Who are the EMTs
You’ll find them at Denny’s. At least I always do. Denny’s, Coco’s, Perkin’s; any all-night restaurant, always between the hours of three in the morning and sunrise. Too tired to work, too wound up to go home and sleep just yet, so they head into an all-night joint and order coffee and talk. They’ll talk to anybody. They just got off a sixteen-hour shift and their head is full of stories. They have to tell them to you so they can put the scenes behind them. The scenes are funny and scary at the same time, the things they’ve just witnessed, and they flash through a range of emotion until they are purged. Then they can stumble home and go to sleep. You, on the other hand, will stay up a couple of hours later.
Somewhere in the realm of society, located just between the sensibility of the normal and the pandemonium of the perverse, there is a group of people whose training and actions often make the difference between life and death, and whose nerves are the violin strings on which the streets play their drama. They are the Emergency Medical Technicians. You should listen to their stories. They end up with more wisdom than they know what to do with.
Outside of the all-night restaurant, you will find them located in various positions in your cities, readied to respond to the next possible disaster which could occur. May be a car accident; may be a heart attack. Readied to respond to a school shooting or a downed plane, they’ll be hindered only by the natural obstacles of daily traffic.
No other group of humanity can carry so many items in their pockets which are strategically located in optimal positions of the body. There’s scissors, band aids, tape, chap stick, combs or essential lifesaving and sustaining items. But not much money. No expensive watches. If they did it for the money, they would do something else.
With an overwhelming desire and a keen instinct to sustain the flame of life from the last flicker of a spark which is near spent, this special group of individuals cope with variables which few people could ever tolerate. EMTs do not panic. They wouldn’t dare. When things go right, the public loves them, the newspapers ignore them and the many lives that have been lost fighting to save a stranger may rate an article on page twelve or so. But if they were in it for the fame, they would be doing something else.
Then the bill arrives, and the very patient they saved tells their friends and family hear how terrible the 500.00 bill was, instead of the efforts that saved their life or a family member’s. As Emergency Medical Technicians does not generally receive tax dollars such as police and fire agencies. Not in the United States, anyway. But if they couldn’t take criticism, they wouldn’t be in this job, for when they make a mistake they will be their own harshest critic.
These men and women who make up the breed of EMTs come from all walks of life, and rarely stand on common ground with you until they meet you as a result of violence, accidents, and medical emergencies on the streets. Housing developments and office buildings all blur together in their eyes; it’s just one big street. Then when you meet one, all seems to come together with you in need of their training, their lifesaving skills and their emotional support.
You are having the most panicked ten minutes of your life, and they are having their tenth call on just another day. EMT personnel lean on each other for support and understanding in sharing horrible calls that creates a flurry of emotions. Sometimes they hang out in pairs in the coffee shop, but even in packs they’ll still talk to you. They find talking to anybody who isn’t bleeding or screaming to be quite relaxing.
They are the people who crawl into a twisted steel cage which once was a car, to search for signs of life amongst its occupants and treat them while fuel leaks endanger their own lives. They ask what hurts and can you move They are the calm voice on the other end of the telephone when it seems as though your world is crashing around you and your family.
They are the individuals who are the last to win the respect of the public. Despite their advanced medical training and certification they are called “ambulance drivers”. They are the first to be brought to court for decisions and actions that were made on the spur of the moment in environments of absolute chaos. It was dark, sirens were everywhere, somebody was screaming, somebody was bleeding and had bone sticking out, there was a gun, the police officer lost it and screamed at them because he was scared senseless. But in the end they’re cleared after thousands of dollars of defense money when their decisions are backed up as appropriate.
They are individuals who carry no weapons and are attacked frequently, yelled at and spat on. People who are drugged or just crazy to start with. Suicide attempts fighting for their right to die. Meth addicts who fight with the strength of a mammoth. Drunks looking to show their macho off, even after the beer bottle cut their scalp. The homeless schizophrenic who thinks the mafia is after him.
They have to be brave. They have to be strong. They have to be smart and decisive. Even when they are relaxed, a hundred learned reflexes are waiting under the surface, ready to spring into a Heimlich maneuver if you choke on that next bite of steak or the CPR cycle should you suddenly clutch your chest.
But most of all, they have to relate. To each other or to anybody, they have things they’ve seen that they have to tell just so they don’t feel so crazy with it bottled in their head. But then, they took this job because… well, no one can explain why anyone would want this job. But they took it partly because they’re not afraid to live out loud.