"Station 1, Motor Vehicle Collision on Main and 1st, two patients."
The tones drop and I'm grabbing my coat as I'm tripping out the door. I've never been to a motor vehicle collision, and I'm giddy with excitement. I start up the truck and beg my partners to hurry. I want to be first on scene.
We arrive and I see that we are nowhere near the first on scene. Blue lights from the police mingle with the red from the fire engines, and I feel a migraine fast approaching. I grab the giant jump bag from the back and head towards the car. There are two patients and one medic truck, not to mention only one EMT. I sigh out frustration as my partner heads towards the first patient; it's up to me to help the other patient, whom I pray is not in serious condition.
And then I see her. A tiny wisp of a girl, she's crying hysterically and rocking back and forth. She's inconsolable. I know the routine from the other calls I've run, so I start with the spiel.
"Hi, my name is Sam, I'm with the rescue squad, what's your name?" With careful listening, I can pick out the name "Belle" from hushed sobs. "Belle? That's such a beautiful name! Can you tell me where it hurts, Belle?"
She points at her head and wipes away some of her tears with an already soaked sleeve. With a soft voice, I ask her how it got hurt. She tells me that she hit her head against the window; there's no starburst pattern on the passenger window, and I see that due to her small stature, she would have hit her head on the padded bit below the window. I breathe a small sigh of relief and see that the EMT with us is coming around to check on me; our other patient, Belle's grandmother, is more shaken up than injured.
Belle's mother shows up on scene and fills us in on her information. She's eleven years old, has no medical history and her mother doesn't want her taken to the hospital. We advise her to let us take her to be checked out and she agrees.
We're pretty sure Belle's okay. She just needs some oxygen to help with the shock from the accident, but more than anything she needs a calm person around her. I put myself at her eye level and ask her about her favorite things.
She loves her biology class, and really enjoys Japanese comic books. I tell her that biology is my favorite too, even though it isn't. I ask her which comic is her favorite, and tell her that I haven't read it, but I hear it's good.
Belle stops crying and puts her hand on mine.
"You're really nice. Thank you for talking to me, I feel a lot better."
My eyes well up and I choke through senseless responses. "Ohyeahnoproblemit'shwatIdo..."
I smile as we arrive to the hospital and she lets go of my hand.
"Thanks, Sam."

She remembered.


[[I am terribly sorry, but due to a stupid computer issue and campus internet being annoying, I have not been able to update. As soon as I get my computer fixed, I will be updating regularly again! I have an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar tomorrow, so it should be fixed soon! Thank you for your patience :)

Oh, and for all you who are wondering how I'm writing this...I'm on a friend's computer]]


First Call

After my EVOC certificate arrived in the mail (and was promptly framed and put on the wall), I began precepting as a driver. Precepting, I learned, is just a fancy word for 'training'. I make my way over to the station one Wednesday night, and meet the crew I will be running with. I meet Steve, John, Hank, Drew, Ed and Liz, all of whom I am sure I'll come to know and love.
John, a professor at my university, gives me the orientation. He tells me about procedures, courtesies, ettiquite and rules. We are to do inventory on an ambulance at the beginning of every shift; we must call into dispatch when we are leaving for a call, arriving at the scene, leaving for the hospital, arriving at the hospital, leaving the hospital, and arriving back at the station. I do not have remote privileges, because I am new--the remote control hierarchy is decided by seniority and rank. My head is absolutely swimming with information at this point, but I nod everytime he asks if I understand.
John's son-in-law, Steve is going to be the one precepting me. He is a math teacher at a local middle school and has two daughters of his own. He is a generally jovial man, who knows how to have a good time. I am more than relieved at the fact that I will be training with someone who has a sense of humor.
Before we go out to dinner, I learn a little bit more about my crew. Drew is an exceptionally handsome member who happens to be a year ahead of me at my school. I am thrilled that there will be someone my own age; I make a mental note to ask him about ride-sharing.
Ed (who is also called Edward by the others when he is getting particularly excited) is a twenty-something junior member. Ed has no training, save CPR, but certainly provides the others with a generous amount of comic relief. He is easily excitable and, like my lieutenant, appears to have had more than his fair share of caffeine.
Liz is a physical therapist who has a daughter attending my college. She is just as funny as everyone else, but seems to be more stressed and tired than the others. She, however, has a knack for making me feel more at ease, and I settle in better when she is around.
Hank I do not get to know very well. He is more quiet than the others, but his contributions are always enjoyed. The first thing I notice about him is that he wears Chuck Taylor tennis shoes with his uniform, even though everyone else wears black boots.
Everytime the radio starts beeping, chattering, or making noise of any sort, I jump. I am both excited and nervous at the prospect of getting a call. I hear the two pitched tones for other stations, and I am left wondering what ours sound like. I ask John how I'll know if we get a call. He smiles and me and says, "Oh, you'll know." I am left with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
We are watching TV, when I hear the radio once more, "doo-doooooo." I don't move, because I'm sure it's just another station. I hear the dispatch information and disregard it completely. I turn my attention back to the television when all of a sudden my ears are accosted by a loud ringing. I jump about fifteen feet in the air, and I hear John laughing. He shakes his head and with a laugh says, "I told you you'd know!"
Steve makes a motion for me to follow him. I get behind the wheel of the ambulance, and suddenly it dawns on me: I have no idea where anything is. I start panicking, looking around for a map or anything to help me get from point A to point B. I see nothing, and my heart leaps up a little higher in my chest; I can hear the blood pounding in my ears. Steve reaches between the seats and pulls out a binder filled with maps. I breathe a sigh of relief, and he directs me all the way to the scene.
The emergency is at a school just a few minutes away. I think it is odd to be dispatched to a school at 21:00, but then Steve tells me that it's a basketball game. I grab the jump bag (an obscenely heavy bag filled with equipment--essentially a portable ambulance) and follow the others. We walk into the gym, and I see bleachers filled with people. The noisy group falls silent as we walk around the court into the locker room. I feel strange; one one hand, I feel important, like I am about to save somebody (oh the naivety), but on the other, I feel like I am intruding. I am a stranger in uniform interrupting a basketball game; I am out of place. I swallow hard and pick up the pace.
The "emergency" wasn't exactly life threatening. A player had hit his head and he had a small lasceration above his eyebrow that wasn't even bleeding. I feel so relieved I could cry; this man will not die en route to the hospital because of my poor driving. He decides to go to the hospital with us, and we take him out to the medic. As we leave, the crowd stands up and applauds (which is customary for an injured player walking out instead of being carried), and my head is filled with delusions of grandeur. I am Sam, the ambulance driver, who will drive this man to safety; the crowd loves me. Even though I am new, I realize how stupid that is. I shake my head in disgust, and focus on the patient.
Steve tells me to drive lights and sirens to the hospital. I give him a funny look and he says, "I'd rather have you mess up a non-emergency while driving with lights, then to tank on a potentially life or death call." I nod, and we pull out of the school's parking lot.
After we return back to the station, I collapse on the couch. I have never been so exhausted in my life. John looks at me and says, "Was it exciting?" Yeah, that's one way of putting it.
"Let's just say I've had my fill of excitement for the year." He glances at the sheet detailing what happened on the call and cracks a smile.
"Just you wait, kid."



