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What’s your EMS origin story?

Many providers were inspired by their parents, a close friend and, of course, Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto

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To celebrate the 50th annual EMS Week, EMS1 readers are sharing what prompted them to join the industry. Their inspirational EMS origin stories include wanting to give back after surviving an active shooter situation, seeing a parent show up for their community and, as many noted, watching the work of Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto on “Emergency!”

What sparked your interest in EMS? Email editor@ems1.com and share your “why” with your family and friends. You never know, you could be part of someone’s EMS origin story one day!


‘Loved every second of it’

“I was at a bar with some of my friends, one of whom happened to be an EMT. As we sat there drinking, a motorcycle broke down in the middle of the road. I thought to myself, I hope he doesn’t get hit. Well, you know what happens next. Immediately my friend, the EMT, sprang into action. I was so impressed that he was able to go from partying to saving a man’s life, that that is when I decided I wanted to become an EMT. This happened the semester before I graduated from college with a degree in criminal justice. I enrolled for a weekend EMT class and loved every second of it. And the rest, as they say, is history. This year marks 20 years as a nurse, 26 years as a paramedic and 30 years in the medical field!” Stacey Price

‘I was so impressed’

“I was already [a fireighter] when I encountered two high school students in a class I was teaching who were EMT-Bs. I was so impressed by them that I went ahead and fought for certification ... 10+ years later, here I am.” Mark W. Ingoglio

‘Some of the best years of my life’

“Although I did watch ‘Emergency!’ as a young adult, I had always wanted to be a doctor. But lack of funds and raising a family became my first priority. My husband retired from law enforcement in 2002 and a year later we moved to Idaho. After taking a couple years to do all the things that must be done to a new build, I was driving by our fire department and the info sign said ‘Free EMT classes start soon. Sign up now.’ I pulled in and did just that. Mind you I was 59 years old. But the chief had no qualms about my ability to pass, which I did. A year later he sent me to advanced training and again I passed. I retired from the service just 3 years ago but they have been some of the best of my life. The firefighters, chiefs, paramedics and other EMTs I worked with are some of the hardest working men and women I know.” Dee Edginton

This year marks the 50th recognition of EMS Week, established in 1974 by President Gerald Ford

‘I never wanted to be in that position’

“A coworker of mine was in his backyard one day and heard from the neighbors yard, ‘Help! Help! My brother is dying!’ He vaulted/crashed through the fence to find a 4-year-old unconscious in a swimming pool. He pulled the kid out and did CPR with good effect, while the father was there frozen and unable to act. At the time I had three young kids and said I never wanted to be in that position. Gary Huntress

‘If I made it out of the situation, I wanted to give back’

“In 2018, I was sitting in English class and, unbeknownst to me, it’d be a day like I’ve never experienced before. Over the intercom, our principal announced an active shooter in the building. We went over our normal procedures: lock the door, turn the lights off and shield ourselves behind the wall. However, our teacher couldn’t lock the door. Classmates and I gathered as we stacked desks, chairs and anything else we could find in front of the door. We remained sheltered in place and ready to defend the classroom if necessary. Soon, incoming sirens broke the eerie silence. The sirens seemed never ending, and with the sounds came the feeling of brief relief. In that moment, I realized if I made it out of that situation, I wanted to give back. That moment inspired me to be one of those sirens, to be the help on the way. As of today, I’ve been working in public safety for four years.” — Nolan Kemp

‘I knew how I could help people’

“When I was a teen, we lived on a dangerous curve. We had numerous accidents with injuries and I wanted to help people. So, I took an advanced First Aid class my junior year. A few months later, a lady hit the curve too fast and rolled her car. She was ejected and was laying in the ditch. I found her, kept C-spine and kept her calm till EMS arrived. A responder came to our house the next day and said that she had a broken neck and would have been paralyzed if she tried to move. I probably saved her life, or at least her mobility. At that moment, I knew how I could help people. That was in 1984. Still doing it, years later!” — Eric Johnson

‘30 years later, still on the boo-boo bus’

“Enjoyed CPR/Buddy Aid in the Army. After the Army, I worked at a home health supply store beside the hospital. Saw EMS coming and going all day, saw lights and siren, saw excitement. The rest, as they say, is history; 30 years later, still on the ‘boo-boo bus’ part-time. Lived it, taught it, multiple disciplines. What a ride! — Steve Kiser

‘I would do it all over again’

“I was a senior in high school who was told, ‘You can’t do that,’ when it came to the basic program. Johnny and Roy played a role [in my decision to enter the career field] but it also became a challenge. The basic class led to the EMT-EOA and that lead to the EMT-I (which eventually became AEMT). I taught the basic class at the college level and was chief of our town’s volunteer ambulance for a while, too. After 40 years of actively working in EMS and fire, I finally pulled the pin, and I would do it all over again, too! — John Cunningham

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‘The rest is history’

“As a kid I loved ‘Emergency!’ and Johnny and Roy did give me my childhood dream of becoming a paramedic. In 1983, our volunteer ambulance service was really hurting for personnel, so I took the class and passed the test the summer between my junior and senior year of high school as a 17-year-old. Made my first official call the day before my 18th birthday; the state allowed me the one day. Three months after graduation, I got on full-time with a private ambulance service where I worked my way up to paramedic in 1987. The rest is history.— Wayland Slater

‘I signed up out of curiosity’

“I didn’t have a significant event lead me down this path. My hometown department started a junior firefighter program my senior year of high school, and I signed up out of curiosity. I knew I would be second generation, and my dad drove an ambulance in the 1940s, working his way through mortuary school. Later on I found out I could take EMT through a community college. I have acquired several fire certifications, became a paramedic in 1976, and recently marked my 50th anniversary as a firefighter. Now, I try to teach young firefighters to be old firefighters, and have the honor of my grandson being one of those young firefighters.” — Dave Bloom

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of FireRescue1.com and EMS1.com. In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.

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