Why no one will ever understand you like your EMS partner

There is something sacred inside the cab of the world's ambulances


The ones who understand

The little girl that we had transported to the ER was safe, for now, surrounded by doctors, social workers and foster parents.


I wish her foster mom had feigned ignorance when I asked her how such an adorable 8-year-old could suddenly erupt into such disruptive behavior that the police and EMTs had to be called. I wish I never asked, or wondered how a deaf girl ended up in state custody in the first place.

“Her parents had been using her as a prostitute for three years.”

It took a few moments for what I had just heard to sink in. When it did, I managed to walk trance-like into the freezing January air, off the hospital grounds and into an enclosed bus stop, where I collapsed onto the cold aluminum bench.

And that is where my partner found me, chain-smoking cigarettes from people who knew that I needed a distraction.

I could tell others about the things we see. I could pay therapists to listen to my stories of how it felt to be blindsided by an 8-year-old deaf girl who stole my heart. I could burden my family with the story. Or I could simply ride back to quarters in the company of the only other person on earth who understood, and shared the same heartbreaking experience.


You had to be there

She insisted on walking to the rescue, and we didn‘t object.

“How pregnant are you?” I asked, innocently enough.

“Very. My due date is in three weeks.”

She settled into the stretcher and nonchalantly said, “I‘m going to have this baby.”

“Not in my truck you won't.”

“I'm having this baby NOW!”

“Impossible, you're not due for three weeks; they're never wrong.”

The look she gave me was priceless.

Five minutes later we went from one patient to two. Adam, my partner, took care of the baby while I took care of the mom. The delivery was uneventful, other than the fact that it happened in the back of a 15-year-old ambulance at 2 in the afternoon on busy Union Avenue in Providence, Rhode Island.

As soon as I saw the crowning head I called for backup. Backup arrived to find me, Adam, a beaming mother and her newborn son sitting in the back of ALS Rescue Co. 1, waiting for somebody to drive us to the hospital.

I could tell the story a million times, but if you weren't there you wouldn't get it. It's surreal, especially when it's the first time delivering for both partners. For the rest of my days, and Adam's too, the words “they're never wrong” will be the first ones spoken when we meet, and camaraderie like no other will be remembered long after we have left the job.

Inside the ambulance cab

There is something sacred inside the cab of the world's ambulances. The small space that we inhabit after the smoke has cleared, the battles for life won or lost, babies delivered, lives changed forever and things we will never experience in the outside world experienced.

The ambulance cab holds more secrets than a church confessional. Never are emotions as raw, honesty so vivid, and life moments exposed, disseminated, cursed and glorified as they are moments after the call — when the only two people on earth have cleaned the truck, processed the necessary paperwork and left the hospital behind.

Those are the moments medics live for, when they can confide in another human being exactly how it feels without the risk of being exposed for being human. Those are the moments I remember. Those moments made it all worthwhile.

This article was originally posted March 16, 2014. It has been updated.

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