One particularly cold and cloudy Friday evening in October, I find myself sitting in the training room of Clearview Volunteer Rescue Squad with my best friend Olivia. We grab a seat near the front, being the eager students we are, and carefully lay out our pens and paper. One light flickers incessantly in the corner, giving the already dim room lighting worthy of a B-list horror flick. I look around the room, and I am surprised to find that other than one instructor, Liv and I are the only women. "Christ," I mutter under my breath as I scoot my chair closer to the desk. I'm suddenly feeling as though a tank top and jean skirt were not the best wardrobe choices I had ever made.
Our instructors make their way up to the front of the room, hands folded across their chests, giving us all skeptical once-overs. A large binder is dropped in front of each of us, as a particularly gruff man begins to speak.
"Welcome to your Emergency Vehicle Operators Course for Class II vehicles." I wonder to myself if perhaps I should have started with Class I.
"This course is better known as EVOC. If you successfully complete this class, you will be granted the privelege of driving an ambulance in the state of Virginia." He introduces the other instructors and says "I'm Frank Lloyd. I am a Virginia state trooper, and if you piss me off, may God have mercy on your soul." I swallow hard and look at Olivia who is equally as dumbfounded. We sit up a little straighter in our chairs, and I slide a sweater over my bare shoulders; I'm not taking any chances.
Frank appears to be about 65 or 70, and he looks like he could take you down in one fell swoop, given the opportunity. He goes on to detail exactly what kind of behavior he will not tolerate: no talking; no smokeless tobacco; no showing up for class hungover; no showing up for class late; no disrespect of any type. He put his hands on the table, looks me square in the eye and says, "If any of you even look at the lights and siren, let alone touch the controls, you will be out of this class so fast your head will spin." He stands back up, looks at his class and smiles. "Any questions?" Yes--why the hell did I sign up for this class, again? Oliva giggles, and I put my head on the desk; tomorrow is going to be the longest day of my life.
The next day, I wake up at an unbelievable 7am. I am a college student, and I have almost forgotten that anything takes place before 10am. We were told last night to arrive at 8:30 in the morning; after Frank's tirade about not being late, Liv and I decide to be there at least thirty minutes in advance. We stumble out to her car, griping about how cold it is outside, how early it is, how tired we are, etc. We have plenty of time before we have to be at the station so we stop at the gas station for donuts. These donuts are not for us, mind you, but for our instructors. Like I said, I'm not taking any chances.
From 8:30am until 3:00, we are taught about ambulances. We are told how to turn them, how to brake, how to back up, how to go through intersections, how to use the controls, and we are most emphatically taught about 'sirencide'.
Frank makes his way back up to the front of the room, essentially pushing the other instructors aside.
"When you get behind the wheel of that medic out there, you will feel invincible. You can run through red lights, and cars will move for you. Hell, you can even go down the middle of the road if you want. But I will not let any student of mine suffer from sirencide." I look at Liv, and I see her writing "sirencide" down in that loopy script of hers.
"Sirencide is that feeling you get that you are the all-powerful ambulance driver. Other cars MUST move for you, lights MUST turn green for you, and you MUST go at least twenty miles over the speed limit." He pauses, takes in a deep breath and says, "If I EVER catch you doing this, you will have your license revoked, and you will be kicked out of this rescue squad so hard you'll land in the middle of next week." I quiety wonder how many cliché threats he has up his sleeve as I write "sirencide=death" on my notebook.
The next day is test day. We have to take a written test on everything we have just learned, and we also have to drive the ambulances. I finish my written test with no problems, wondering if driving the medic is as easy as the book makes it out to be. We drive to the parking lot of the pork packing plant a mile away and get out of the car. I immediately gag, as I am greeted by the smell of pigs, both dead and alive. I am fairly certain that I will not make it through the day without vomiting. We walk towards the two ambulances in the center of the lot, and Frank gives us instructions.
"Get the orange cones from the truck, bring them here and don't talk." In the constant rain and thirty-something degree weather we're having, the ten of us jog out to the truck to do as we were told. We bring back all the safety-orange cones to the center, and the other instructors begin setting up as Frank speaks. I am shivering despite my windbreaker, but I attempt to remain still; I don't want Frank to think I'm a wimp. He tells us about the different obstacles we will have to go through today. There is the one where we have to drive straight through a set of cones, and back up the same way. There is another where we will have to weave in and out of cones. There is the 'J-turn', which is exactly what it sounds like--a J shaped turn through which we must back up. There are several more for us to complete, and at this point I'm seriously considering getting back in the car and driving back to my dorm. If it weren't for Frank, I probably would have done just that, but I decide to fight through the rain, cold, intimidating obstacles, and dead pigs. I gag again.
All day long, we practice driving. I feel as though I know these courses like the back of my hand, but I am continually crushing the defenseless cones under my monster tires. Every obstacle is another chance for me to feel terrible about my ambulance driving skills.
After lunch, we head back out into the dismal weather and practice some more. I want to scream in frustration, but instead I clench my teeth so hard my temple looks like it might explode. Olivia puts her hand on my shoulder as if to say "I know, but it'll be over soon." Frank heads towards the center of the group. He looks at each of us and says, "Well done. Now it is time to test." I swallow hard, and say a silent prayer to the Gods of ambulance drivers.
"You will have three minutes to do the test." Three minutes!? We were told we would have ten! The class is buzzing with murmured contempt.
"You may not hit more than ten cones on the entire course. You may not exceed your time limit. You may not go over fifteen miles an hour. And you most certainly may not fail any station." He pauses and looks at his other instructors.
"Any questions?" I see nine hands shoot up into the air, and my classmates start shouting their queries all at once. I, on the other hand, hang my head, close to tears.
"Quiet down, quiet down. I forgot to tell you one other thing." The air is thick with tension.
"You all passed." My jaw hits the floor, and before I know it I begin to cry. Olivia is hugging me, and everyone is laughing, jumping, and muttering about how they knew it all along. Frank pats me on the back and winks.
"Good job, kid," he says as he starts helping us pick up the cones.
I am an ambulance driver.



