As you’re making your way to work, you hear the familiar sound of a siren. Instinctively, you look up into the rear mirror to see an ambulance coming up behind you, so you carefully pull over to the right and the large truck with its bright lights and piercing siren passes.
As you experience the excitement and urgency that ambulance embodies, have you ever wondered what kind of people are inside that ambulance as is passes by? This Is the story of one volunteer who worked his way up from being a Non-Medical Driver to a Basic In Charge (BIC) Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) all after he had retired from the “real world,” and the compassion and empathy he has experienced as part of a team of people who care for others in the world of Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services (CCEMS).
In February 2012, Joe Hall had just retired when his longtime friend, Peter Barton, asked him what he was going to do now. After discussing a number of post-retirement options that just didn’t appeal to him, Joe accepted Peter’s invitation to go out for a ride in an ambulance to see if he might be interested doing some volunteer work as a Non-Medical Driver (NMD). Joe rode along for a whole shift, liked it and signed up as a Cypress Creek EMS Volunteer.
In order to become an NMD, Joe had to go through several weeks of training. During an interview, Joe explained, “An ambulance is a 10,000-pound machine that doesn’t stop very quickly, I had to learn to stop on time. I also had to learn about the vehicle’s inertia so that I would know how to turn properly without having the ambulance flip sideways.” After his training, Joe had to ride with six different Field Training Officers (FTOs) who determined if he had the necessary skills to drive. After being accepted as a driver, Joe volunteered as an NMD for a little over a year.
During this time many of the people he worked with including EMTs and Paramedics encouraged him to go to EMT school. Joe wasn’t so sure but, finally, he decided to give it a try. “When I went to EMT school, I was the oldest one there. I thought, ‘How hard can this be?’ On the first test, I almost flunked. After that, I buckled down, made my way to third in my class and graduated with a 96% average.” Following his training, he took the National Registry Test which is required for EMTs everywhere in the U.S. “I studied for a month and a half and passed it on the first try,” Joe recalls proudly.
For the test, he had to sit in a room by himself in front of a computer wearing headphones. When the test began, questions came up on the screen. The computer continued to ask him question after question until he had either answered enough questions correctly to pass the test, or had answered enough questions incorrectly to fail. “After one hour and about 90 questions,” he said, “the screen went off. I didn’t know if I had passed the test or not, then I had to wait for several days to get the results. It was a nervous time for me. Ultimately, I had passed!”
He also completed a week-long training to learn all the rules of patient care or patient protocol and passed the Protocol Test making him a Basic In Charge or BIC. This test made it possible for Joe to take charge of Basic Life Support calls.
When asked what going on an ambulance service call is like, Joe explains that it is exciting. “You know you are going somewhere to help someone and you’ve been called on a mission.” He further shared how powerful it is for him to help people when they are at their worst. “Patients are vulnerable and scared, and as a first responder we know this and handle it.” He shared how the work had a personal impact that stayed with him and certainly has given him a respect for first responders.
Joe admitted that the most difficult calls are those involving children. He is happy that he works with a team of people on a call because there is always someone there who is good at handling the little ones. “Believe it or not,” he says with almost disbelief, “Teddy Bears are a supply item stored on all ambulances.”
Because Joe can assist in a number of capacities on a service call, he is appreciated for being an extra set of eyes and ears in the ambulance, and he shared how his most important objective is making sure that the crew members can focus on their respective jobs whether they are paramedics, EMTs or drivers. “I have felt appreciated in my work,” he says with humility in his voice. “Crew members have shaken my hand and have told me, ‘Thank You!’”
Joe has some very insightful advice for others who are considering becoming volunteer Non-Medical Drivers. “Ride along,” he encourages. “It changes your perspective. There are certainly many, many more enjoyable things to do, but there aren’t many more things to do that are this meaningful. It’s not for everyone,” he cautions; however, “You really need to have a sense of responsibility. Dealing with pre-hospital emergency care does have an impact on you, it stays with you, but supporting the crew is meaningful and they appreciate it!”
Recently, Joe had to have surgery on his neck, so his time volunteering in the ambulance has been limited. Instead, he has been working with Central Supply making sure that the inventories for the ambulances are kept up to 100%. “Each ambulance has its own supply and inventory,” he explains. “Each time an ambulance goes on a service call and supplies like Kleenex, saline bags or needles are used, these items are entered on a computer tablet so they can be replaced for patient care. These supplies also have to be synchronized with Central Supply to make sure that used items are replaced in a timely manner.” As Joe explains the process, it is clear that his familiarity with the supplies and their place inside the ambulance make him very efficient at volunteering to keep the ambulances fully stocked.
Recently, Joe and his wife, Sue, moved to Georgetown, Texas; however, he plans to be in the Houston area quite often and will continue his volunteer work with Cypress Creek EMS. It is clear that his participation in the program is something that he does not want to leave behind. When asked about what is the most valuable lesson he has learned from being involved as a CCEMS volunteer, he quickly responds, “I have learned a deep appreciation for first responders and caregivers. Their compassion is something most people take for granted until they witness it somehow or are a participant of some kind. The wisdom, experience and compassion for circumstance are very powerful.”
CCEMS H.R. Manager and Paramedic Jim Van Hooser says “Joe brings many talents to us. He is thoughtful and analytical in his approach, even keel in emotionally charged situations, and provides care with a keen sense of community service and compassion.”
We at Cypress Creek EMS certainly wish Joe and his wife the very best in their transition to Georgetown and look forward to having him volunteer whenever he can, whether it be behind the wheel of an ambulance, helping out as an EMT, or organizing supplies in the ambulance. In any capacity, it is clear that he will give his very best to help those who need it the most, and we are truly thankful for his dedication and his continued service to CCEMS.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer click here for more information.