May 14, 2012 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
Eagle Newspapers editor and reporter Amanda Seef spent time on the rigs at WAVES, Minoa Ambulance and Rural/Metro to get an understanding of what the job is like for local paramedics and EMTs. National EMS Week is celebrated from May 20 to 26.
The radio buzzed. Dispatcher said it was a signal 80, a car accident with injuries. WAVES-1 heads toward the scene. Three cars had collided in the entrance to a shopping center on Milton Avenue in Camillus — two cars hit head-on, pushing into the third, an innocent bystander.
Fire department is on scene. Fairmount Chief Jason Mallore walks over.
“This could have been a lot worse, but cars these days are built tougher” he said. “Look at that.”
No serious injuries were recorded, to the surprise of EMTs and firefighters alike. No drivers or passengers were taken to the hospital.
Paramedics and EMTs from both WAVES rigs clear the scene.
Paramedic Jason Casanova had barely returned to the station when another call went out. A 29-year-old male with back pain and anxiety. He would be transported to Community General Hospital. That would be the third of four calls in just over an hour.
“It’s not all blood and guts and lights and sirens,” paramedic Jason Casanova says. “We do a bit of everything.”
His job, he said, is not what what most would expect, but at it’s deepest core it’s about one thing — saving a life, the world’s most precious commodity.
EMTs welcome new life into the world, and comfort families as fresh death takes over. They’re the hand to hold during a car accident, or the person to lend an ear to those who are ill. They’re negotiators, mental health advocates, social workers, caretakers and investigators.
They’re one of the good guys. It’s about the patient first.
After each call, the paramedic is tasked with reports and cleaning their rig. Fresh supplies fill the shelves, and clean linens grace the stretchers, waiting for the next call. In the unpredictable world of emergency services, that could be in five minutes or five hours.
For that time in between, providers can head back to the station, where they finish patient records or have a chance to cook dinner. It’s a family atmosphere at WAVES, where EMTs and paramedics all gather around the kitchen table for meals, or cook outside in the nicer weather. There may be a cluster of providers in the ambulance bays, talking and hanging out. One thing is clear — humor is the best medicine for these providers. It’s a coping mechanism, they said, to deal with the severity of many of the incidents of which they respond.
But once the alarms go off again, it’s all business — their vigilance is vital to someone else’s life. As soon as they’re off to a call, their needs come last.
“I was always told eat when you can, drink when you can and use the restroom when you can,” said Melissa Barton, a paramedic with Rural Metro in the city. “You never know when you’ll be able to do any of it again.”
Barton and partner Cory Walsh are stationed in the city, where calls run more regularly than in the suburbs. Their calls could run the gamut on severity — from a nursing home transport, to a 13-year-old boy injured in a school bus fight. On nights and weekends, the likelihood of a severe situation, like a shooting or stabbing, drastically increases.
They spend their time between calls on the road, stationed in different quadrants of the city, ready to run to the next call as it’s needed.
Most stations in Onondaga County operate with both paid and volunteer staffs, WAVES and Rural Metro included. The long hours and interesting situations don’t make it a glamorous job, but EMTs stress the job is worth it.
It’s a labor of love put into each community. Not for the faint-of-heart, or for the heartless. Just for someone who wants to walk into a situation and help.
In a day’s work will be an occasional feature in Eagle Newspapers. Have a job you’d like to see featured? Email Amanda Seef at email@example.com, 434-8889×334 or on Twitter, @AmandaSeef.