When I walk into the bland beige building of the Clearview Rescue Squad for the first time, I calmly hold out my hand and say "My name is Samantha Montgomery, and I'm here to interview for a position on the squad." The man to whom I am speaking peers down at me over his huge, square glasses and says, "so it's Sam, then?" I must look confused, because he straightens up and repeats, "It's Sam. You can't possibly think that you'll get any respect with a name like Samantha," he trails off and then looks down at my application, "Evelyn Montgomery." I am completely taken aback.
Who is he to choose which name would garner more respect? Who is he to decide to start calling me 'Sam,' when my whole life I have been 'Samantha?' As he tosses my application packet onto the table, he says, "I don't mean to be rude, but this is a man's profession. If you want to get anywhere in this field, drop the name. All it says is 'I'm a spoiled brat who knows nothing about hard work, since all I do is play croquet on my forty foot yacht.'"
I push out the voice in my head that is begging me to tell him that croquet would most certainly not be played on a yacht; I know I'd just prove his point.
"EMS is dirty work," he continues, "Patients will vomit and bleed on you; you will be called everything but a child of God; people will scream at you, begging you to save their child. You will take care of the smelliest, drunkest people in the middle of the night, and you will go home beat all to hell, wanting nothing more than a hot shower and a warm bed." I look down at my feet, take in a deep breath and meet his gaze once again; I am humbled.
After we finish the interview, I sign a contract and I am issued a pair of navy BDUs, a collared shirt and a T-Shirt. I try on my new uniform for size, and then take a tour of the building.
I have never seen a more plain building in all my life. There are two bunk rooms with several beds in each, two bathrooms, a training room, an array of offices and a sort of main common room, all in one building. Connected to the building is the bay area which holds all five ambulances, equipment with which we can restock, and a table outfitted with several ashtrays for the all-too-common smokers in the profession.
Despite how completely and hopelessly barren the station is, I feel a sense of fraternal pride about the place. I look at the annual portraits of Clearview's members dressed in their matching outfits, and I can sense the joy welling up inside me; I am finally one of them. I will have my picture on the wall, I will represent my station proudly with my uniform, and I have a group of strangers that I will eventually call my family.
I am taken to meet my lieutenant, a tall and skinny man in his thirties who appears to have had too much caffeine. He introduces himself to me as Alex Andrews; I calmly hold out my hand and say, "My name is Sam," plain and simple.