Volunteer EMTs

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A lot of warm memories come back to me when I think of my volunteer EMT days, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The state of Georgia decreed in 1975 that all counties had to have an ambulance and emergency medical technicians available whether it was paid or volunteer. The state gave Fayette County two ambulances and about 40 concerned citizens volunteered for duty. We had to buy our own “uniforms” and any personal equipment we carried. We decided on blue pants, white shirts and an official medical-type jacket.

I was a single parent of two children, so I had to work during the day. I was on duty one week a month from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. We each had a walkie-talkie and at first the whole county was on one channel. Unless you had yours turned off, you heard what was happening throughout the whole county. I’m going to be honest with you, because we each came from home when called, and I was on duty nights, I slept in my uniform. We each had to get to wherever the ambulance was parked and then to the site of the call, and moments saved were precious.

One early memory was of a man who had a heart attack at night while driving through Fayetteville. He was able to pull over and stop, but then died. Of course we EMTs were not permitted to declare someone dead, so he had to be taken to Clayton General Hospital. I recall his license indicated he was from the general area and I drove his car to the hospital. His family was called and at the hospital I turned the car keys and his brief case over to them. Not a pleasant moment…

My teenage son worked at a restaurant after school and I ran out of the house on a call about 11 p.m. one evening, passing him coming in the door as I ran out. The call was a car crash with two teenagers in the front seat and one in the back seat. They had crashed into a tree and I’ll never forget the one in the front passenger seat had his arm out the window. I will see that turquoise bracelet he was wearing in my mind’s eye forever.

We used the “Jaws of Life” to cut open the door and it took time. I needed to get to the fella in the back seat so we busted out, by hand, the back window. I crawled up over the trunk and held onto him with my hands wrapped around his neck. He had blond hair the length of my son’s and was wearing a tan beige jacket, just like my son had. If I had not passed my son a half hour before that, I would have had to lay there for 20 minutes in fear of who he was.

The two boys in the front were dead and I will never forget the mother of one of them walking up and down the emergency hallway at the hospital saying “why did God do this to me?”

It is my personal opinion God did not do this to her and I hope in the intervening 35 years she has come to believe this, too.