire Department Rosendale, Wisconsin Jan 21, 2015 Ronnie W. Peek Garden City Fire Department Garden City, Kansas Jan 22, 2015 Clifford “Cliff” Sanders Caney Volunteer Fire Department Caney, Kansas Jan 29, 2015 Mike “Coop” Cooper Centerville Fire Department Centerville, Iowa Jan 31, 2015 Charlie V. Wallace Montgomery Volunteer Fire Department Montgomery, New York Feb 3, 2015 Kenneth Lehr Medora Community Fire Protection District Medora, Illinois Feb 5, 2015 Garry Rose McMechen Volunteer Fire Department McMechen, West Virginia Feb 6, 2015 Randy Parker Macon-Bibb County Fire Department Macon, Georgia Feb 11, 2015 Kenneth M. Stanton Sandy Springs Fire Department Pendleton, South Carolina Feb 15, 2015 Randy Hiti Rice Lake Fire Department Duluth, Minnesota Feb 18, 2015 Dwight W. Bazile Houston Fire Department Houston, Texas Feb 21, 2015 Edward J. Roddy Somerset Volunteer Fire Department Somerset, Pennsylvania Feb 22, 2015 Jerold “Jerry” Bonner CAL FIRE Sacramento, California Mar 6, 2015 Gallant, Mike Captain Miscouche, Prince Edward Island (PEI) 2015 - May 14 Smyth, Brian Firefighter Columbia Valley, British Columbia (BC) 2015 - March 7 Crawford, William D. Firefighter Toronto, Ontario (ON) 2015 - March 2Jeffrey S. Buck Lawrence Township Volunteer Fire Company #1 - Clearfield County Station #5 Clearfield, Pennsylvania Mar 9, 2015 Billy R. Jarvis Allen Fire Department Allen, Kentucky Mar 10, 2015 John L. Shout Ashland Volunteer Fire Department Ashland, Mississippi Mar 15, 2015 Daryl Gordon Cincinnati Fire Department Cincinnati, Ohio Mar 26, 2015 Barry Van Horn Somerville Fire Department - West End Hose Company #3 Somerville, New Jersey Mar 27, 2015 Steve Cobb United States Forest Service - National Forests in Mississippi Jackson, Mississippi Mar 30, 2015 Brandon Ricks United States Forest Service - National Forests in Mississippi Jackson, Mississippi Mar 30, 2015 John J. Doster Edgely Fire Company #1, Inc. Levittown, Pennsylvania Apr 2, 2015 Steven Ackerman Valley Springs Fire & Rescue Valley Springs, South Dakota Apr 12, 2015 Raymond Araujo CAL FIRE Sacramento, California Apr 13, 2015 Andrew “Andy” Zalme Dakota City Fire Department Dakota City, Nebraska Apr 16, 2015 Curtis E. Nordsick Wrightsville Steam Engine & Hose Company #1 Wrightsville, Pennsylvania Apr 19, 2015 Mike Corn Conway Springs Fire Department Conway Springs, Kansas Apr 27, 2015 Timothy T. Peters Pine Grove Hose, Hook and Ladder Fire Co. No. 1 Pine Grove, Pennsylvania Apr 30, 2015 Christopher M. Blankenship Madison County Fire Department Jackson, Tennessee May 3, 2015 Larry W. Lawhorn Orchard Farm Fire Protection District St. Charles, Missouri May 3, 2015 Ricky Thurman Swainsboro Fire Department Swainsboro, Georgia May 4, 2015 Timothy Gunther Poughkeepsie Fire Department Poughkeepsie, New York May 5, 2015 Dwight Greer Philadelphia Fire Department Philadelphia, Mississippi May 6, 2015 Kevin McRae Washington DC Fire Department Washington, District of Columbia May 6, 2015 David Bourget Phippsburg Fire Department Phippsburg, Maine May 23, 2015 Jason Farley Claremore Fire Department Claremore, Oklahoma May 24, 2015 Terrance M. Pryor Memphis Fire Department Memphis, Tennessee May 25, 2015 Dale J. Wege Pine Lake Volunteer Fire Department Rhinelander, Wisconsin Jun 1, 2015 James “Donnie” D. Keith Mount Zion Fire & Rescue Jasper, Alabama Jun 3, 2015 Thomas. D. Miserendino Beachwood Vol. Fire Company #1 Beachwood, New Jersey Jun 4, 2015 David Knapke Williamsburg Township Emergency Services Williamsburg, Ohio Jun 5, 2015 Ian Haxton Student Conservation Association - Veteran