Petra Schuh

Born 1965, trained as a nurse, then as a paramedic and distance learning in management, currently a certified paramedic HF, head of a service group (35 persons in three teams, middle management, Schutz & Rettung Zürich). Petra Schuh was born with hearing loss, became deaf after a viral infection in October 2009 and lives with a cochlear implant (electronic inner ear prosthesis). Lives in Pfäffikon SZ, Switzerland. Belongs to the Schoenstatt Women and Mothers Branch.

What experiences have formed you as a woman?

First of all the experience that everyone around me seemed to know better what was good and not good for me.
I was surrounded by people who interfered in my life with good advice, well-intentioned but without being asked. All of these advisors thought they knew what I would or would not be able to do, because – what a pity – there is not much I can do with the handicap of hearing loss. This happened until I was almost of legal age. Then, one day, when I was about 16 years old, I decided to take my life into my own hands. What could happen, except that one day I would not reach a goal?
The new experience, which continues to this day, is my principle: Don’t dream your life, but live your dream. This, coupled with the faith and trust in the support of our heavenly companions, gives me the strength to do what I think is right every day. As one of the few women in the rescue service squad, I follow 2 basic principles:

  • I do not compare myself with my male colleagues. It is in the nature of things that I “tick” differently as a woman. So why put yourself under unnecessary pressure by comparing? My strengths are not necessarily those of my colleagues, but of course I have some of my own.
  • I take care to pursue my goals with patience. Wanting to reach goals quickly is rarely crowned with success. For example, when I took up my first management position several years ago, there were voices saying that I was only fulfilling a quota for women. Bets were made on how long I would last. I could only counter this with patience and today – years later and in the middle management – success proves me right.

In 2009 you lost your hearing completely overnight due to a viral infection. This meant you were on the verge of losing your profession as a paramedic. What was the next step?

I decided on a cochlear implant, an electronic inner ear prosthesis. The implant gives a very technical hearing, I hear everything like an electronic computer voice. This was followed by months of hearing training, highly motivated by the desire to hear well enough so that retraining would be unnecessary. For almost a year I could “only” understand without identifying a voice, not even if it was female, male or a child. Learning to listen to music was a special challenge, which I practiced on a keyboard, because with the deafness, making music was no longer possible. I wanted to recapture this important resource so that I could practice my wonderful hobby of trombone playing again. After one and a half years I was ready for it!
In my profession as a paramedic, in the management of a team that now has 35 members, I experience my handicap not only as a hindrance. I have learnt to focus on the site of the emergency, to fade out disturbing noises and to sharpen my senses. I listen to my intuition and sense quite quickly when we should exercise increased caution and are in danger. All this is an advantage for my profession.

Is it possible to live with such a severe limitation?

Truthfully I want to say: No, not in and of  itself. It works because I want it to, because I have learned to make compromises, and have also learned to ask for and accept help again and again, to “borrow” ears. However, because I have been able to win a lot back, I am satisfied and that is exactly why it works well. Even today I still find myself in ” dark days ” where I feel the loss. But then I take care to quickly move away from such attitudes. From my point of view, life is about accepting challenges and making something out of it. If one then absolutely wants to go back to the old state, this cannot lead to success and satisfaction.

Where have you experienced God in your life?

Basically, I experience God in every moment of my life when I am alert and attentive, which unfortunately is not often enough.
However, I have consciously experienced God in all the critical situations that I had to overcome in my professional life. Whether it is the delicate rescue of a seriously injured or ill patient in a very narrow or crowded staircase, where even one misstep can have fatal consequences for all involved (rescuer and patient), or the rescue with a revolving ladder, when patients have to be rescued from their apartments lying down. Then good cooperation is not only important, but also vital. When I also fulfill the function of the operational leader in such moments, I bear the main responsibility and survive these situations by making silent prayers to God and relying on His help, trusting and being allowed to experience it.
In my more than 20 years as a paramedic, I have encountered direct violence on several occasions. In such moments, after the initial moment of shock, it was exclusively due to the trust and help of God that I always came out of these situations unscathed. Whether it was that I received the necessary calm to be able to deescalate the situation or that I was able to escape. But even then my steps were fast enough and in the right direction.
Situations in which the measures taken do not help, when I can sense that the person concerned is about to go home to God, are not only highly demanding, but thanks to my faith, I am able to better endure and accompany such situations.
Of course, I have also survived demanding situations in my personal life, where professional experience has helped me to put things “right” and to trust in God, the Blessed Mother and providence. Whenever I have survived such delicate situations, I thank God for his goodness and remember that it was not only possible because of my abilities

What do you see as the challenge for women today?

Today’s woman has to pursue a career, get married and start a family. She cannot afford to fail, neither professionally nor personally, and is therefore required to be perfect, easy-going and relaxed in her efforts to reconcile all these tasks and challenges. The fact that either a career or a family in itself is already a considerable challenge does not seem to apply to today’s woman.
I am of the opinion that nobody can or must be able to do everything, and certainly not perfectly. And we can’t forget that it takes all of us, working together, in all professions and functions.

What would you like to change in this world through your life?

I would like to make the part of the world in which I live and work a bit more human.
I do my best to live in and with the Covenant of Love, because I believe in its power. I lead the teams entrusted to me as fairly and humanly as possible. I make sure that values like trust are still valid and mean something. I do not take any extras, but lead by example. This also includes living a “culture of mistakes,” because mistakes are part of being human.