Of all the roles people play in life, paramedics and members of ambulance crews play all of them’usually all within a period of time that it takes the average individual to eat lunch at a fast food restaurant. They calm the hysterical, they comfort the ailing, they treat total strangers as if they have known them for years, they reassure the worried, lend a helping hand to the needy and sometimes, are even fortunate enough to see a smile appear on the face of one of their ailing patients. Paramedics and members of the Brady/McCulloch County Emergency Medical Services crew spend their days working 24-hour shifts that may be slow and uneventful one minute and then nonstop emergencies next. May 20-26 marks Texas Trauma Awareness Week in Texas. The Texas Department of Health is encouraging citizens across the state to take a second out of their busy lives to thank the individuals who are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to help others in the time of a medical emergency. “Emergency medical response across Texas is provided every day by dedicated, trained professionals working in ambulances and trauma centers stocked with lifesaving equipment,” said Kathy Perkins, chief of TDH’s Bureau of Emergency Management. “Nearly 45,000 trained, certified emergency personnel are part of Texas EMS. They respond to people in need and give the best emergency care possible. These highly-trained medics treat patients from the emergency scene to the hospital and are an integral part of our emergency care system. “In Texas, the entire system begins with an informed public able to recognize a medical emergency and make the call for help. The system takes over from there.” Part of the daily routine for the EMS service in Brady is public awareness and education. A ride-out program open to any interested person 15 years of age and older gives individuals a one-on-one and up close view of what goes on during a shift of a paramedic. “A lot of people wonder what we do all day, and this program is designed to give the public a chance to see first hand what it is that we do,” said Gloria Slone, a licensed paramedic on staff with Brady EMS. Another program recently enacted by several of the other paramedics on the staff involves revolving focus groups that cover different age groups throughout the course of a year. From classroom introductions in kindergarten to safety tickets that reward youngsters for demonstrating safe behavior, the local EMS staff is working to help educate the community. “A big part of our job is public education,” said paramedic Les Jones. “We try to do some type of public awareness duty at least once each week.” Hang around the dedicated staff that fills the roster of the EMS board for very long and it is easy to see that coming to work may be a job, but it is more like a big family. In the course of a week, two-person teams may spend more time in one-on-one contact with their partner than they do with any other individual’even their own spouse. “We all have our ups and downs while we are working,” said Slone, “but one thing I know for sure is that if I am ever in trouble, all I need to do is pick up the phone and any one of them will be there to help. We have to trust each other and we really are just like a big family.” So what does it take to ride first-out shift on an ambulance’ Many think that all you have to do is fill out an application, get a uniform and hop behind the wheel and the rest is all lights and sirens. Ask the most recent recipients of piece of paper certifying them as either licensed or certified paramedics and they will tell you how it really is. Just to receive certification as a basic emergency medical technician (EMT), there is minimum requirement of 132 classroom hours not including hospital and clinical rotations and ambulance rideouts. Move on up to become an intermediate EMT and another 20 hours of classroom training and even more hours of rideouts are added. In the emergency medical services field, there are several levels of training that can be achieved. With each level comes increased responsibility as well as more in-depth and complicated life saving techniques. For example, emergency care attendants (ECAs), the most basic certification available in the field, are technically trained in little more that basic first aid (i.e. splinting, bandaging, CPR, etc.) Basic EMTs learn significantly more information about caring for injuries and intermediate EMTs go several steps further, but they still are limited to what how far they can go. Unless an individual is a paramedic, they are prohibited from administering drugs and giving IVs which is almost considered necessary care in many if not all cardiac cases. Cross over the bridge into the world of paramedics and the stakes become even higher. From administering morphine injections to advanced cardiac life support techniques, each action taken has the potential to be even more critical. The expertise required is even more demanding. When it is all said and done and a paramedic receives his or her certificate, they will have spend more than 200 hours in the classroom and more than 1,900 hours in medical training situations. With all of the training and testing comes a service for McCulloch County that at this point has at least one and most of the times two licensed paramedics responding to each 911 call. Many cities both rural and urban, fill EMS shifts with one ECA and one EMT. If a patient goes into cardiac arrest, without a paramedic onboard, the care they can receive is much more restricted. It is extremely uncommon for there to be such a high concentration of paramedics in a rural county like McCulloch. The benefit to having so many paramedics’no matter when the call comes in, the level of expertise that responds to the scene will be as good if not better than anywhere else in the state. With the current EMS staff in Brady, 12 of the 14 individuals that fill up the weekly rotations are paramedics. The other two are EMTs. Those full and part time staff members are also backed up by a crew of first responders who volunteer their time and efforts when the need arises. So what makes a person train so hard for a job that can be so stressful and so demanding’ The love of the job and the desire to help others. Not all calls end up just as everybody would like, but then again, some calls end up better than anyone could have hoped. “We all have stories of good and bad runs,” said paramedic David Morton. “We had one call that Les and I refer to as our miracle baby. Nobody thought this little girl was going to make it. Nobody. Today, she is a happy and healthy young lady.” “The ones that are good are when someone you worked on comes back and makes an effort to say thank you. Those are the ones that make you want to keep going,” said Jones. No one ever wishes themselves into a situation where paramedics, ambulances and emergency care are needed. Rest assured, McCulloch County has some of the best and most dedicated and caring paramedics in the state. If you get a chance, tell them how much you appreciate them. You never know’you might be the next one dialing 911 wishing they were already there helping a person or family member in a time of need.