After much thought and deliberation about how I wanted this thing to go, I thought 'what better way to start out than to start out spilling my guts?". People ask all the time 'what made you get into EMS?' or 'how'd you get your start?'. Well, fair warning, all of the following is very true. Very un-#likeparamedicdan, if you will.
I graduated from high school in 2001. The school I attended was a 'magnet school', meaning that it specialized in a specific trade or occupation set. Some specialized in architecture, aeronautical, construction, vehicle repair... pretty much everything. I, of course, went to the one with 'Public Safety' program. Initially, I was a fire goober. Everything was fire department this, fire truck that with a little football and females mixed in.
While college hunting my senior year, I found an in-state college that had a 'College of Justice and Safety' that encompassed Fire, Law Enforcement and Emergency Medical Care. I was instantly sold. 150 miles away from home, an amazing football coach, and known nationally as one of the top party schools. Of course, I dove into college life with both feet and three quarter a hip.
After being accepted to the very prestigious and astute (note the sarcasm) Eastern Kentucky University, while scheduling classes, my academic advisor asked me 'Are you planning on working while you're in school?'. 'Well, fuck no. I'll be busy with..you know...school stuff'. He cracked a smile that I can still see in my head today. 'Ben, you're gonna need a job. Mommy and Daddy won't pay for everything forever'. I didn't want to hear that..at all.
Once he shot down all of my very well thought out and ever so awesome reasons why I shouldn't work while in school, he suggested to take an EMT class. 'It's credit hours for one class. Do well, get a certification you can use, have a good GPA. It's a win, all the way around'. The only thing I knew about EMS or being an EMT was a good way to get hired on to the Fire Department and I DID NOT want to ride on the ambulance. Old people, foul smells and dirty homeless guys just weren't for me.
Well........ Not everything works out like we think it will. Turns out, I fell in love with EMS during EMT class. I thrived... I loved it.... I needed more. I couldn't get enough. Everything was so new and interesting. Who knew this whole 'medicine' thing could be so cool? I did so well in class, in fact, that my instructor (who had never done such a thing) got me my first job in an outlying county after I got my EMT certification.
I worked in the outlying county for several months thereafter and soon, of course, decided to take a Paramedic course. Luckily enough, the "College of Justice and Safety" included a Bachelor's Degree program in Emergency Medical Care. Boom. I was IN! Much like the party life, I dug in. However, like I said before nothing seems to work out like we think it will.
In March of 2003, I came home for the weekend from school to visit with my family. Little did I know that this weekend would change my life, forever.
This is one of those things that happen in your life that, no matter what, you will always remember every little detail from the event. I remember everything. My family and I had finished dinner and my mother was cutting my hair. (She's a hairdresser) My step-dad called into work that day because he hadn't felt well all week with flu-like symptoms. As my mom was finishing up, my step-dad (Phillip), came into the room where we were and said "Honey, I really feel bad." My mom, being like many moms, suggested that he 'take one of those antibiotics in there with some Tylenol Flu and go lay down'. Three minutes later, I was on the phone with 911.
He was leaned over the bathroom sink splashing water on his face. I put my hand on his back to ask if he was 'ok'. When I touched his skin I thought 'Oh, shit. He's cool and REAL clammy'. I told the 911 call-taker (who happened to be a high school friend of mine) that I thought he may have been having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic. No sooner than I got the statement out, he hit the floor.
Mom and my sister came running in. I threw the phone at them and screamed "TELL HIM I'M STARTING CPR".
I had never done CPR on a real person yet. I opened his airway, gave him breaths. Nothing. No pulse. As I started compressions, my mother began to scream. My sister began to cry. All I could say was 'Come on buddy. Come on, Phillip'. The squad unit arrived in what seemed like an eternity, but I wasn't stopping. I kept on pushing. Kept on pushing. Nothing.
My step-dad was 33 years old. My first real cardiac arrest was the man who had raised me from the age of 9.
That's enough for now.....