Last night, closing in on 13 years as an EMT with my local volunteer fire department, I responded to my 1,000th 911 call. That is not, in my neck of the woods, a big deal – we have volunteers who run more than 800 calls per year. Still, it’s a nice round number that triggers some reflection. While I’m not claiming any sort of trophy, I will take the excuse for an Oscar speech. I’m grateful to:
- Everyone who calls 911, for themselves or someone else. Either it’s a no-brainer obvious emergency, which requires somebody to stay calm and act decisively, or you’re not quite sure whether it’s the right thing to do. In those cases, it’s the right thing to do, and calling sooner leads to better outcomes. We like that.
- The taxpayers, seriously, and donors — people who have hard choices to make about spending, and who recognize the value of well-trained, well-equipped emergency responders and of well-trained instructors at a well-equipped academy to teach us how to do what we do.
- Each of the 149 EMTs and medics (yes, I counted) with whom I’ve responded — mentors, peers, proteges, volunteer and career. No one does this stuff alone. Dispatchers, too, though I don’t know most of your names or faces.
- The seven chief officers I’ve served under. Nobody in the world has your back quite like your fire chief, and nobody gives more to your community. You have no idea.
- Everyone who has trained and mentored me, and everyone who has come to me for training and mentoring. If I’m keeping the right attitude over the years, neither of those groups will ever be much bigger than the other.
- Everyone who’s on duty when I’m not, because I’ve needed you, and my loved ones have needed you, not just in theory. Everyone who steps up to give some time and energy back to the community — as a volunteer or as one of the “paid” responders who can’t possibly be paid enough for the 24-hour shifts away from their families, the risks inherent in their work, the stress and burnout and politics that can take all the fun out of helping people. Thank you all for being there.
- My local hospitals, ’cuz I’d feel pretty stupid bringing all these prehospital resources to people in distress and then taking those people somewhere less than reassuring.
- Heather. My first firehouse mentor, Master Firefighter Tom Horne, likes to say that his wife refers to the fire department as “the other woman.” My wife, compared to whom there is no other woman, has been my first and steadiest moral support since I first applied to join the fire department, which was before we were even dating.
- And you, bzzzzgrrrl, who did this stuff long ago and persuaded me that I could too.
Nobody is born knowing how to respond to medical emergencies or put out fires. It takes a commitment of time, but mostly, it takes training and training and training and training and training. I’m grateful for the opportunity to soak up that training, put it to use, and pass it on.