It is 4:30 am on Wednesday morning. You are startled awake by your spouse because he or she was startled awake by the 2.5”x 4” black box on the bureau (called a pager) the fire chief issued you a couple of months ago when you joined the fire department. The call is for a 45 year old patient who is injured from a fall.
It is 4:30 am on Wednesday morning. You are startled awake by your spouse because he or she was startled awake by the 2.5”x 4” black box on the bureau (called a pager) the fire chief issued you a couple of months ago when you joined the fire department. The call is for a 45 year old patient who is injured from a fall. The residence is across town. It is winter. Your alarm clock will be going off to get ready to go to work in an hour. It would be so easy to roll over and go back to sleep right now. But you don’t. You rise from your warm mattress, dress, slip on your boots and jacket and go out into the winter air and start your cold car.
On the way to the firehouse to get on the ambulance, you review what you learned in your emergency medical technician (EMT) class that you just graduated from a few weeks ago. You ask yourself about the probable injuries you may encounter and what actions you will take to treat them. You learned a great deal in that class and you are confident in your abilities but you hope that someone else is responding also because it takes at least two and sometimes more to manage the medical care for a patient. At the fire house, you are relieved to see another medical provider waiting for you. You hop in the passenger side door. At least it’s warm in the vehicle. You are updated on the patient condition enroute. The patient has a back and head injury from slipping on the ice outside. You mentally review your protocols: trauma, spinal immobilization, traumatic brain injury, and hypothermia. On scene, the Chief and the patient’s spouse greet you. You treat the patient. You transport the patient. You transfer care to the emergency room staff. You drive back to New Boston. You document the call with a patient care report in the computer. It’s 6:30; time to go to work.
After an 8-hour workday, you drive back to New Boston. You have dinner with your family and then, because it’s Wednesday, you head down to the station for fire training. You look forward to the camaraderie and experience you get from participating in fire training. You contemplate how much time you are dedicating to your new “hobby.” If it wasn’t for the Firefighter 1 classes every Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturdays for five months, it might not seem like so much. You are glad that the 6 months of EMT classes are behind you and you can now help people in the way you sought to do. You consider your family; will they understand why you are doing this, the difference that it makes and will they admire you or resent you? At fire training, you are operating the pumps and moving the hose lines with a team of other firefighters. You are proud to be a part of this. Not everyone gets an opportunity like this; best job in the world. After training, everything is broken down at the training site and you are assigned to go draft water from the river to fill the apparatus so it is ready overnight for an emergency call. You’re tired. Mostly you would like to get home after a very long day. But you don’t. You look at your Officer and accept the assignment because this is what you signed up to do. This is what it means to be a call firefighter in New Boston and you are proud to make your contribution. So you keep coming back, day after day, week after week. Because you care; about people and about the Town.
At home, you settle back into bed with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and check the pager is turned on in case you are needed in the night ahead.
This piece is written as a testament to the hundreds of men and women in New Boston who have lived this life. They may have or may not have been expecting the reality of certified training that makes them the professionals that they are and training that they are not compensated for but that prepares them for the job that they enlisted to do. It is no wonder that it is difficult to recruit residents to be call firefighters and even harder to retain them after years of service. Along with the challenge and sacrifice comes great satisfaction that you are part of an elite team of individuals called upon to help their neighbors in a way that most cannot.