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Book excerpt: ‘A Paramedic’s Memoir’

C.B. Garris shares the profound satisfaction derived from a demanding yet gratifying profession dedicated to saving lives

In “First Responders: A Paramedic’s Memoir” C.B. Garris authentically conveys the real-world experiences of first responders, using his personal journey as a narrative vehicle. In contrast to the often-spotlighted roles of police officers and firefighters, Garris endeavors to bring deserved recognition to the vital but frequently overlooked contributions of medics and EMS professionals. The book communicates the profound satisfaction derived from a demanding yet gratifying profession dedicated to saving lives.

Book excerpt: ‘A Paramedic's Memoir’

C. B. Garris

Danny and I hit the street on time today. We had a few back-to-back calls that we were cancelled from, and then we had one that just set the record for the month. The assignment came in as an UNKNOWN, which I truly hated. That usually meant that the call receiving operator could not disseminate the information provided, there was a language barrier, or worse, we were about to walk into a crime scene.

Today it was choice number three. We arrived at the address, in a very wealthy, well known apartment complex on the West Side. The building stood about forty stories, and when we arrived there were no obvious signs of trouble. There was no smoke, fire, muzzle flashes, explosions or people jumping. I wondered if this could have even been a prank.

Danny and I exited the vehicle and noticed that not even the doorman was approaching us. On past occurrences where the building has a doorman, the tenant usually calls down ahead to let them know they called 911 and to expect us. They usually try to corral us to the service elevator, out of fear that it will look bad if an EMS crew is seen in the building. We generally just walk right in the front door, as time is of the essence to us, and we really could care less about appearance. As Danny and I grab the essentials for this “unknown” call, a drug bag, Lifepak, Airway Bag, Trauma Bag and suction, we make for the front door.

The doorman greets us with a Brooks Brothers nod as we enter the structure. I kept having this peculiar feeling about this call though. Low and behold, as we walk through the foyer, the elevator opens and a man in his 50’s runs towards us covered in blood.

“You have to help me!” He screamed frantically.

I dropped the equipment off of my shoulder to stop him. As I made my best attempt to both calm him down, and also check him for any stab wounds, Danny picked up his NYPD radio and notified them to expedite the officer’s enroute.

Chester, the man now in my hands told me that his nephew’s friend took Chester’s wife hostage in the apartment, stabbing both Chester and her. He was unsure if she was even alive. It turns out that his wife was the Ambassador to a foreign country. As soon as I heard that, I knew what kind of a circus this was about to turn into. Within a half hour, Danny and I found ourselves on the 32nd floor, the floor below the apartment where this couple lived. We were deployed in the stairwell, while S.W.A.T. teams from the NYPD and FBI coordinated hostage negotiation efforts and hostage rescue efforts with themselves respectively, along with attachés from the CIA, State Department and the Secret Service. On the first reconnaissance mission, the NYPD S.W.A.T. team members found a note stuck to the door that said,

“Stay away from this door. Anyone who tries to enter will be burned with scalding water and other assorted weapons of choice”.

“You’ve got to be shitting me,” Danny said to me as I passed the finding along.

“Dude,” I said to Danny while we both sat on our stretcher, “You know we are going to be here for awhile.”

Danny sat back with his head against the concrete wall, “Yeah, just what I was hoping for.”

This standoff went on for almost eight hours and it included helicopters, and officers rappelling from the top of the structure to use cameras for a better look. There were uniformed and plainclothes law enforcement agents going up and down the stairwell every few minutes; all had their weapons out in case this turned into a shootout. Because of obstructions, all the rappelling officers could visualize was the view of a female laying face up on a floor. She hadn’t moved in hours and that was enough for them.

We were moved to the incident floor and awaited our orders. We all had our radios against our ears, waiting for the “GO” word. When they gave it, what must have been about eight S.W.A.T. officers ran through the front door with a thunderous BOOM – evidence of the use of their battering ram. I didn’t hear any shots go off, so I peeked around the corner to find a scene from the keystone cops. It turns out that when the S.W.A.T. teams hit the door, the assailant was bending down in front of it on the other side. When the door came down, it did so on top of him, and about seven officers stepped on top of the door. Obviously he was no longer a threat; in fact, he was incapacitated. The officers searched the room with their infrared night goggles, but they didn’t realize that the assailant was under the door. So I had a pretty good chuckle when they figured it out and placed him in cuffs. The wife it turns out was a smart cookie. She acted as if she was dying from the moment she was stabbed.

Her wounds were pretty superficial, so the backup crew took care of her.

Excerpted with permission from, “First Responders: A Paramedic’s Memoir,” by C.B. Garris.

Published by BookJet Publicity (2023).

Available at Amazon.

About the author

C.B. Garris, author of “First Responders: A Paramedic’s Memoir,” draws inspiration from a distinguished career as an EMS specialist/first responder, assistant watch commander, and emergency management/operational mission coordination specialist for NYC EMS (now FDNY-EMS). A native New Yorker, Garris underwent emergency medicine/shock trauma training at Boston Medical Center and University Hospital (UMDNJ), solidifying his commitment to emergency response. His extensive experience includes serving as the incident coordinator following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, contributing as a clinical regulatory/biomedical specialist, and instructing emergency medicine at UCLA’s Medical Center. Currently a managing coordinator, Garris continues to enrich the field, and his book reflects the depth and significance of paramedic and first responder work. Learn more: