My Start in EMS

I just celebrated my 15th year anniversary as Chief at Cary Area EMS (caryems.org). We are a nonprofit 911 ambulance service, which is part of the Wake County EMS System. During the past week, I have been asked how I got started in EMS?

The story goes like this. Picture this, I am a freshman in college and my grades at the end of the year did not meet the expectations that Duquesne University (in Pittsburgh) liked and said I was not welcomed back in the Fall unless I attended Summer school.  There are many reasons why I did not meet their expectations, but that is for another time. I went to Summer school and I was also working making pizzas. I actually was liking school and my grades reflected this.  But things were about to change.

One day, my dad was playing tennis and felt something in his right shoulder. When he arrived home, my mom took one  lo0k at my dad, who was pale and sweating and said she was calling 911.  My dad was stubborn and said he was fine and told her not to call 911.  My mom did not listen and called 911. Back then there was no 12 lead capabilities.  The Paramedics from the City of Pittsburgh Medic 7 arrived (I was making pizza at the time) and provided a first class assessment and advised my dad to be transported. Now remember my dad is stubborn, but agreed to go, only if he could walk to the ambulance. He was not going on the stretcher.

My dad arrived at “Presby” and though his 12 lead was not conclusive at the time, his blood work and other 12 leads revealed he had a heart attack. During his long stay in the hospital, my dad who is friendly and will talk to anyone, met Ed Brinkley.  Ed was his Orderly and also an EMT.  My dad mentioned to Ed after learning he was an EMT, that his son who was struggling in school and had no direction, liked this TV Show called Emergency. My dad introduced me to Ed. Ed was volunteering at Swissvale Area Emergency Services. This was a community outside the City of Pittsburgh limits.  Ed introduced me to the other volunteers and gave me a tour of the abandoned light and fixture building, which was the base. On a Saturday, I was being interviewed by “Saturday Crew”, when they got a call. They asked me if I wanted to go?  You did not have to ask me twice. My first ride in an ambulance was a Dodge Van going lights and siren.  I remember the call. It was 14 year old who fell of her bike and injured her knee.  The care and compassion that Jim, Mike, Rob and Janie provide was outstanding and I was hooked.

I started volunteering, dropped out of college and 6 months later enrolled in EMT school.  My parents were extremely supportive when I told them I was dropping out of college (I may be exaggerating a little). They made me promise that I would go back to school and get a degree. I kept that promise.

I went to work as soon as I received my EMT certification for a private ambulance and Funeral Home. I was hired a few years later by the City of Pittsburgh and between Swissvale and the City I learned what it was to be a Paramedic. I learned the importance of talking and listening and had mentors that took me under their wing.  I believe I am a good mentor today because of these people.  I learn everyday from the great providers that work at Cary Area EMS and the fine EMS providers that make up the Wake County EMS System.

There you have it: bad grades, heart attack, an Orderly who is an EMT and the TV Show Emergency led me to my start.

 

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