This week is National EMS Week, and to mark the occasion GOOD Morning Wilton asked Brian McDermott, a member of the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps to describe to readers what it’s like to work as an Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT. While WVAC has many different people serving as volunteers, each with their own unique experiences, they’re all Wilton neighbors giving back to the community. As McDermott puts it so eloquently, giving a glimpse at who the EMTs are “…will certainly serve to make people more comfortable when we show up to their emergencies, knowing who we are underneath the star of life on our uniforms.”
A day in the life for me would be a 9-hour work day from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. every day during the week at my day job in Stamford. Then on the nights when I am scheduled for my WVAC overnight shift, I change into uniform at my office and rush from Stamford back to Wilton and provide EMS coverage to the town from 6 p.m.-6 a.m. without catching a break in between to go home and have dinner with my family. At 6 a.m. I have just enough time to head home, shower, change, and see my girls off to the school bus before heading back to Stamford for another 9 hour work day at my day job.
In between all that, while on shift, I hope to catch a decent meal if there are not too many calls, but not before doing a thorough check of the ambulance to make sure it’s fully stocked and prepared for a call. While we do have nice comfortable sleeping quarters at WVAC, it’s definitely not a sound sleep. We take our boots off and sleep in uniform so we can quickly be ready if a call comes in at 3 a.m., always keeping one ear tuned to the radio, so we don’t miss a tone.
I prefer my weekend morning shifts from 6 a.m.-12 p.m.. I do several of these a month. I am an early riser and my family members are late risers so it generally works out that by the time I get home, we are ready for a family activity. Of course, you never know. If a call comes in at 11:30 a.m., I won’t be seeing my family until 1 p.m. or later when it’s all said and done.
A typical call in town takes about an hour and a half from start to finish. When a call comes in, on average it takes about eight minutes to arrive on scene from time of dispatch (give or take) depending on the location of the call. We will be on scene assessing, treating, and packaging the patient for transport for approximately 15 minutes. Another 15 minutes transporting the patient to the hospital, and another 15 minutes or so at the hospital transferring the patient care to the emergency department, getting paperwork sorted and the rig back in order for another call. Then it’s 15 minutes back from the hospital to headquarters, where we write up our patient care report which can take about 25 minutes or so.
In addition to shift time, there are the training meetings we do every month to keep our skills sharp and our EMT or EMR licenses current. There are the many community outreaches or public events for which we volunteer additional time to, such as Wilton Family YMCA events like Swamp Romp or Healthy Kids Day, the Go Green Festival, Relay For Life, Memorial Day, H.S. Graduation, 4th of July, the Sidewalk and Street Fair, Cannon Grange Fair, Touch-A-Truck, Ambler Farm Day, and the many Brownies and Girls Scout troops to which we have helped earn their first aid badges. From time to time we will offer free hands only CPR classes to the community. We just recently did this for approximately 50 CERT members, another volunteer organization here in town that I am active with. That’s not to mention the various internal committees we need our members to sit on to keep the Corps functioning daily.
Other members have a very different day in the life than me.
We have some members who are paid EMS professionals at other services such as Norwalk EMS, or AMR, but still find the time to give back to the Wilton community and volunteer with us for free.
Some are retired or work locally within the community, always keeping their ear to their pagers or radios to drop what they are doing if there is a second call in town and the other ambulance is needed. They will rush to HQ to get the rig and get to the patient.
Others members are high achieving high school students, building their resumes for college and getting ready for a career in the medical industry, and they spend most of their free time on shifts with their noses in their books and studying.
We all do this for various reasons, but at the end of the day there is a common theme. It feels GOOD. It feels GOOD to give back to the community to which we live or work. It feels GOOD to help someone in their time of need. It also takes a special person; a person who is willing to rush into the unknown to provide comfort and care to a stranger they never met. We see a lot of bad, that’s part of the gig. But we do it for all the GOOD. There is no better feeling in the world to run into a former patient that you helped in their time of need and see them getting on with their usual day, whether they recognize and remember who we are or not. We remember them.
WVAC is a 501(c)3 volunteer organization with approximately 50 members made up of state-certified EMRs and EMTs who provide 24-7 coverage to the Town of Wilton. We are not a town department like police or fire. Very little of our budget actually comes from the town. We rely on donations from the community to keep us going. We rely on our volunteers even more and we are always looking for more.
For more information visit the WVAC website.