At 4 feet 6 inches, Pa. medic surmounts obstacles

There are challenges he faces as a medic, but Jay Freed always finds a way

Reading Eagle

BERNVILLE, Pa. — Jay Freed holds no resentment over his height.

There might be some challenges that come with being a paramedic at 4 feet 6 inches, but the Bernville resident always finds a way.

"I was very hard on myself when I was younger," said Freed, 28, a paramedic for Schuylkill Valley EMS. "But over time, I learned different methods of doing things. I've always believed if you want to do something bad enough and you stick to it, you figure out a way to accomplish it."

Locally, there has been a push to raise awareness about dwarfism. Over the last year, Karen Barsoum of Exeter Township has been working with local officials and organizations on her campaign. Barsoum's son Elijah, 5, has a rare form of dwarfism and is a kindergartner in the Exeter School District.

She said the big message she wants to let people know is that everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

"I think there is still a barrier with people when it comes to any disability in general," she said. "Whether it's sometimes feeling sorry or not knowing how to approach people. But everyone has something different, and you learn to appreciate differences."

Growing up, Freed dreamed of owning a big farm. As a teenager, he volunteered with Bethel Ambulance and decided he wanted to get more training in emergency medicine. He also met his wife, Jaclyn, about 10 years ago on a mutual-aid call when she worked as a volunteer with Schuylkill Valley EMS.

Freed said he loves his job because every day brings a chance to see something new. He said he has learned how to adjust as needed to life in the back of the ambulance.

"You always find for every obstacle there is always a way to get over it," he said. "You learn for every weakness there is a different path to increase your strength."

Freed's mother-in-law, Maggie Schearer, said she has always been impressed and inspired by him.

"When I think of what challenges Jay must face just in the regular day-to-day stuff we all do effortlessly, I am inspired by the fact that he has always met the challenge and never accepted his size as something that would or could limit what he would do and how he would live," she said.

Freed said that is the only way to live.

"You don't get anywhere by being depressed or holding resentment," he said. "God has control over everything. The sooner you come to terms and accept the fact that this was meant for you and how you were made to be, the sooner you learn to live a happy life."

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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