Her name is Paramedic Barbara Danton. She works on a Tran-scare 911 unit out of Brooklyn Hospital. That is to say a commercial ambulance provider, the biggest on the east coast staffing a voluntary hospital unit in the city controlled 911 system. Ah the date, well it is 15 December now in the year 2009. The weather is poor and the streets are not well plowed in Downtown Brooklyn.
In her own words:
“Only reason I’m out here this gorgeous Friday evening is that I don’t make a living wage and thus do an insane amount of overtime to keep myself in the lifestyle to which I am accustomed. I want to be a fire-woman. I made the list, I passed the physical, and then the recession bullshit happened. Come the fuck on, I said to myself; I’ve paid my dues. It’s time for them to let me the hell out of this chicken shit outfit, this EMS bullshit. It’s 19:05, and I’m gonna bang out at midnight. The rain is beating down on the windshield, and I’m praying to black baby returning King Seventh Day Adventist Jesus that we don’t get any more damn jobs.”
Now don’t get me all wrong. I have no romantic ideas about fire suppression. A woman, a black woman, I know the deck isn’t stacked in my favor over there in the goomba-squad. But you know what? I have been asking myself a lot lately. What exactly those fire people do for 90,000 plus a year that makes them so much more valuable to the department than me. My unit is in the shit. We could do ten jobs a day on a summer shift in da ‘Stuy. I don’t wanna say some shit like those firefighters don’t work, they work a bit. And a real blaze, albeit hard to come by these days happens and yeah they heroically run in.
But number wise; come the fuckery on.
In my five years in 911 EMS I’ve gotten fifteen confirmed saves. That’s eleven returns of spontaneous circulation in the field post cardiac arrest and four ‘hauled my ass at the speed of light to King’s county after some young brother got blasted away.’ They only gave me nine little sheets of accommodation because I think one of the arrests bottomed out in the ER 40 hours in. And they don’t give out anything for shots and stabs. For ass hauling, lifesaving spectaculars.
I carried three tight asthmatic pediatrics out of projects and got them intubated up in my bus and on the treatment. Nothing for that! I’m saying I don’t want a bonus or anything but the sum total of my work, of my personal life saving five year total is high as hell. And yeah I buff, but you gotta buff to keep it all interesting.
I’m a fast Haitian motherfucker. My hands move so damn fast at that wheel I can clock under four minutes on any notification anywhere in the borough of Brooklyn. I am a demon behind the wheel. And if not for the recession I’d be getting’ mine. I’d make it through their academy and be up on a ladder by now. Savin’ property not life is where the green is. The fame too. Just last week the Daily News ran a two page spread about a fire engine crew that delivered a baby on the Belt. Not to be a complete hater, but I have delivered six babies now, they even named one after my unit; Sonja “B” Carter. ‘Cause I hold it down in the Stuy, the Heights, the Ville and the Wild East.
It’s aggravating that the press loves the fire fighters so much. Not that they don’t deserve it, it’s just we need a little love too. It gets to a tech when year after year they are out in the trenches and they feel more like a cab driver than a medical professional. We always post the firefighter saves in the lounge whenever we see them, as if to say we do that shit too you know. We save lives too. It’s been near a decade since the merger and still they shit on us. They still think we’re the red headed step children of the emergency services.
But the cops know. They see us out there more doing our thing with the shots, and stabs, and EDPs. I heard just a week ago some EDP put a gun up in some crew’s face and demanded that his girlfriend be given Narcs. EMTs don’t carry narcs. We got Aspirin (the ASA), Albuterol, Oral Glucose (a fancy word for a sugar tube) and Oxygen. That’s it. TV has everyone thinking we’re paramedics. Anyhow, I got upwards of thirty recognized and mostly unrecognized saves and I want out. I want my goddamn promotion because I’m closing in on 29 and then they cut ya.
I heard that an EDP motherfucker nearly shot two of our boys last week on 44I in Brownsville. He shot his girlfriend, hit an MOS close range in the leg, then shot himself. The crew member saved the cop by hitting that EDP with his asp thirty times in the face. Bleeding out his damn leg he called a 10-13 and held direct pressure on the wounded cop. Don’t see that in the Daily News. Don’t get any thanks when we have to act like enforcement. But a Fireman who delivers a baby is a god among men. Or a firefighter who does just about anything in front of a camera.
I want out. I want to get into that Fire Department hustle. I need the stimulus money to stop getting ‘lost’ in paperwork before it trickles down to EMS. I need to stay in shape, not burn out, and not let the resentment over take me. They say it’s for the good of the service, but I’d like the service to do a little good for me.
“31Sam for the Multi Trauma on Livonia,” the dispatcher cuts into my thoughts.
“I hate East New York,” mutters my partner Melvin Clarke. And he’s a 6 foot 6 Jamaican.
“31Sam, I got trauma and I ain’t got any other units available,” the dispatcher Shirley states, too always too camp casual on the air.
She tones us up, the loud extended beep to wake up sleeping crews.
“31Sam pick up your radio!”
“31Sam; send it over central!” I hoot into the radio. It comes over flashing on the KDT.
“That looks really, really bad,” Melvin mutters. I glance at it without reading anything.
“Yup. Let’s ride on that,” I say without looking. “Central show us extended!”
Clarke taps me on the shoulder, points me to the screen; he never mentions the job enroute unless it might matter. Apparently a dog is eating a little girl’s face, says the KDT screen.
I have to move far faster now. Faster than the speed of public safety, or life. Not because the outcome can be affected, or even the merit of the intervention. Only because it is the only variable that I can control.