Cancer Invades Cary Area EMS

The question: How does Cancer affect your  EMS organization when it is one of your own?  If you are looking for the answer in this blog, you are not going to find it.  What I am going to let you know is how we at Cary Area EMS are handling the effects of one of our own that has been stricken by cancer and how that person helped us manage.

We all know that cancer is a terrible disease and sends shivers up one’s spine when the word is mentioned. Hey we are EMS pros so we see illness, trauma, death and mangled bodies on a regular basis.  We can handle anything! Right? Tammy Patton, one of our Division Chiefs, told me this fall that she had breast cancer. I was devastated.  Tammy is young (she would be angry with me if I mentioned her age) but she is diligent about having her yearly mammogram done. However she was late this year for the test by a few months, which was a good thing. Why you ask? Because if she was on time for her mammogram, the cancer might have been missed. This was according to her medical support team.

For us at Cary Area EMS this is the second unbelievable event to happen to us since August. We suffered our first active member death of Paramedic Sal Ramirez.  We did not have a playbook regarding how to handle Sal’s death and we surely did not have one for Tammy’s cancer.

First you need to know that Tammy is always smiling, happy and a great baker.  After a few hugs and tears, Tammy and I talked about how we were going to tell our people.  Ok, really how Tammy was going to tell our staff.  She was telling key people and those who were working, but what about those who may be off duty.  Tammy used Facebook and our internal email system to deliver the message.  This was a good way to send her message and tell her story her way.  Tammy named her cancer Felicia and the campaign was called “Bye Bye Felicia”. The support from our public safety community was outstanding and the messages of well wishes keep rolling in.

We listened to her and medical support team regarding her schedule.  We modified her work schedule and told her to let us know if she was tired during her shift and if she needed to go home. Tammy smiling said “I will be fine”. We had one miscue when she decided to work an extra shift during a winter storm event. This event took a few weeks for her to recover from.  Her physician and Chief said this would not happen again.

Cary Area EMS and Cary Fire Department teamed up to have Tammy’s Day. Tammy was losing her hair, which was difficult for her. Tammy’s Day was the day she would shave her head as would a few hundred of her friends and family.  Tammy, always thinking about how she can help others, sent the donations of over $1,900 to a local cancer charity.  There were special T-shirts made and sold as well as hats.  The hats are part of Cary Area EMS’s Duty uniform. A special note that 2 Cary Firefighter raised $250 in record time when they were challenged to shave their longtime mustaches. Tammy has that kind of impact. To see photos from Tammy’s day click on this link.

As an organization our part was easy. Be there, be supportive, be a sounding board and know that there will be ups and downs. Tammy has made it easy by keeping a positive attitude, talking about the process and of course smiling.  Tammy had surgery in November, finished up chemo in March and started radiation treatments and has 33 treatments left.  She has been positive and an inspiration to others during this process and always with a smile.  Bye Bye Felicia.

 

Tammy and me after getting our heads shaved.

Tammy and me after getting our heads shaved.

 

Tammy and members of Cary Area EMS and Cary Fire Department presenting the check to 1in9.

Tammy and members of Cary Area EMS and Cary Fire Department presenting the check to 1in9.

 

Duty Hat

Duty Hat

Duty Hat

Duty Hat

Duty Hat

Duty Hat

 

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