Special Report: An evening with EMS
"About half of them (people) think we either sleep all the time and the other half thinks we never sleep, we don't have beds, which is not true, this is our home," says Pinson. "We cook here, we eat here we do everything you would at home. The only thing different is when the buzzer goes off you get up go on a call."
EMTs say some nights they feel like zombies, responding to an average of 60 calls some nights. Finding time to cook and eat is sometimes hard to come by on days like these, let alone sleep.
"You may or may not get an hour of sleep you may or may not get eight hours of sleep," says Pinson. "It's very tiring, very stressful especially when it's not emergency calls per say, everyone using us for non-emergency stuff instead of using us for emergencies."
When they are not running calls, paramedics are brushing up on their skills. Afterall, they say while doctors specialize in one area, paramedics have to know a little bit about everything because they never know what they are getting when they respond to a call. Paramedic Supervisor Steve Ebel says the team responds to a wide variety of calls, ranging from headaches and automobile accidents to shootings and strokes.
He says it is during the late night hours when the schedule tends to get hectic.
"Predominately we'll sleep at night while the rest of the population wants to stay up at night so there's no actual rest period in between in a 24 hour shift, so we're pretty much up the whole 24 hour shift," says Ebel.
Barely in the door from one emergency call and it's out to the next. With a two minute response time, the ride isn't always easy.
"People don't know to pull to the right. Everyone pulls to the left and stops, which is where we go," says Field Training Officer Mike Pinson.
Paramedics work 24 hours on with three days off, but for some, this is not their only job.
"Just about 99 percent of us I would say probably have a second job somewhere, and it could be another EMS service. We've got some who work at the hospital as nurses. We've got one on our shift that works as a physical therapist," says Pinson.
Despite the day-to-day challenges and busy schedules that sometimes leave little room for even sitting down to eat, EMTs say the strong commradery and ability to help people in emergencies keeps them coming back.
"The ability to help folks as far as medical issues and the simplicity of the help that we can provide prior to getting to a doctor and to see the satisfaction on a patient's face that we've actually helped them," says Ebel.