Help your volunteer EMS/firefighters

I am greatly encouraged by the way New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther is trying to get funding and medical support for volunteer fire fighters with cancer. I can think of all the times I have been at a fully involved structure fire at night in the dead of winter for hours on a hose line, and the wind keeps changing, and I sit in smoke without my pack on because the wind is just going to change again, or during an overhaul looking for hot spots, or around a smoldering car fire.

Back when I was a new EMT, I was on scene with other fire fighters and EMTs, and as I stepped back to figure out how to extricate a victim while on Highway 17 in Cooks Falls I was yanked out of the way of a speeding car. The car raced down that icy highway right past the fire police and state police who were in the process of closing the highway.

But, believe it or not, it is not dying or being injured that I struggle with; I know God will care for me and my family. I am most negatively affected by the calls like the car accident where one person died and the other passenger is fine; or the call where the person died during their sleep and the family, which you know, wants you to do CPR like in the movies and yell “clear,” and “shock” their loved one back to life; or seeing young adults you knew from Vacation Bible School now getting Narcan for opioid abuse as adults.

Mainly it is the calls like “mild back pain” at 1 a.m. or the activated (false) alarm at 3 a.m., or a “common cold” call Sunday afternoon that causes me to question continuing as a volunteer. I have a professional career and a family and normal problems that go along with normal life. So who needs to get cancer because of firefighting, or to hurt my back carrying a victim down the stairs, or to have PTSD or depression because I am around death regularly, and then not be properly covered or helped by the state and the community I serve? Meanwhile millions of people who won’t work, let alone volunteer, sit at home and collect public assistance. God help us, something has got to give.

[John “JP” Pasquale is a resident of Livingston Manor, NY.] 


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