Christy Warren ’17 Busi.
She Writes Press: 2023
Nineteen-year-old Christy Warren is working for a private ambulance company when she responds to a crash. Two boys are trapped inside a car, along with the body of their mother.
For the next 25 years, the smell of sun-warmed asphalt reminds her of that particular scene, described in the prologue of her new memoir in just enough detail—the dead mother’s hair brushing against her arm, the sounds of her young sons’ screams.
This intensely honest, heart-wrenching, and hopeful read is dedicated to “all the rescuers who have worn blood and endured the screams of those they serve.”
Warren’s approachable, highly personal, and compelling account of working as a paramedic and firefighter portrays a tough, stubborn, and skilled first responder who thrives on adrenaline, physical challenges, and proving herself in a mostly male environment—until the nightmares start.
She’s 44 when the compartmentalizing she’s been doing for decades no longer works as a coping mechanism for the more gruesome and stressful aspects of her job. “I had reached a tipping point,” she writes. “I had to figure out what the hell was going on and fix it.”
Warren details the grit and determination it takes to become a fire captain in Berkeley, California, and to learn to live with post-traumatic stress disorder. She tells her story matter-of-factly, writing realistically and clearly about her professional and personal journey. It’s a story for first responders as well as those with an interest in or struggles with PTSD—or who just need a reminder to take care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Divided into three parts, her book documents her career, her unraveling, and her recovery. She replies to a help-wanted ad in college, and soon she’s working full-time as an EMT while going to class part-time—until she quits going to class. “I was so excited to wear the dark-blue, polyester, gas-station pants,” she writes. “I wore them all day like a superhero’s cape.”
Warren describes going to gory scenes day in, day out, year in, year out—then heading off to lunch with her crew and increasingly turning to alcohol to alleviate the anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and images of the dead playing back in her brain on repeat. Her anger, desperation, and exhaustion mount. She starts crying “all the goddamn time.”
It takes years to wade out of the “whirlpool of shame and darkness.” Not only does she make it, but she summons the courage to be vulnerable and share her excruciating and inspiring story.