Maddie Marie Shively is a paramedic whose song about what it means to be an “ambulance driver” went viral on social media. We recently chatted with Maddie to learn more about her life as a paramedic and how music helps her cope during stressful times on the job. Read on.
First off, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into your current career.
Maddie Shively: It’s my pleasure to speak with you. I’m 23 years old and have been a Medic for almost two years now—so I’m still in the growing stages of my career. I was originally an actress in Los Angeles, and after spending two years in just a very superficial and rigorous industry, I decided I didn’t want to live for just myself. I moved back to Arizona, where my family lived, and started EMT school. I loved it so much I went straight into medic school. This is definitely where I’m supposed to be and I’m glad I left Los Angeles.
Had you always dreamed of working in the EMS industry and what has been some of your biggest challenges and most rewarding experiences in the field.
Maddie Shively: As a kid, I had always dreamed of being an actress. I never thought EMS was the field for me, even though my mother was an EMT when she was younger. I didn’t think I was smart enough or strong enough. Then one day I broke my humerus in half and had to call 911. I couldn’t sit up without blacking out and I had no way of getting to the hospital. The EMS crews were amazing and helped me stay calm. They made me laugh whilst in the worst pain of my life, and more than that, they truly cared about me. That’s when I was like, ‘Yeah, I got to do that.’ I still had doubts about my ability to handle stress but the minute I entered the field I realized I was a lot stronger than I had originally thought. From my first code, to delivering a stillborn on a bathroom floor, to helping a little girl with the same humerus injury I had had, I realized I could be there for others just like the day I had an emergency. And what was even better was, I realized I was good at it. I have been so blessed to be in this industry.
How long have you been a musician and how did you get into doing that?
Maddie Shively: I’ve played guitar and ukulele for about 9 years and have sung in musical theater since I was a kid. My brother is an amazing musician and growing up, I loved listening to him play. So one day, he let me borrow one of his guitars and I went into my room and taught myself using Google. He helped me with chords that were hard and for Christmas one year, my late grandparents bought me a smaller guitar of my own that I could play with my little hands.
Your song that you described as a way to show people what “ambulance drivers” actually do went viral. Tell us how that song came about and how did you feel about all the attention it received?
Maddie Shively: The way the song came about is pretty random. I brought my ukulele to work one day and started playing and singing. I was trying to entertain my partner and make her laugh with the first couple of lines written on the spot as a joke. My partner then encouraged me to finish the song; so I did. I never intended to post it but my partner and best friend would not stop bugging me about it.
Finally, I let my best friend Savannah record it (you can hear her say “yay!” at the end of the video) and posted it to my co-worker’s social page. My co-workers then started sharing it and it went everywhere! I was getting messages from people in Italy and England—basically all over. It was unreal. I still can’t believe so many people have seen it or that I’m even being interviewed. However, I’m super glad the message of the song was so well received.
Music is a huge coping mechanism for me. My partner and I both bring our instruments to work and jam when we have down time. After a particularly tough call, we will turn on music to help grieve for a loss we witnessed or to pump us up for the next call. Only music can do that! So yeah, I’d say it’s a big part of my life and my career.
What do you enjoy most about your job and do you think music helps you express some of that?
Maddie Shively: The number one thing I enjoy about my job is getting to be there with someone on their worst day and being the hands that help. I am a believer in God and anytime I get to be his hands and feet, I am ecstatic. I think with that being my favorite thing—it’s also my least favorite. I hate that there is so much suffering in this world. I hate that there is even a need for me. I desperately wish my job was obsolete—but it’s not. So if I get to be the one to hold someone’s hand and help them—that’s a darn good day to me.
What advice do you have for people looking to become a paramedic or get into the EMS industry?
Maddie Shively: To those wanting to go into Emergency Medicine, the number one thing I would advise is to have a solid foundation of people in your life. Someone you can call at 3 AM when a call goes south or someone who you can cry with. You have to have an outlet that gets you through the day—for me it’s music while for my partner, it’s hiking. Everyone has something in their life that they can express themselves through—find that thing and hold onto it. And also, know that it’s okay when a call makes you sad. That means your human and being human in this industry is a good thing because it means you still care! So cry if you need to but make sure you get back up and go again.