I worked an EMS / Security gig at an industrial plant for a while, and met a few great people while I was there. Some of which I’m still friends with. One of which, I married. The big thing about security, is you’re not supposed to develop relationships with the employees you’re providing security for. At the time, I was friends with my husband. They were not fans. So I began looking for another gig. I decided upon the premier provider of health and safety solutions. If you know, you know. They’ve changed names since I moved on, but I’m still going to do a Will Smith and keep em out of my mouth, so to speak.
I took my written test at an office on Delaware Avenue in the city of Buffalo, at a break room table after a night shift at the plant. I was so tired I kept falling asleep answering the questions. There were lines on the paper where I had dozed off. My interview was nerve wracking. I knew NOTHING about how to actually BE an EMT. A very kind, patient, but formidable man named Kent offered me a job, and promised me I’d learn.
Oh, I learned all right.
I learned how to lift a stretcher from the ground into the back of a truck. I learned how to write paper call reports. I learned how to talk to patients. I can’t hold a casual conversation with normal people to save my ass, by the way. I learned how to drive an ambulance. Then, I was sent to my Field Training Officer. In Amherst. I didn’t even know where that was. I’m from the Southtowns, and sheltered. Going to the “the city” was a big deal for me. And there was no such thing as Google maps. we had a map book. I did not take to that very quickly. Once I got it though, I got it.
It was about mid February when I slid, literally, into Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital crew quarters for the first time, looking for a tall skinny fellow by the name of Jim. I didn’t find him right away. I found another guy dressed like me, that was about ten feet tall, five feet wide, with shoulder length brown hair, a handlebar mustache who looked perpetually angry, and gruffly introduced himself as Rick. He scared the life outta me. He informed me that Jim was his FTO as well. I considered quitting right then and there, and was concerned I might die before the day was over. He grunted “follow me” and we went off to either my death or the truck, I wasn’t 100% sure.
I met Jim shortly after. Dude could wheel an ambulance half asleep. He had a chill way about him I envied, then copied. I recall later in the day working a cardiac arrest. Of course, I had no idea it was a cardiac arrest right away, until I saw Rick doing chest compressions, his hair flying wildly over his shoulders and him barking orders at me that I didn’t understand at the time. Jim calmly had me take over chest compressions, and I experienced that for the first time in my career. On my first day of training, no less. Later in the call, we were riding to the hospital, with a volunteer agency, and I was carefully ventilating the patient. The crew member with us was standing beside Jim, giving the report to the hospital over the radio, as the person driving braked sharply for a light. The crew member began to fly forward, and with hardly a look up from his medication administration, Jim grabbed him by the belt, and sat him down. He paused long enough to smile and wink in my direction.
I knew immediately that was the kind of medic I wanted to be. If, of course, I ever became one. If, I survived today.
We had another cardiac arrest that day. I started chest compressions that time. I cracked my first set of ribs. Ick. I went home exhausted, and questioned everything I’d ever learned. Did I really know any of it? Was I really cut out for this? Was I fooling myself? But I came back the next day. And the day after that. And the one after that.cThere were many firsts in my days with Jim and Rick. The first time I drove with the lights and sirens, I caused a minor wreck. The first time I used the radio, I called out the wrong number. I first time I read the map myself, I took us around our asshole to get to our elbow to the call. But it got better. Sort of. I still call the wrong number on the radio from time to time. I still don’t always take the most direct route sometimes. Bsck then, we didn’t have cameras in the truck, so there was a lot more latitude on what we could get away with. More on that later…
So, where are we now? Well, the ten foot tall guy, he was one of my favorite partners, my first “work husband,” best friend, and champion throughout my entire career in EMS. Sadly, he’s now an angel. Jim? He’s a supervisor that’s seen me through some tough calls at the premier provider. And I’d like to think that we worked so well together because he knew where I started and what I grew to become. And I’m so proud to have known both of them.
In Remembrance Of Richard R Nelson. I love and miss you, Bear Bear.