I was born and raised in New York. I was raised in the Hudson Valley, which is about an hour and forty minutes from Manhattan. I come from a really small farming community. The school district I went to was 15 small farming towns over the course of two counties. I lived at the southernmost end of our school district, and the northernmost end was an hour by car.
I graduated college at 21 and worked a couple part-time jobs until I was able to land a full-time office job. Then, I took some time off in my early 20s and went and hiked part of the Appalachian Trail with one of my girlfriends. Then, I moved back to New York and worked on a ski hill for a little bit. From there, I got hired on at the hospital. It was when I came off the Appalachian Trail, one of the girls I was working with told me if I was bored and looking for something to fill my time, that I should come and be on the rescue squad with them. So I was…how old was I? I was 25? Maybe? I went and got my EMT Basic and did that for a little bit. I was working a call with one of the paramedics. Where I was living at the time, we actually contracted out for our paramedics from a private agency. I had had a really bad call with one of the medics. It was not good. My friend looked at me and said, “You did really well.” And I was like, “What do you mean, ‘I did well’? Are you playing with me?” She said, “You should look at being a medic.” We worked really well in tandem together, so I started riding around more with her, and she really encouraged me. When I was working at the hospital is when I moved to paramedic school. That was challenging. I had class on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and one Saturday a month all day. Then, I had all my clinicals between the emergency room and the ambulance. I didn’t sleep for about a year and a half. It was wild.
I have not worked on an ambulance in about two years. I do dispatch now. Being a paramedic is not as glamorous as it is on TV. A lot of it is grandma fell in the tub, or you know, grandpa tripped, or mama’s having trouble breathing, or daddy’s having chest pain. We don’t have the violence of larger cities. We do a lot more medical than we do trauma. When I was working as a paramedic, I was working as a critical care paramedic, so you do interfacility transports. So I got to do that, and I actually enjoy that a lot more, because, you know, the challenge is keeping patients stable, because at any moment, something could happen, and you’ve got to start thinking outside the box and try to wiggle around and get it taken care of.
When Jesus is calling your name, it’s time to go. There’s nothing that me or anybody else is able to do to stop that. When Jesus says it’s time to go home, I can’t stop it. Some people think that’s kind of twisted. It’s one of those things where I know there are some families who got really wrapped up and emotional, to the point of fighting, and even with some of us who are trying to give medical care. Those are the people who do not have the hope of Christ because they think that this is the end, and that there’s nothing after it. I’ve had some calls I’ve worked that have stayed with me over the years, that still wake me up from time to time. There are things you can’t unsee, there are things you can’t unhear, and there are things that you can’t unsmell.
You know, everybody handles the stress differently. There are things I could look at and say, “Oh, that’s just the circle of life,” where, conversely, somebody else can’t wrap their head around it. There might be something else that will happen that’s a trigger point.
When I’m treating people as an EMS standpoint or taking calls as a dispatcher, it’s one of those things that–people don’t call 9-1-1 because they’re having a good day. They call 9-1-1 because they need help; they need an adult, and they are relying on me to provide that help and provide that stability. My faith is my foundation for how I treat people. I’m not always going to say the right thing. If I said that I was, I’d be a liar. There are some people within our community that I’ve talk to a lot, or I’ve treated them a lot in EMS, and when I hear their voice, I cringe. My hope in Christ is my foundation for how I treat other people, but it’s also the basis for my morals and ethics. Whether it’s the fire department, police department, EMS, you have to have a good moral foundation and a good code of ethics, not just work ethic, in general. That sets the basis for what you do. People throw their careers down the toilet because they are not morally and ethically sound. God is a lot harsher of a judge than we are.
Reach out and talk to the folks around you. Not everybody has been through the same experiences you’ve been through. There are people who have the ears, who want to listen, who want to know what’s going on in your world. They might not be able to relate and they may not be able to give you advice, which is okay, but don’t be afraid to reach out.
One of the things that I tell all my trainees, I tell all of my EMS and all of my dispatchers that when you are having a moment, do not keep it inside. Grab somebody and go talk about it. It doesn’t matter who it is, but don’t keep it to yourself. Keeping it to yourself, internally, makes it a thousand times worse than it already is, and by getting it out and putting words to it, that is half of the battle.