Paramedic's passion inspires those around him

My husband, who is "Called to Care," inspires me and others to save life's most precious moments


By Betsy Duckworth

Three a.m. and the tones go off. Rom is out of bed and out the door before I can fully awaken myself from sleep.

In his hurry, he slips on the ice on our walkway; New England winters have many nasty tricks. He falls, and the watch that was his dad’s, the dad who was killed when he was 14, smashes on the uneven slate. He gets up and goes to the medic vehicle that is parked in our driveway, rushes through the ice storm and comes home hours and hours later. 

Sepsis Hero Winner Captain Rom Duckworth and his wife, Betsy Duckworth, at the 2015 Sepsis Hero Awards Gala in New York City.
Sepsis Hero Winner Captain Rom Duckworth and his wife, Betsy Duckworth, at the 2015 Sepsis Hero Awards Gala in New York City.

"His wife died," he says of the old man who had called. "The volunteers did a really nice job, but she was not covered on the walk to the ambulance, and I had to remind them that she was his wife, not our patient. They understood."

I can see that he is thinking of all the people he loves, and then he takes a shower and gets ready to go back to work. 

It is so tempting to say the easy thing: that Rom inspires me because he is a fire captain who works so hard, who cares deeply about the personnel on his shift and his duty. That he has been a paramedic for 20 years and has likely saved countless lives. That he has been an educator for nearly as long, and that you can’t go to any local fire department or hospital without running into a former student, many of whom credit Rom’s class as their foray into EMS, that they have gone on to medic school, nursing school, med school, to teach EMS themselves.

All of that is true, and yet it is Rom’s passion itself for his calling that inspires me. The very thing that makes him good at what he does, that brings people out to hear him speak, that keeps him flying across the country and sometimes the world to teach and to give presentations, to impart his knowledge, born of passion, is what inspires me every day. 

Yes, I have learned just how much we, as people, are all made of the same stuff — bones and muscles and blood — and that we all get sick and all need help, sometimes. And even better, I have learned how many helpers there are in every community across the world. EMS is a family and anyone even peripherally near to it knows that to be true.   

Car accidents and burning homes, gunshot wounds and cardiac arrests, being able to handle the difficult calls (children taken from their parents, devastating scenes) and the mundane that can grind one down (so many to recount — you know what I mean), all of that is the stuff of which heroes are made, and I am lucky to know many, to be married to one. 

It reminds me daily that no matter what, if we are healthy, if my only son is healthy, then we are good, and all is fine. That paring down of priorities has changed my life, and is a constant reminder to cherish every day, to keep things in perspective.

Yet it is so easy to get jaded, so easy to forget the humanity in lieu of the adrenaline, and Rom never does. One question about what he does and he is filled with enthusiasm, ready to teach, to share, to learn, and his never-ending energy and passion is a reminder to us all that life is precious, that EMS saves, as he says in one of his presentations "lifes" (a first kiss, a dance, another day to watch the sunset) and not just lives of patients whose names are easily forgotten amid the tireless and often thankless and frustrating job that all members of EMS do day in and day out for too little or no pay. 

The frustrating familiarity of any job can so easily breed contempt, and yet Rom’s passion continues to inspire those around him, and me most of all.

About the author
Betsy Duckworth is an EMT, award-winning Connecticut EMS educator and the co-founder of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Betsy has worked as training coordinator for both hospital-based and private ambulance services in Connecticut, and works full-time as a Regional Faculty Director for Kaplan Test Prep.

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