By Crystal Wallin, NREMT-P, CCEMT-P, Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance
I wanted to help my community – we all did. We didn’t think of money, we weren’t drawn by camera lights or crowds. There isn’t a well-defined ladder to hefty retirement, generally speaking. We come from all walks of life, all ages and gender definitions, multifaceted backgrounds and regions of the state and country. But we will all tell you, we are one family. And it goes exactly as this year’s EMS theme says so well – “beyond the call”.
The tones drop, the garage bay comes alive, the doors roll up. The truck or rig or apparatus rolls out onto the apron, dispatch information is acknowledged, the doors roll down, lights and siren activate and we are en route once more. The initial response is shaped by geography, call area, and nature of the call. Who needs us, what exactly are they needing from us? We use the ride there to navigate through maps or GPS units, paper or technology leading us to the door of the person who’s suddenly having a bad day. I will go over roles sometimes with my partner, and sometimes our crew includes a student or new employee. We lay the plan based on the dispatch information and loose ideas of who will do what, when we arrive.
The call is always different, the environment never the same, the protocols lending guidance and shape to the beautiful fluidity that is street medicine. All these years later, the responsibility is no less weighty to me than back in the volunteer years when I would notice my hands shaking a little en route to a call. The honor, the trust, the responsibility that comes with the autonomy is not to be diminished. We give our everything to the patient, the love of someone’s life, their child, their parent – their person, while they stand helplessly by. Assessment, treatment, packaging, loading, secondary assessment, transport begins, repeat assessment, recheck interventions, re-dose, give report, unload, hand off with further report at bedside. Restock, put the truck back into order for the next person who is having a very bad day. Return to crew quarters, return home if a volunteer service. Lay back down on the crew quarters single bed, stare at the ceiling. Maybe take up where you left off doing a training, reheat supper that you were making. Take that long ignored bathroom break. If a volunteer, sit in your familiar car at the station and make that return to home.
Beyond the call – what is that? What does it mean?
It means the way the call doesn’t fade, the way we carry the memories with us. Medicine is governed best when it is shaped by evidence based practice, with data and statistics to keep us competent, qualified, up to date with best practice and vigilant in our delivery of what all patients deserve – quality healthcare. Beyond the call, though, that’s what defines us, unites us and how we all become loyal to the point of a melding of all that is us as individuals – as well as a pride of our calling. We meld, most of us, until we can’t quite tell you where we as a person and we as a provider are separate. EMS becomes part of us as much as our eye color, or our preference in caffeine delivery.
I have been at a social event with a few other paramedics when a band member was injured by a falling piece of equipment. Without a word at one another, or a glance, myself and one of the other paramedics were up and working together in that age old tandem of assessment. Another medic who is also with our company was there and when we returned to the table, he smiled and said, “always on the job”.
That’s it. Beyond the call – we don’t stop caring, stop assessing, or stop in our willingness to help our community, our fellow humans. When bad things happen, people instinctively go to find help. EMS people know without hesitation that they are the help, and they walk towards the bad thing without a thought.
We will come when you call. We will give strangers our nights, weekends, holidays and more without a thought for self. Sometimes to the point we need to remind ourselves to have balance between work and off time.
Happy EMS week to all my family. Rural or urban, in uniform or not, fire based/hospital based/private duty, we are here. Whether we are on duty or off, we are coming whenever help is needed, ready to open those garage doors, roll out onto the apron, activate those lights and sirens and head once more toward a stranger in need. And it won’t stop when the doors go back down, the lights and sirens are off. We are always here, walking through the grocery store or gassing up at the corner station. If you need us, we are always waiting. Proud.
One family – one calling – one honor.
Thank you for allowing all of us to be of service. It is our privilege, and our joy.
Be safe out there.