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EMT school is training a family of superheroes

An EMT mom shows her seven children determination, resilience and what it means to be human

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Two of the girl’s studying for EMT class.

Image Joy Slaughter

The EMS Week 2015 theme is EMS STRONG. From getting ROSC on a child to belting out the “Frozen” theme song on the way to the hospital, we wanted to know how kids have inspired you to be EMS STRONG. See the finalists and winners of our 2015 essay contest, where readers describe how a pediatric response made them feel like a superhero.

By Joy Slaughter

I’m the mother of seven children, ages six to 14, so EMT school is a team effort. We all study hard. Cardiology results in a crayon box devoid of reds and blues. My pediatric variety pack visits the EMS lab for packaging practice. They sing Stayin’ Alive and compress c-collar bedecked stuffed animals. And you’ve never lived until you’ve completed a trauma assessment with a reader, a victim, three stethoscopes, four helpers, five cookies, and a dumped out jump kit, all at 8,000 decibels with a child riding on your back.

As I tuck my son in at bedtime, I notice he has a box on his bed. “It’s my station,” he says. He looks around suspiciously and motions me closer, so I lean in. “The Ewoks are my partners,” he whispers. I nod, but he frowns. “They’re only around for the food and the lollipops they get at the end of the calls.” I kiss his forehead and tuck him in. “I want to be an EMS when I grow up,” he says.

Not all of our family moments are as warm and cozy. We have our fair share of illnesses, diagnoses, and broken bones, those times when EMT Mom comes to the rescue with slings and swathes, Band-Aids and kisses.

My daughter calls me outside. “Mommy, my turtle’s sleeping. He won’t wake up.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” I say, taking her in my arms. “He’s dead.”

She looks up at me with tear-filled eyes. “Can’t you take him to EMS?”

And we grieve together that sometimes there are things even EMTs can’t fix.

Crayon portrait of a person and the artist wants us to know the mark in the middle is not a belly button, but a gall bladder. (Image Joy Slaughter)

But when the house is still and the third load of dishes is in the dishwasher, I sit at the dining room table and study. I put down my pencil and look at my crayon portrait (complete with lungs, trachea, and gall bladder) and realize I’ve taught them more than study habits, vital signs, and bandaging. I’ve shown them determination and resilience. In return, they have taught me, as well.

From them I’ve learned that even when I reach the limit of my abilities, when the superhero shell shatters against death’s permanence and I’m left only as the woman they call Mom, I’ve lost nothing. In the eyes of a child, we’re all superheroes, but being a hero is not in the flashing lights. It’s coming home to sticky hands and goodnight kisses. It’s in the admittance of shortcomings and the honesty of crying. A true hero shows a child not invincibility but rather what it means to be human.

About the Author

Joy Slaughter homeschools her seven children. She has successfully completed NREMT and is currently pursuing AEMT.