Driving home from work about 3 a.m. a number of years ago, I noticed a car coming from behind that was weaving all over the road. My daddy didn't raise no fools, so I pulled over and let him get in front of me where I could watch and not be a part of his accident. In a few minutes he drove off the road and straight into a wall. It was three in the morning, not many cars on the road, I was obviously the first on the scene -- you pretty much have to stop and try to help.
Opened the door and reached in to turn off the engine -- the only thing I knew how to do. About this time someone tapped on my shoulder. It was a slip of a girl -- maybe 90 pounds, something like four foot tall and looking all of 12. "I'm an EMT, can I help?" I had no idea what she was talking about; but if she wanted this bloody mess more power to her. "If you want it you got it," I replied.
This was my introduction to Emergency Medical Technicians, but not exactly the first time I ever heard of such.
Before EMT's mostly what you had were ambulance attendants whose main job was to get victims to the hospital for care. At best these guys were first-responders who stopped the bleeding and put people into the vehicle. Often, especially in small towns, the ambulance services were owned by funeral homes -- presumably trawling for customers. Their ambulances doubled as pick-up-the-body transports.
About 1972, the TV program "Emergency" began to make the term paramedic, later Emergency Medical Technician, a common expression. Part of the plot for this show was an attempt by the principal characters to demonstrate that rescue methods learned in the military could be adapted to civilian use. Although not unheard of at that time, the concept of medically trained people on the scene was not widely known. "Emergency" went a long way toward making paramedics an accepted part of our culture.
Today we just assume EMT's will be there when we call; a taken-for-granted security blanket which helps make the capriciousness of modern life sufferable. "Call 9-1-1" has become our first response to almost any emergency -- from cut finger to train wreck. From the viewpoint of those taking that long, long ride to the hospital, there is almost as much relief and comfort at the arrival of an ambulance as there is in pulling into the hospital itself. [This opinion coming from one having the "advantage" of observing such trips firsthand at least four times.] I for one am glad they are there, are so well trained, bring such a sense of competence, and don't use the truck in their spare time to pick up bodies at the local morgue.
What brought this effusion of gratitude to the forefront was the blog I submitted last Thursday morning, "9-1-1 Need Not Apply." Although not at all about ambulance services, some sort of poetic justice soon followed. Within about an hour of my posting someone was calling 9-1-1 for me. Thank you for being there when needed. And, I am grateful you weren't trawling for customers.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.