AYER — Every 24-hour shift is unique and unpredictable for paramedics on the town’s ambulance squad — and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
One example is Firefighter and Paramedic John Bresnahan, who said the variety inherent with his vocation keeps things interesting.
“You can go for your entire shift and not have anything, and then the next minute you can be out at Route 2 with a car accident involving eight people,” he said. “It takes a certain type of person to deal with that.
“You have to be able to deal with someone who is having the worst day of (his or her) life, while it’s a day on the job for you,” he said. “You have to have the compassion to deal with people and also have the level-headedness to deal with the situation.”
While meeting that challenge was described as a draw by paramedics, the main thing is helping people.
That’s the most rewarding part, said Paramedic David Greenwood.
“I like that you take someone who’s in very critical condition and, using your skills, you bring them back to the point where they’re talking with you,” he said. “You always remember the saves.”
Greenwood and Bresnahan will be honored alongside paramedics Charles “Chuck” Dillon, Jeffrey Swenson and Timothy Shea at the seventh annual Nashoba Publishing Extraordinary Service Awards Night June 21 at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley.
The ambulance squad answered some 1,031 calls last year, with incidents that run the gamut from people slipping and falling to car or power-tool accidents, said Dillon, the program’s coordinator. The circumstances may change with the each call, he said, but the goal doesn’t.
“We all strive for the same thing, and that’s a positive outcome for every patient we have,” he said. “It’s always gratifying to see that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.”
The group was nominated by fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi, who said the paramedic-level ambulance squad provides a valuable service to the town.
“Paramedic” is the highest level of training for ambulance personnel. That certification is required under state law for medical calls such as chest pains, diabetic emergencies and cardiac arrests. Because of their training, paramedics can do more for patients on the way to the hospital, such as initiating certain types of treatment or providing medication.
There literally isn’t more an ambulance crew can do, said Pedrazzi.
“I want to bring to the forefront the level of care that’s offered to residents on a daily basis,” he said. “People in town are offered the highest level of care, and we have five very dedicated paramedics.”
The ambulance squad was upgraded to paramedic level in 2005, when Pedrazzi’s predecessor, Paul Fillebrown Sr., cited a need to provide the best care possible and convinced town leaders the program would be self supporting, which it has been.
They’re dedicated to continuing that trend, said Dillon.
“It’s a professional pride and a pride for the community, being able to provide absolutely the best care possible before they reach the hospital,” he said.
The theme of “doing more” is a recurring one in speaking with the paramedics, each of whom began as an emergency medical technician (EMT) but wanted a larger role. Reaching paramedic certification involves two years of classes that cost approximately $30,000, so it’s not a decision made lightly.
Yet it’s not just about the paramedics. Virtually the entire Fire Department is certified as at least basic EMTs, and Dillon said full-time and call firefighters play a vital role in operations.
“It’s a very dedicated bunch of people,” he said. “Any time you get somebody who works a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and still gets up at three in the morning to tend to someone else who is in need — they’re the real heroes.”
Bresnahan agreed the workload can be heavy, but said it’s worthwhile.
“We’re pretty busy, and it’s highly demanding, but it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs you can do,” he said.