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Emergencies and First Responders
If you’ve never had a medical emergency, you are one of the lucky ones and may not relate to this article. From experience though, I want you to understand that when a medical emergency arises, those few short minutes waiting for trained personnel to arrive seem like an eternity. Equally significant is the feeling of relief, once you know the medical emergency is in the hands of skilled and caring people. Those trained hands belong to real heroes.
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while because these heroes have never gotten the attention they deserve. They are under paid and they work long hours. Many are volunteers, giving their time and talents to take care of us in the midst of a crisis. Why? Because they care.
From A Personal Perspective
In 1999, my mother had a stroke. It was a little after 10 p.m. and she lived in the county, about 12 miles from the nearest Rescue Squad facility. I lived about 5 miles from her at the time and my brother only about six blocks. When my brother called, I was in the car in minutes and when I arrived, the Rescue Squad was already there. While the EMS staff stabilized my Mom, they sent me ahead to register her at the hospital. Mom was unresponsive and as I raced to the hospital, I was terrified that this was the end for my Mom. As I stood waiting outside the Emergency Room, I watched as the ambulance approached, siren screaming and red lights flashing. My thought that night is as vivid now as it was then. I thought - “in this moment, life has changed for us”.
The good news is that Mom survived the stroke and has fought tirelessly to overcome its devastating effects. But the sounds of the sirens and lights on that emergency vehicle will be with me forever. The men inside were angels; people called to handle medical emergencies and terrified families.
Medical Emergencies Change Lives
My home is located just blocks away from our local hospital and one of the busiest emergency rooms on the East Coast, It is a level II trauma center. Sirens are part of my day to day life and yet I never hear one that I don’t recall my thoughts on the night of Mom’s stroke. I hear the siren and my next thought is – “someone’s life just changed”.
These heroes, the medical emergency workers have seen things that no human should ever have to witness. They have done things that most of us could not do with a gun held to our heads. And still they smile and give of their time and talents to help us through whatever tragedy befalls us. They are firemen, EMT’s, paramedics, cardiac techs, and police officers and they risk their lives every day to bring comfort to tragedy. These men and women are responsible for maintaining life-saving equipment, vehicles, uniforms, the crew hall, and, each other. They lift each other up and hold each other’s hands when the pain is too much. They are the first to be involved in community events or charities that benefit the community. They give and give and then give some more.
When fire strikes, they are there to squelch the flames, to save a child from a burning home, and yes, they even risk their life to pull a dog from under a burning shed. When illness strikes, they are there to provide critical medications and to monitor our status until a physician can take charge. When an accident occurs, they risk their lives in moving traffic to cut a young person from the vehicle that has collapsed around them. These emergency care givers constantly train for every possible scenario so that when we need them, they are ready and willing and able. No other profession gives as much or is as honorable, in my opinion.
I cannot write about emergency personnel without sharing with you what inspired this writing. I want to tell you three short stories. You probably have your own and I hope that when you read this, you will be inspired to say thank you in your own way to the professionals in your community.
More Heroes Step Up - Amazing!
- Hundreds of New England Officers Arrive in Lynchburg to Support - WSET.com - ABC13
Lynchburg, VA - Nathan Norman, a 5-year-old boy from Rustburg who's fighting an aggressive cancer right now, got a whole lot of support from the New England area Thursday morning.
Six year old Nathan lives just a few miles from my hometown. He is battling cancer and his Christmas wish was to receive Christmas cards from police, firefighters, and EMS personnel. See, Nathan has already learned to see emergency medical professionals as heroes. Someone posted Nathan’s wish on the Wish Upon A Hero web site.
Yesterday, December 6, 2012, Nathan’s mom heard a knock on the door and opened it to find Joseph Scarpantio, a paramedic from New York who is a cancer survivor. He had read Nathan’s story and came to Virginia bearing gifts for Nathan and, some of his fellow firemen caught a ride too. One man, one little boy’ wish and an unselfish love. It’s the stuff of fairy tales.
Mr. Scarpantio – if you should ever get to read this, you sir, are a real hero.
Since this story aired on local television stations, the support for Nathan's wish has been amazing. No one can tell me that there are not heroes and compassionate people in this old world. They just don't get the attention they deserve.
- UPDATE: Fire Truck Flips Over in Bedford - WSET.com - ABC13
Bedford, VA - Four Bedford volunteer firefighters were taken to the hospital just before noon Saturday, after their truck flipped over on its way to a call.
A Story About Attitudes
The second story is not such a happy one. In another town not far from my home, four first responders were en route to a brush fire when the fire truck they were in flipped over. Two were critically injured. When the newspaper reported the story, an arrogant reader responded in the comment section with “that’s your tax dollars at work folks”.
It made me so angry that I could not see straight. This is pure ignorance and sometimes seems rampant in our society today. Where was the compassion for the injured firemen? As I sat there staring at the insensitive comment, I could not help but wonder how this person would feel if the fire had been his home that was saved by the dedication and training of these true heroes.
- EMS Responders: Train Trestle Injuries & Deaths Aren't Uncommon - WSET.com - ABC13
Lynchburg, VA - Emergency responders say the students had 40 seconds to react Thursday night they came face-to-face with a train Thursday night.
A Story That Is Hard To Tell and Hard To Hear
Finally a story that is hard to write and will be hard to read too. But these things have to be told in order to really understand the dedication of these men and women who put their life on the line for the rest of us. There is a park in my town where a train trestle crosses the river from the city into the county. It is a horrible temptation for young people and to date about 17 people have died there.
On December 17, 2011, five students from Liberty University wandered out on the trestle to star gaze. They couldn’t beat the Amtrak train when they heard it coming. One young woman died, one was seriously inured, and three had more minor injuries. My cousin is the Safety Director for the county and a paramedic. He and his team spent most of the night recovering body parts from the train track. It was his job to call a father and tell him of his daughter’s tragic death. And, he met the father there the next morning to describe the horror. No human being should ever have to witness such a scene but that’s what first responders do. How do they do it? I don’t know but they are heroes of the heart and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
These are true stories, not stories of fiction. They are not shared to shock you or cause you emotional pain. They are simply stories that I hope will inspire you to say thank you when you pass a first responder on the street. When you hear of a fire in the cold of winter, maybe you will be inspired to take coffee to the scene or, maybe just make an extra batch of cookies and take them by a firehouse or Rescue Squad facility. When you see these heroes in their uniform, remind yourself of what they do and how much they care.
Treat them like heroes, please?
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.