Sirens blare, red lights spin, information streams from the radio and tension is high. When tension is high and the stakes are higher, Cumberland County Emergency Medical Services are there to take the call.
Think your job is high pressure? Thirty minutes into the 12-hour shift, para-medics Crystal Todd and Erin Daly have already made one trip to the hospital and are wheeling their second patient into labor and delivery so she can finish pushing and meet her first born in the hospital instead of the back of the ambulance.
Calm and confident, the paramedics comfort the patient while gathering necessary information on the computer, getting stats, while getting her exactly where she needs to be.
All that excitement happened before the paramedics even got their breakfast. But paramedics are used to an unpredictable and grueling schedule. The Cumberland County Emergency Management Services of Cape Fear Valley average about 10 calls per 12-hour shift. There are almost 200 employees supporting 14 trucks scattered throughout the county during the high-risk hours and nine during the hours that have proven to be less busy.
Not only are Cumberland County EMS members national award winners, they have proven their effectiveness in the field as well. When the tornados tore through Fayetteville and surrounding areas last fall, members of the EMS were there providing medical attention and hope for those affected by the devastation.
According to Daly, everyone pulled together during the chaos. People kept working far beyond their shift. One paramedic lost his house in the tornado, but he didn’t stop. He just kept working.
Todd explained it’s the camaraderie and the wonderful team that makes the demanding job easier.
“In this job you can easily get stressed and burn out, but the people we get to work with are awesome. Having the support of a family to joke around with and de-stress helps.” Todd said, adding, “A day without laughter is a wasted day.”
The friendships are only a small part of why these paramedics enjoy their job.
They agree that the adrenaline rush is a part of it, but the bigger part is the opportunity to use their brains in a creative way while treating someone and affecting their outcome.
“I like being on the road better, instead of confined to the four walls of the hos-pital,” Daly said. “You have a lot more independence — you have to think more often on your own because you don’t have a doctor with you on the road making those judgment calls and giving you the orders.”
The job requires fast-paced, creative problem solving.
“You have to be confident in your skills; knowing what you are looking at and what you are doing for patient care,” Daly said.
The paramedics compare what they do to putting the information available together like puzzles pieces EMS gathers the pieces and finds the missing pieces to help the patient.
“EMS saved me on my way to nursing school. I was in nursing school and I had gotten out. I was working upstairs in the hospital when I took basic and I loved it, something in my brain just snapped,” said Todd. “With EMS, this is our patient, this is what we do, what we see, how we fix it.”
There is a certain passion and instinctual skill set obviously needed to be a paramedic because each call is completely dif-ferent requiring different approaches and needs. Just halfway through the day, Todd and Daly had already helped five patients, ranging from assisting the police with a suicidal individual to responding to a patient experienc-ing chest pains. The paramedics quickly set up an EKG in the patients living room to determine if he was having a heart attack.
“You put the pieces of the puzzle together and then you have this aha moment when your patient says, ‘Oh, that’s better’,” Daly said.
“It helps that I enjoy coming to work every day. There are defi-nitely hard days but the good days far out weigh the bad.” Daly said. “It’s about “positive patient outcomes because of what you were able to do.”
Photo: Not only are Cumberland County EMS members national award winners, they have proven their effectiveness in the field as well.