Paramedics are exposed to things that a typical human being would never see.
We talked to Dickinson paramedics for National EMS Appreciation Week to get an idea of what the job is like and why they do what they do.
Before Penny Lewis was the operations manager for the Dickinson ambulance service, she worked at a local fire department. Soon after, she became an EMT but there was an incident that changed her career and perhaps her life.
“Eventually what had happened was he died,” she said. “It was a young male. I felt having had something like that happened. I felt useless and worthless.”
He was suffering from an allergic reaction. And since she was an EMT and not a paramedic, she couldn’t give him any medication.
“From there I decided, I wanted to be a paramedic,” Lewis said.
That sobering story and many others have changed Penny’s perspective on life.
“I wasn’t as cautious back then and now I am,’ she said,
It’s a job that’s mixed with tragedy and disaster. There are stories of heartache. But, then there’s others…success stories.
“[To] really positively impact somebody or save somebody’s life,” said Misty Peck , an EMS at the Dickinson Ambulance Service. “Those [stories] certainly stick in my mind.”
The city of Dickinson doesn’t have cardiologist or neurologist on staff at the hospitals in town.
The ambulance service has to transport patients, after stabilization, to Bismarck. A drive, they say, can feel like an eternity.
“For the paramedic in the back that’s treating the patient, they’re very anxious, very in tuned to what’s going on with the patient to make sure they’re doing everything they can to keep this person a live until we get there,” Lewis said.
But, don’t call them heroes.
“My idea of a hero is someone that went to war and come home. That was lucky enough to come home,” Lewis said.
“I don’t feel like a hero there’s a lot of people on the other side that often don’t get the credit that they deserve,” Peck said.
And for them, they don’t need the recognition. It’s all apart of the job.
The Dickinson Ambulance service averages about 175 calls a month, and that was nearly double during the oil boom.
“We do it with our whole hear rand our whole soul,” Lewis said. “It isn’t something people will do. Oh I think maybe I might want to be an EMS’er. Oh I think maybe I might want to be a police officer. We are either 100 percent or we are not in at all.”