Why Don’t Real Life Heroes Live In Mansions?

December 3, 2017


Work Safety


Dr. Ben Janaway

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Some, in the Marvel Universe at least, dress in suits of Iron, wield godly hammers or can transform into giant green brutes. But in this universe our heroes are everyday people. And you may have seen them, perhaps even been rescued by them. But often these brave souls live in poverty, beaten down but still happy to fight day after day.  They work in the shadows, good people in old uniforms.

So whilst millionaires sit in mansions, why are our heroes forgotten?

Heroes in Uniform

The stories of the emergency services are incredible to say the least. And the work undertaken by the Police, Medics and Fire Fighters is insurmountable. Pitched against mounting adversity, singular tales of heroism are but the tip of the iceberg. And often these wonderful people work hand in hand. Emergency Responder Alex is one such man facing the storm;

‘I don’t think I do anything incredible, it’s just jobs really. I was in an RCT with some young people this weekend. I spent a lot of time in the back of the vehicle, one in pain, one dying. I was with the police and fire service just trying to help these young people. We kept them breathing.’

Alex is not alone in his efforts. Every day these people save lives, keep order and overcome adversity. But for all their accomplishments, are these people rewarded?

Burden to bear

When it comes down to it, the pay isn’t great.  In Australia, a paramedic can expect $59,000 but as little as £21,909 starting in UK.  An Australian fire-fighter can be paid up to $81,123 a year, whilst the UK offers £29,345. And nurses earn even less.  Although higher than average wage, many of these professionals have families and are often in debt.  And in some cases, even turning to food banks.

Grenfell hero firefighter snubs No10 invite - because cuts mean he has to work second job to put food on the table

— Ben Rossington (@benrossington) October 24, 2017

What’s worse are the conditions staff are expected to tolerate.  With short-staffing, underfunding and old equipment, saving lives is made all the much harder. Often shortcomings are noted only in tragedy, such as the Grenfell Tower fire in London, UK. Local fire service cuts only became national interest when 69 people died. Alex tells us;

‘With these jobs you take it home with you, they are constantly on your mind. Your loved ones will notice that you’re quiet or drifting off somewhere else. The tiredness, shift work, has an adverse effect.’

A feeling that Mark knows only too well;

‘Working 12 hour shifts means that when I’m working, I do not have a life balance. I get up, go to work, and come home from work and go to bed’.

People like Alex and Mark go above and beyond. And given what they sacrifice, their struggle is an insult. And it seems that the public agree. In a recent Twitter poll, 96% of respondents believed that emergency service workers should be paid more.

Rewarded in experience

With such clear public support matched by sensational stories, it’s a wonder that emergency staff can face personal adversity. Many believe these heroes should be treated like royalty, their good deeds and personal sacrifice returned in gold and property. But not them, their reward is something more profound. Alex says;

‘Bringing life into the world is important. You have the good times with the bad.’

And Mark celebrates the opportunity to be part of a life-saving team;

‘It provides me with an opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives. I get to sit there with patients and hold their hand, reassuring whilst monitoring life-saving treatment.’

So even in times of hardship, exhaustion and poverty they carry on. And although they deny the moniker, I think we can all agree, you can rely on these heroes to save the day. Real heroes don’t need a mansion, but we need them.


Names have been changed to protect anonymity. Reproduction of this work is with expressed consent only. Sharing via social media platforms without alteration is permitted.

Dr. Ben Janaway

Dr Ben Janaway is a strong advocate for humanism and has interest in public health education, science communication and political activism. He graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2014 with degrees in Medicine and Neuropathology. He writes about legal rights for healthcare workers and for medical journals. His work has been published internationally in The Independent and The Guardian and he has been interviewed on national news including the BBC on issues affecting the NHS.