Through the eyes and heart of a paramedic
In his poem If, Rudyard Kipling wrote “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs… you’ll be a Man, my son!” These famous words bring to mind an ambulance call this writer, as an ambulance driver, responded to some years ago. It was a multi vehicle accident and every emergency personnel and volunteer in the county had responded. Paramedics, EMTs, fire and others kept a calm, quiet, steady response to what was turning into one of the most tragic vehicle disasters that had taken place in the county that year.
This is Emergency Medical Services week. Many people in this area depend upon the quick response and life saving that our EMS provide. But most people don’t realize what an important role those responders play in the lives of their patients.
“And we do tend to make a difference, though not all calls are the ‘Hollywood senarios’ that involve ‘get ‘em in, patch ‘em up, and get ‘em out,” said Jim Cook, a paramedic who works for Western Alliance Emergency Medical Services. “Sometimes it’s just somebody holding somebody’s hand or making them open up or making them feel like somebody cares. In a nutshell, it’s what anyone in this profession should feel like doing on an every day basis.”
Cook is probably (in his words) “one of the oldest working medics in this region.”
“It’s been a life well spent for me,” said Cook. He says that he has never been able to forget most of his patients. With some of them, he might want to forget the outcomes, but never the patients and their families… and their stories; especially their stories. Over the last 30 years, Cook says the good stories have certainly outweighed the bad stories.
“An inter-facility transport, in which the patient is stable, is one of the few times we have the time to be human with our patients,” said Cook. “It’s the best time; the most gratifying time.”
Cook recalls an elderly lady they were transporting whom he enjoyed talking with. He just started asking her questions and discovered that she had an amazing story to share.
She had been going to nursing school in the 1940’s during the war, when she met her husband to be. It was love at first sight when he came home on leave from Pearl Harbor and her brother introduced them. She told Cook how she and her husband had lived all over during their years together. She became a nurse back in the day when nurses didn’t get paid well. Everything was made of glass except the bedpans; those were made of porcelain. And they had to reuse the IVs.
“She touched me in ways that a lot of my patients do,” said Cook. “But it was just one of those days when I needed that. It just happened by chance that was the day that I got to know one of my patients and I’ll never forget her.”
Cook also works in the emergency room (ER) of Troy Community Hospital as a technician, and finds that he makes a difference in that area as well.
Just recently a little boy about four years old was brought into the ER with a laceration. He was terrified and Cook just started making small talk with him, asking him if he had any brothers or sisters. The little boy told him that he had an older sister. When Cook asked if she was a nice older sister or a mean one, the boy replied, “She’s nice but, she steals my milk and I need it for my cereal in the morning.”
Cook answered, “How about if we make a deal? I’ll get you some ice cream and a carton of milk to take home with you so you make sure you have milk in the morning.”
With a huge smile the boy said, “Really, mister?”
Cook’s answer: “Absolutely.”
The boy thought for a moment and then said, “Hey, can I have two cartons of milk? ‘Cause my sister’s going to need milk in the morning too.”