Paramedics and emergency medical technicians are used to jumping into action to attend to life-and-death situations at a moment’s notice – sometimes even when they’re off duty.
Edward Eddy, paramedic and firefighter with the Channahon Fire Protection District, was off duty last week, pulling off Interstate 55 at the Route 6 ramp when something caught his eye. A semitrailer had jackknifed on the interstate’s north-bound side. A red passenger car also was involved.
Eddy immediately called in the accident and told his co-workers the best way to access the scene. Before he knew it, he was at the fire department in an emergency vehicle headed to the site. It paid off, too. There was more than one accident along that stretch of icy interstate and the responders needed all the help they could get.
“It was chaotic,” Eddy said, “and there was significant damage. ... A Troy rig was already there. The chief from Wilmington came, Minooka came, Lockport, the helicopter ... we all worked together.”
Eddy immediately climbed up on the semi, evaluated the condition of the driver and did his best to keep him calm. It took his whole team and several others to extricate the driver from his rig before he was flown to a hospital.
“I felt happy the way it turned out,” Eddy said. “I was glad of what everyone there did. We all worked together great.”
Channahon Fire Protection fire chief John Petrakis praised those individuals who choose to serve as paramedics.
“I don’t know if there’s a word out there that describes the uniqueness of these men and women,” Petrakis said. “To be prepared for anything and everything takes a special kind of person, and these people are extraordinarily special.”
The job can take a toll at times, Petrakis said, especially when they can’t save a patient.
“They’re human, and the situations we put them in are not always human,” he said.
Being a paramedic can mean transporting a patient to a nursing home, responding to a cardiac arrest call, helping at a multi-vehicle accident and even gently lifting a crying child off a deceased parent, Petrakis said. They’ve seen it all.
Ed Matteson, vice president for Kurtz Ambulance Service, said the two types of ambulance runs are public and private. Public ambulance service is associated with 911 dispatch centers. Private service provides transportation between hospitals, health care centers, dialysis units and similar facilities.
EMT and paramedic jobs are good ones, Matteson said, for the right kind of person.
“The individual must be interested in helping people,” he said, “and not be squeamish. ... They are entrusted with a pretty broad spectrum of responsibilities, too, like calculating drug dosages in the field. ... I tell them if they can intubate somebody upside-down in a car in the dark, they might make a good paramedic.”
Matteson said he hires EMTs and paramedics. Most firefighters today also are paramedics.
Cecily Meadows, EMS coordinator through the Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District and Kurtz, said she loves the challenge of being a paramedic and the fact that every day is different.
To become an EMT basic takes one semester of college, Meadows said. From there, paramedics receive an additional one year of college and hospital training. Morris Hospital, Meadows said, trains paramedic students through a Joliet Junior College program.
In addition to classroom education and studying, paramedic students spend clinical hours in the intensive care unit, the emergency room, the pediatric intensive care unit and in ambulances.
“The programs are so well-rounded,” Meadows said, “because you never know what you’re going to see on a call.”
Once certified, there is no rest from learning. Paramedics continually run through drills, learning new techniques and practicing old ones. When the alarm goes off, Meadows said she doesn’t panic. She knows that after all the training, it will be second nature when she’s on site.
“When you are in an uncontrolled setting,” she said, “your instinct and all your training will take over. What good is it going to do anyone if I panic?”
EMT, also known as an EMT-Basic. Cares for patients at the scene of an incident and while taking patients by ambulance to a hospital. An EMT-Basic has the skills to assess a patient’s condition and to manage respiratory, cardiac and trauma emergencies.
Advanced EMT, also known as an EMT-Intermediate. Has completed the requirements for the EMT level, as well as instruction in more advanced medical procedures, such as administering intravenous fluids and some medications.
Paramedics. Provide more extensive pre-hospital care than EMTs are able to do. Paramedics can give medications orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms and use other monitors and complex equipment.
The specific tasks or procedures EMTs and paramedics are allowed to perform at any level vary by state.
Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov