R5 Final Say: a Q&A with Emergency Medical Technician David Cox of Harrison Medical Services

How long have you been an EMT?
For more than sixteen years. Now, I work nights and weekends as an EMT and, for the past four years, as a corrections officer for the Westchester County Department of Correction during the day.

What’s the difference between an EMT and a paramedic?
EMTs offer basic life support—performing the Heimlich maneuver, putting patients on a spine board, splintering broken bones, etc. Paramedics, because they go through more training, are able to give more advanced life support, like administering medications, starting IV lines, and using a defibrillator to restore heartbeat.

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How do you keep yourself calm when responding to an emergency?
We’re thinking about what we have to do. ABC—airways, breathing, and circulation—is our primary thing. If A, the airway is blocked, it stops you from B, breathing, and after you stop breathing, you have no C, circulation of oxygen—and the heart stops.

Have you ever passed out during a call?
No, thank God. Some new people do get uncomfortable and others just don’t do well with smells or blood.

What has been your most unusual case?
One poor guy, a mailman, was bitten in his genital area by a dog. He was okay—he just needed a tetanus shot and a couple of stitches.

And the most upsetting?
A really horrible car accident on I-95. A driver who was intoxicated crashed into a vehicle with three people. Two got caught in the car and were burned alive. The driver was fine.

Do you think some doctors are bad?
Yes—there are plenty of them out there. I’ve seen doctors make wrong diagnoses and foot doctors who think they can treat chest pains.

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Do people ever tip you?
It’s happened about a dozen times, anywhere from a couple of bucks to fifty dollars. For the record, we are not allowed to accept tips. If someone really wants to show their appreciation, they can make a donation to the EMS. And around the holidays, we do get a lot of food gift baskets.

So why didn’t you want to become a doctor?
A doctor is always going to the same place—it’s too monotonous for me. For EMTs, every call is different. Nothing is ever the same.

What’s the most frivolous reason for which you’ve been called out?
At the start of every semester, we’ll get some eighteen-year-old college students who are experimenting with marijuana or alcohol for the first time and think that they are dying.

Photo by John Rizzo

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