Fire Corps Arlington, Virginia Jun 6, 2015 Wille O. Sensenich North Huntingdon Township Circleville Volunteer Fire Department Station #8 North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania Jun 9, 2015 Terry K. Sonner Boise District Bureau of Land Management Boise, Idaho Jun 10, 2015 Michael P. Miller Green Bay Metro Fire Department Green Bay, Wisconsin Jun 20, 2015 John Whelan Denver Fire Department Denver, Colorado Jul 15, 2015 Tyron Weston Columbia Fire Department Columbia, South Carolina Jul 26, 2015 James A. Hicks North Carolina Air National Guard Fire and Emergency Services Charlotte, North Carolina Jul 27, 2015 David “Dave” Ruhl Big Valley Ranger District of the Modoc National Forest Alturas, California Jul 30, 2015 Michael “Mike” Hallenbeck U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit South Lake Tahoe, California Aug 8, 2015 James “JD” D. Robinson Brasstown Fire Department West Brasstown, North Carolina Aug 14, 2015 Christopher J. Daniels Pine Level Volunteer Fire Department Pine Level, North Carolina Aug 17, 2015 Richard Wheeler Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Wenatchee, Washington Aug 19, 2015 Andrew Zajac Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Wenatchee, Washington Aug 19, 2015 Tom Zbyszewski Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Wenatchee, Washington Aug 19, 2015 Lawrence G. Sesso Sayville Fire Department Sayville, New York Aug 22, 2015 Chris Phillips Locke Township Fire Department Salisbury, North Carolina Aug 27, 2015 Shane Clifton Saint Paul Fire Department Saint Paul, Minnesota Aug 31, 2015 Dennis Rodeman Lansing Fire Department Lansing, Michigan Sep 9, 2015 Daniel E. Hampton Burnet Fire Department Burnet, Texas Sep 18, 2015 Sean M. Benson Paramus Fire Department Paramus, New Jersey Sep 23, 2015 Barry Miller Bergen Fire Department Bergen, New York Sep 23, 2015 Stuart Hardy Burton Fire District Beaufort, South Carolina Sep 24, 2015 Richard L. Crosby Casnovia Township Fire Department Bailey, Michigan Sep 26, 2015 Antonio Smith Memphis Fire Department Memphis, Tennessee Oct 7, 2015 Larry J. Leggio Kansas City (Missouri) Fire Department Kansas City, Missouri Oct 12, 2015 John V. Mesh Kansas City (Missouri) Fire Department Kansas City, Missouri Oct 12, 2015 Charles “Chuck” Horning Townsend Township Fire Department Collins, Ohio Oct 13, 2015 Gerald “Bear” Celecki South Amboy Fire Department South Amboy, New Jersey Oct 14, 2015 Larry O'Neil Lone Camp Fire Department Palo Pinto, Texas Oct 25, 2015 Thomas J. Kolarick Protection Fire Company #1 Keasbey, New Jersey Nov 11, 2015 Vince Smith City of Detroit Fire Department Detroit, Michigan Nov 19, 2015 Walter Szelag City of Detroit Fire Department Detroit, Michigan Nov 20, 2015 Terry “TC” Culver Calvert City Fire Department Calvert City, Kentucky Nov 24, 2015 Scott Carroll City of Oxnard Fire Department Oxnard, California Nov 30, 2015 Mark Zielinski Matteson Fire Department Matteson, Illinois Dec 4, 2015 Zachary C. Clevenger Estill County Fire Department Irvine, Kentucky Dec 5, 2015
Portraits of an Emergency - Art Book
Portraits of an Emergency
This art book is a collection of images created by firefighter, paramedic, and artist Daniel Sundahl. The creation of these images provides a rare insight to the mental toll faced in the world of emergency services. Many of these images originate from real emergencies attended by the artist, and help serve as a creative outlet in processing the terrible scenes he has witnessed. Book design is by the artist with emphasis on a visual experience for the reader.
