How I got into EMS

I asked a question on Twitter last night to my fellow EMS bloggers, and after several of them posted up links to posts to explain, I realized I had nothing to tell how I got into it.

How did I get into EMS? A kinda long route, at least it seems long to a 22 year old.

When I was a Jr in high school I was thinking of going into the military, it had been a long tradition in my family. I was thinking of either going in as a medic or getting some college under my belt with ROTC and becoming a helicopter pilot. I talked to recruiters, took the ASVAB (second highest in the state my year :) ), worked out, and generally tried my best to get to where I wanted.

That changed on May 5, 2005. I was riding up to the next city to see a movie on a half day from school. Our town at this point had lost it’s only theatre and we had nothing to do. I’d headed up there so many times I could have gotten there in my sleep. Except there was 55mph winds and I was riding up there on a Kawasaki EX500R.

I had just gotten on the interstate at MM150 on I25 in NM, when a gigantic gust of wind hit me. Since I was riding a very light bike, and anyone who’s ridden motorcycles knows how wind treats us, I got blown all over. I ended up getting blown into the rear trailer wheels of an 18-wheeler. My left leg hit the hub and I bounced off and hit the concrete barricade on my right side. The semi just kept going since he wasn’t even aware a little bug had hit his trailer.

All of that is kinda fuzzy to me, as I remember seeing the bottom of the trailer somehow, then starting up at the face of my boss. She owned a deli I worked at, and her and her husband were both volunteer firefighter/EMTs. She kept me calm and waited with me till help got there. She helped the city FD package me and take me to our little bandaid stand they called a hospital.

They couldn’t be sure of the extent of my injuries, so they called a bird from the state trauma center and wanted me flown up there. I don’t remember any of that ride since I was so doped up when they got ready to load me up. The next thing I remember is being stuck on a board in a hallway for several hours. Not a fun experience.

I wound up with a compound tib/fib fx, 2 broken ribs, a concussion, some road rash on my left leg, a broken right pinky, shattered left ankle. Not too bad for hitting a semi at 75mph. The accident actually ripped off my left boot and shredded my jeans. My gloves and jacket had withstood the accident decently well, but were cut off by the responding EMTs (and broke several pairs of their shears). The helmet I still have on my shelf in between my two daily riding helmets. It is cracked and scuffed, but a good reminder why gear is important.

The road to recovery was a long one, I had several surgeries after the accident and I still walk with a limp occasionally. I resigned myself to not being able to serve our country in the military like I had wanted, but just wanted to get myself through high school and figure out what I wanted to do.

I wound up graduating on May 20th 2006 and was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. EMS had been a thought in the back of my mind since I was recovering from my accident. But I was near one of the premier schools for blowing things up, and I decided that since I couldn’t serve, I’d get a degree in Explosives Engineering.

I loved the idea of doing that, I could go to work and help develop munitions for the govt, or serve with the police and disarm weapons. Unfortunately I didn’t like the math required for engineering, and I was your typical first year college student. I didn’t wanna actually do anything. And it didn’t help that I went to college in the same little town I graduated high school in, so the drama from the year before tended to follow me.

After the first semester I was put on academic probation and then academic suspension after the second semester. I was devastated. By the end of the second semester I had tried, and made progress, in turning everything around. But it was too little too late. I had no idea what to do.

My mother is actually the one who suggested I move north to the city for a year and get some classes up there under my belt and, since I’d talked about it on and off, maybe take an EMT-B class and give it a try. It made more sense to me than just hanging around and doing nothing down there for a year. So in July of 2007 I made a move 70 miles north to the city.

I started in EMT class and loved it. Every day was a new learning opportunity and I made sure to bleed my instructor dry. I found that I loved the idea of working on an ambulance and working outside on a regular basis. Plus it flared up the idea of being a military medic once again and I knew I’d found a niche that I liked.

My instructor was an EMT-I getting ready to go to medic school and he pulled me and two others aside and told us that he thought we should consider going further and starting the paramedic pre-reqs at the community college we were at. Knowing that he thought that highly of me, I did just that the next semester.

But first was the NM EMT testing. I had to drive 4 hours to the next smaller city south of us to take the test. I was so nervous during it that I didn’t think I’d pass. I was the second person done with the written and felt ok about how I did on it. But then came the practical scenarios and skills. My first group was two random skills. Combitube and drawing up a dose of a med and giving it (I got Epi). That was no problem. Combitube went great and I drew up the 0.3cc of Epi 1:1 just like I was supposed to and administered it to the arm just fine.

Then came the pt assessment scenario. I don’t even remember what it was now, but I know I just froze. I forgot gloves and failed no matter what I did. They told me I’d have a chance to redo a scenario and I knew that it was my last shot. I got together with some classmates and we all quizzed each other and I felt better about it. I went in and nailed the scenario. I remember the proctor telling me “And they failed you the last time?” as I walked out the door, this time feeling much better about everything.

It was a long drive home that night, but I was ecstatic about everything. It just was down to the waiting. I was working for a motorcycle dealership at this point (and still riding) and my boss was getting pretty amused and how frustrated I was, having my brother check the mail every five minuted and not getting anything.

Finally 4 days after the test site, I went home and checked mail. I remember what our teacher had told us. “Small envelope, no good. Big envelope, welcome to EMS!”. I went through my mail and got nothing. Then I noticed a key to the package boxes. I went over to them and there it was. A big envelope from the NM Department of Emergency Medical Services. Inside was my certification, a patch, and a big certificate. I think I called everyone and told them that night. I also stopped by my former teachers class and thanked him and shook his hand one more time.

I started Advanced Trauma the next semester and had even more fun. I also wound up meeting the girl I would get engaged to later on that year. That semester I also found a big road block to me working anywhere. I was only 20. Luckily though I heard from a friend that an IFT company was hiring and that I might see about getting on with them as a dispatcher. I figured what the hell and put an application in.

I got an email the next day from their director of field operations asking if I would be willing to work on a rig as an attendant only until I turned 21, instead of being a dispatcher. It took me all of a half second to decide and I sent him an email 5 minutes after getting one telling him I would love to work on a bus.

I worked there for almost a year and loved almost every minute. Even if it was primarily IFT I learned a lot and I asked as many questions to the RNs and MDs as I could get
away with. During that time I got engaged to my ex (which if you’ve read more of this blog, you know she IS my ex and just got married in fact to my old partner) and completed all of my pre-reqs for my medic program. And got accepted to the program.

The pretty much brings this up to date as to when I started this blog. Since then I’ve had my share of ups and more than my share of downs. But I think back to the first day of EMT-B class and realized that’s when the bug bit me. I can’t imagine myself doing anything other than medicine. And EMS is and will always be my first love in the medical field, hopefully I can pay it back everything it’s given me.