When I met Jay in the mid 70s, he was an EMT. I had an opportunity to ride with him sometimes when he made runs.
I was truly amazed at the life those first responders lived. They often were awakened from the little sleep they got to run out to unknown and sometimes dangerous situations.
Every scenario was different. They had to think on their feet or in whatever odd body position they might have to get in to help someone.
I watched Jay starting an IV in the back of an ambulance going full speed over a railroad track. He never missed the vein!
The crew had to take charge in chaotic situations while at the same time letting the patient feel in control.
They had to compassionately relate to often terrified family members or bystanders, sometimes having to gently but firmly pull them away from the patient.
They went out in all kinds of weather. Sometimes sweat poured off them while other times they slogged through snow and ice so thick, I thought their breath was going to freeze on their face.
I saw the real human emotions they had to stuff back inside them. There was the exhilaration of saving lives. But there was also the grief of lives lost or injuries that were so severe the patients’ lives would be changed forever.
They often had to move so quickly from one scene to another they had no time to process their own feelings. They absorbed it all and moved on, doing what needed to be done.
Some became good friends off duty. Some did not. But on duty, no one could have told the difference. They functioned as one team, united in the mission.
I have always considered the EMS group to be the true heroes in life, who selflessly give themselves over and over again to save lives.
Even today I continue the practice my mother taught me long ago. She told me the siren was a call to prayer. We prayed for the ones responding and the ones they were going to help.
When Jay became an RN, we said we got him “off the street.” We never anticipated that many years later we would be in an ambulance again.
One morning, Jay suddenly developed chest pain. He knew what it was. He told me to dial 911. Within minutes, our family room was filled with emergency responders.
They were the heroes of that day, calmly, but swiftly caring for a man who was having a major heart attack, but was still calm enough to read his own EKG.
They also cared for that man’s terrified wife, who was later told her husband had survived what was called “the widow maker” heart attack.
This week is designated as a time to remember our EMS group. We remember them and appreciate them every day. Thank you to all!