Kathy Brackett
JRNM 151

I’d been shadowing Sam Brackett and Ethan Whitt, paramedics with Citizen’s ambulance in Wakeman, since 8 a.m.  It wasn’t until 4:30 p.m. that we had a call for a gunshot wound. I gained more of an appreciation for EMS workers as I saw the relaxed and jovial medics snap to attention as soon as the alert went off.  They were rolling their wheels within a minute of getting the call.

Brackett sped down the road at around 75 mph.  At every intersection he sounded the air horn.  I witnessed firsthand the importance pulling to the right side of the road for lights and sirens. Most cars did as the law instructs.  Some cars did not, costing us precious seconds as we had to go slow to get around them.

As we arrived at the scene, the men told me to stay inside the truck until it was deemed safe.  “Be on the lookout in the woods in case a shooter is still out there,”  warned Brackett.  “We want you to be safe. Safety is always our first concern.”

I got to see the partners in action as Whitt helped Brackett back down a very narrow road. ”It’s all about trust,” Brackett told me. “I know exactly what Ethan is going to do and he knows what I’m going to do.  It’s a huge advantage when you work with the same person all the time.”

We got cancelled as soon as we arrived.  There were policemen and Vermilion paramedics already there so we turned around to go back to the station. I didn’t have to worry about any hidden shooters at the scene. It was an amazing adventure.

When I arrived that morning at 8 a.m., the crews were just giving each other information about the five patients they had transported and the materials that needed to be restocked. One day of work equals 24 hours.

At 8:30 a.m. a loud tone came from the speakers, which was broadcast all throughout the station. “Citizen’s ambulance, please be advised this is a test call.”  I nearly jumped out of my skin!  

Shortly afterwards, Brackett and Whitt did what they call a truck check, which simply means they stocked and organized the ambulance.  It takes about 20-30 minutes they told me, depending on what needs to be stocked.  They joked and talked to me and each other as they rattled off numbers and supplies they needed.  Alcohol preps and a battery recharge were needed, along with untangling the wires.

Brackett said he arranges the wires neatly so there are no kinks that would need to be straightened out if they needed to use the machine. He wrapped each wire around his hand and placed it quickly and efficiently in the wire compartment. “I always do this with the wires,” Brackett explained. “I wrap them and put them in so I know how they come out.” He said that this should save precious seconds, which may be the difference between life and death.

Whitt and Brackett like the freedom this job permits. There isn’t a boss breathing down your neck, they agreed. Plus, they liked the fact that they have a lot of free time in between calls, which is not always a given.  

Whitt said he loved “going to a scene that really stretches his mind and makes him use the skills that he has acquired in school and in the field.” Going on the calls when they really need you, when you make a difference in the patient living and dying are the “good calls,” Brackett said.

They also agree that people abuse the system.  “People are taught to call 911 for everything nowadays, and that steals us away from the people that may really need us,” Brackett stated.

During our free time, I ate lunch, watched TV, and caught up on some homework. The paramedics had already prepped me on the protocol if the alarm sounded, so I knew exactly what to do. The way Brackett and Whitt switched from joking co-workers to serious professionals in an instant makes me feel very safe if I ever need an ambulance.