DanSun Photo Art Scholarship Fund
A portion of the proceeds from this book will be used to create a scholarship fund to help send people to the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation's annual congress. At this congress the attendees will attend presentations on critical incident stress management and learn ways to best deal with these events for themselves and their fellow coworkers.
Click here for more images and to order your copy
We are really lucky where I work to have a supportive Chief. If we have a rough call we're off for the rest of the shift and we are debriefed by people trained to deal with stress management for people like us. I feel my mental health is important to my employers.
The same can't be said for many other organizations. One paramedic was told there would be dire consequences if he or any other paramedic in this large city had work done by me. I have been banned by this city because they feel my art work would portray their service in a negative way. Get your head out of the sand people, my artwork has nothing to do with it. Your staff are killing themselves at alarming rates because they're not getting the help they need. Hiding from the problem isn't going to make it go away. There's more important things then unit utilization times and billing.
This has inspired me to start a scholarship with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. This organization has several training events where first responders can learn more about critical stress and how to deal with it. I'll be funding this scholarship from the sales of my upcoming art book. I'm hoping this scholarship will allow first responders from these close minded employers to attend these sessions, all expenses paid, so they can get the help they need and pass it along to their crew mates. I'm glad I've been banned from this city, because of it I continue to do artwork for my brothers and sisters there for free and it has lead me to create this scholarship. PTSD and mental health problems are not going away, closed minded services will just make it worse.
This image isn't from the city I'm banned from. This scene is from a community close to where I live, they are very supportive of my work.
Stay safe brothers and sisters DanSun
Bodybag Some of things we have to do as Paramedics is pretty crazy. Sometimes the treatment is more disturbing than the actual accident. Drilling an IO into a leg to get access, cutting a throat to place an airway or sticking the chest deep with needles to decompress air are just a few of things I’m sure medics of the future will think are barbaric.
Doing CPR with your hands in a pool of blood because no matter how much you suction, blood just keeps coming out of the ET tube and spilling everywhere. It’s weird to do that to another body, in my experience most of these cases don’t have a happy ending…so why do it? Why put myself through that? I guess there is a chance it could help. I wonder how many of us are haunted by the futile and invasive treatments we’ve provided to already lifeless corpses.
Stay safe everyone. DanSun
I’ve been in a few scary situations while working. Almost getting hit by a truck on the highway, getting caught in a house fire, flipping the ambulance and dealing with really dangerous patients. I’ve often wondered if I was just lucky or if I had someone or something looking out for me. St. Michael is the Patron Saint for police officers and St. Florian is the Patron Saint for firefighters. Even accountants have St. Matthew to look out for them. Some believe it’s relatives who have passed looking out for them or some feel it is just luck. Which ever you believe there’s no doubt that many first responders have wondered how they survived certain situations. I would love to hear your story and what or who you believe is looking out for you.
Stay safe brothers and sisters.
When the call is over I'm usually pretty wired, especially if we had a save. It's disheartening to walk back to the truck after your paperwork and handoff report is done and have to look at this. The part that hits me is once we get this all cleaned up we may be doing it again right away...or we may be going for a routine, non emerge transfer.
I love this job, I know in many of my pieces I'm showing the sadder or more negative sides but I do that to raise PTSD and mental health awareness. As dreary as this image looks I get excited looking at it. What bigger rush is there than to be trying to save a life.
Stay safe everyone.