Many who choose this service for one reason or another has their “story” about how they came down this road. A moment, an experience, a memory, a family tradition, all are examples of individual’s stories. While I have told this story many times in voice, I don’t recall a time where I have put my “story” to print. So I have a few minutes and well, “here it goes”.
Believe it or not, my “story” begins in kindergarten. During a field trip, we visited the local fire house in Houghton, MI. On the day we visited, much of the class had the regular tour which spent equal amounts of time with the station, the truck (yes only one), the gear, and so on. I remember vividly that the truck had a bell that each of us in class took time to ring. While the rest of the class continued on with the tour, a firefighter stayed with the truck and realized my fascination with it. So, he stayed behind the tour with me, and showed me everything on the truck. What was behind every door, what every tool was and what it was for and so on. Yes for those of you who are asking it was just the firefighter and I. Today people would raise an eyebrow and wonder if it was ok. Back then it was totally ok. Trust wasn’t an issue and it was just pure appreciation for the trade of being a firefighter and someone taking the time to show “a future firefighter” the job that he obviously was very proud of. I am thankful that he did because it set me on a course of interest in the job. I was so impressed that for weeks later I would only draw the fire truck. There is also a funny connection here…..The fire truck was lime green!
Fast forward a few years and I was now in Elementary School and Rockford Michigan. My Mom had purchased a subscription to “Ranger Rick” magazine. There on the front cover one month was this picture of a motor vehicle accident with firefighters, police officers, EMT’s and Paramedics, and even a Medical Helicopter working the scene. I can still see the image to this day and I was fixated on that image and how great it must feel to know how to help when people are hurt. Also during this time, we had a family friend from our church who worked for the local ambulance company. I always wanted to ask him about the types of calls he had experienced but my parents strongly discouraged this because they told me he didn’t “like to talk about that stuff” with kids. None, the less, I always liked talking with him and even got the chance to see him in his ambulance transporting a patient to the hospital. The call must have been pretty serious because they had a police escort to the hospital blocking intersections so no one would slow down the drive. Pretty cool to me! Dad also had a friend who was a Michigan State Trooper and one day he came by the house and showed me his patrol car. One would figure that I might have chosen that path because my Dad had planned on being a Trooper after his tour in the Navy had he not been extended past the test date for the academy. A huge influence was this brand new TV show called EMERGENCY! About these two guys who were firefighter paramedics in Los Angeles County California. It was pretty cool! I was already finding my heart very fond of Red Paint and Shiny Chrome. A path had begun to form.
Fast forward again a few years and I was now living in Minnetonka Minnesota. Again a family friend from church was a volunteer firefighter in Eden Prarie Minnesota. He realized early that I had an interest in being a firefighter and his fire department staffed a rescue on Friday and Saturday nights and asked if I would like to ride along. I said I would and so my parents dropped me off at firehouse with the Rescue on a Saturday night and the ride began. It started slow. One hour then two went by without a call. We stopped at the local Perkins Restaurant for supper. I was reminded that sometimes they just didn’t get calls but before the sentence was finished, the first call came in. A hockey player was injured at a local rink. Kind of comical thinking back to all of us walking out on the ice with the crew and sliding around just to get to the player. He was hurt for sure but not too badly. I helped load him on a stretcher, into the ambulance and on to the hospital. One call down. Then it was absolutely non-stop! A car crash, another medical call, a dumpster fire, a car fire, and next thing I knew it was time to quit for the night. I was so terribly disappointed that it wouldn’t continue and wanting to do it again as soon as possible. Unfortunately I would have to wait almost four years for me to be able to ride again.
Fast forward a few more years to Madison Wisconsin. A year or so after moving to Wisconsin from Minnesota I had the chance to ride along again in Eden Prairie. As before, we started slow but then things picked up and had another awesome night! About this point in my life the hook of being a firefigher was firmly set! Now as a freshman in High School one day I noticed these hand made picture collages in the hallways at school which said “if you think this is cool, come to the fire house on Monday night”. So, I arrived to find out the local fire department was starting this thing called an Explorer Post. It was going to not only be about firefighting, but also about law enforcement and EMS and would be called a public safety post. They discussed meeting nights, uniforms, and this thing called a ride along. They would be with the local PD and EMS for our area. Fire was all volunteer so no ride along but if the fire whistle blew then we could come to the station and stand-by in case extra help was needed. So I went to meetings, was issued a uniform and began riding with the PD first. Don’t get me wrong, I did some pretty cool stuff. Run radar, rode through 3 high speed chases (First time I ever was over 100 in a car!) and many other activities. But I really found a love for riding on the ambulance. Friday or Saturday nights it didn’t matter. 12 hours 8pm to 8am usually. Most of the time didn’t sleep a wink at the station just hoping for a call and was usually disappointed but not always. Football games meant EMS standby with a crew and when a player was hurt, I was right there with the crew tending to the injury and transporting people to the hospital. I learned how to take vital signs, administer oxygen, spike an IV Bag, backboard people and many other skills I still use to this day. I absolutely loved it! In fact, I loved the fire stuff so much, I actually had my senior pictures taken with the pride and joy of the fire department. Engine 1 was a beautiful Emergency One pumper that I was very proud off and loved to ride on every chance I got. I received valuable training from the Fire Department and even learned enough to teach other Explorers about what we were to do on scenes. (Yes, I started this training thing early!) Plus, I was able to document everything that I learned in training with the fire department so well that those experiences would prove invaluable for the next part of this story.
However, that will have to continue for another post.