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EMT reflects on 37-year career, recalls hardest calls

While the medical field is changing daily, Daniel Carter said compassion for patients should never change

By Beth Smith
The Gleaner

HENDERSON, Ky. — Nearly 37 years ago, something happened which changed Daniel Carter’s life.

Then a member of the Smith Mills Volunteer Fire Department, Carter and his brother responded to the scene of an accident on Kentucky 266 in which a young man, maybe age 18, had been hit by a car.

“It was night. I was the first to arrive. The (young man) had passed away, but when we got there, we could not do anything because we were not trained. I felt so helpless,” he said.

That feeling of helplessness lingered until an opportunity presented itself.

“We heard that an EMT class was starting, and we decided to take it,” he said. “Since that day, I’ve been doing this and enjoying every moment.”

Carter began his emergency medical training in January 1979. He was 19.

By May of that year, he was a certified EMT. He’s been employed with the Henderson County Ambulance Service since July of 1981. After two decades as an EMT, Carter took his training to the next level, and in 2001 became a paramedic. Nine years later, he certified as a flight paramedic.

“The first day on the job you learn if you can handle it or not,” he said. “It is a high pressure job. You deal with death, mangled bodies, stress, paperwork and questioning whether you did everything you could for this patient. That’s just a part of the job that EMTs, paramedics, nurses and doctors go through everyday.”

“We refer to the prehospital call as uncontrolled events,” Carter said. “We have to get in there, take control of the event and manage and stabilize the patient so we can get them to the emergency room.”

The father of an 11-year-old daughter, Carter said for him the hardest emergency calls are those involving children.

“From medical to trauma emergencies you have to maintain control and understand what needs to be done for these children, whether they are babies or older kids,” he said.

Performing medical procedures can be difficult enough when the ground isn’t moving, but if your floor, walls and ceiling are miles in the air and in motion it can prove to be even more of a challenge. Those conditions did not deter Carter from wanting to become a flight medic.

“Becoming a flight medic was something I’d always dreamed of doing,” he said. “I loved every moment of it.”

Carter said there were a number of criteria he had to meet before taking flight.

“You have to do pretesting to make sure you can do the job as a flight medic and then take a ride in a helicopter to make sure you can handle the flying,” he said. There are tests with a doctor taken quarterly, orientation for training in critical care flight operations and becoming national registry certified as a paramedic, among other qualifications.”

Carter said eventually he gave up flying to teach more medical responder, EMT and paramedic classes “and to enjoy more time with my daughter.”

While the medical field is changing daily and requires ongoing education, there is one thing Carter says that should not ever change - compassion for patients.

“One of my biggest concerns is I see people who get to the point of not caring. They just come in and do as little as possible, and don’t care about the people we pick up and transport,” he said. “It’s our job to treat and transport the sick and injured. I post on my Facebook page every day that I’m working that ‘It’s time for treating and transporting.’ ”

“I’m very passionate about my job,” Carter said. “I enjoy every minute of it. The more I do, the better I feel, so I am always wanting to make runs and help people.”

“I always encourage people to get into this field,” he said. “It’s a great and wonderful profession or I wouldn’t be going on 37 years.”

Copyright 2017 The Gleaner