Q: How long have you been stationed in Brockton?
KC: I've only been in Brockton for a short period. I came over to Brewster Ambulance about two and a half years ago when I started in Quincy, and then I switched over to Brockton, so I'd say it's been about a year now.
Q: What variety of calls do you encounter on a daily basis?
KC: Anywhere from sick patients that have severe terminal illnesses, severe respiratory problems to overdoses. We deal with a lot of overdoses, especially working in the city. We deal with a lot of sick people who unfortunately don't have the desire or the proper know-how to take care of their health or manage their chronic diseases. In the city, a lot of this population include homeless people who don't have access to medical treatment or the means of being able to take care of themselves to make sure they're healthy and they often don't have access to their medication because they're living on the street.
Q: What was the path you took to get into EMS?
KC: I started off in nursing school right after high school, and quickly decided it was not for me. However, I ended up back in the medical field, ironically. I took a break from college out of high school because I didn't know what I wanted to do. My mother had done the whole EMT thing years ago, and she said, "Why don't you give that a try?" so I did. I went to EMT school in 2003-04 and I started working as an EMT for a very small company that didn't make it, unfortunately. From there, I decided that I wanted to pursue being a paramedic. I never thought I'd become a paramedic, though, and then I got into the role of paramedic and here I am today twelve years later. I got my paramedic training at Safety Program Consultants in Taunton. I did an accelerated program, that included full time school and clinicals.
I had a challenge during that time, though. I lost my house to a fire in the middle of paramedic school and in the middle of winter. With no place to live, I ended up in my uncle's back yard in a trailer with my daughter, who was a year old at the time. It was 14 days before Christmas. After a few months through that winter, I literally bounced around staying with family members and doing what I could until we could get back into a home, which finally, happened and we've been in our home for six years now. It was a real test because I wanted to give up my paramedic training—goodness knows I had every justification to do so. I thought to myself, "How am I gonna do this with a one-year-old at home?" plus, not having a home, but I made it work and I graduated no too long after that.
Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned during that time?
KC: I didn't let those obstacles get in my way.
I had my family to help me, but I grew up in a large family. My daughter made me see that I have to do something. I can't go backwards. I cannot give up. If I gave up on myself, I'd be giving up on her, and I wouldn't be where I am today and she wouldn't be either. The best thing was to stay in school, finish my paramedic, start a career, get my feet under me and move on in life. Be steady in life. Make sure she has everything she needs.
Q: What was your starting job in EMS?
KC: I started out with Angels Ambulance as a chair car driver, but I did a little bit of everything from dispatch to billing to scheduling—I did a little bit of everything while I was in EMT school. When the company closed, I was like, "What am I gonna do now?" So, I got a job at Fallon in 2008. I started out and worked about three months as an EMT before I got my paramedic. I learned interfacility transfers, (that's usually what you did there when you became a paramedic) you get put on a transfer trucks with the really sick patients. I did that for a while until I got my first 9-1-1 emergency shift in Brookline. I worked on the slower side, so it wasn't too crazy and I couldn't pinpoint any specific significant calls that I remember, because it wasn't that busy. Later on, however, I came down and worked in Weymouth, and then in Quincy when Brewster Ambulance got the contract and that's when I came over to Brewster. Worked Quincy for a while and now I'm in Brockton.
Q: What was the reason for your move to Brockton?
KC: My best friend works for Brewster Ambulance and she's worked in the Brockton system and I wanted a change and wanted to see what it was like to work there. I feel like it's more busy, but we get some really interesting calls and it keeps me on my toes. I really like to have a patient where I have to think like, "What is really wrong with this patient?" and think about the medical treatment and the options.
Q: Where did your desire to get into medical come from?
KC: When I was younger, I'd always wanted to be in the medical field. When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. Then I wanted to go into nursing, and I'm not afraid to say that it wasn't for me. I did a year and a half of it, maybe it was because I was so young or the workload was so tough and heavy, but it wasn't for me.
I like being the first medical professional on scene—we see the people when they are at their sickest. We go into the facilities, and we're the first people there. The paramedics have to make the initial decision and figure out what is really wrong with the patient.
Q: Describe the Brockton baby delivery call you were on in August, 2017:
KC: There were so many emotions going because this was my first field delivery in twelve years. I've delivered, I've had two kids myself in the hospital, I've watched births when I was doing my paramedic training, and I've been on calls where babies have already been delivered at home, but I have never physically delivered a baby. I thought, "This one's gonna be me, I'm gonna handle this one." I usually take the calls for contractions because I can relate to the patients and establish a good rapport with them having personally gone through two births, because they get more relaxed, which is what you want during a delivery.
The Brockton Fire Department was on scene, and they told me and my partner what was going on. The mom had been in labor for a while, and being in Brockton, we deal with diverse cultures. A lot of people are non-native English speakers. It's very hard to communicate with the patients and the families when there is a language barrier. The mom didn't speak any English at all and couldn't communicate. All that we knew was that she was having pain in her belly and we didn't know for how long. They kept saying that "We need to go to the Brigham," because they said there was something wrong with the baby's heart, but this was happening right then and there and there was no way we were going into Boston.
I said, "We're going right now, we're going to the hospital in Brockton. We got the mother to sit up and she screamed because she was in severe pain. The baby was coming. You have to think really hard; you know that you have a baby who could be very sick, and you don't even know what's wrong with the baby.
We laid the mom down and the baby's head was already crowning. With the help of the fire department, my partner and the other EMTs on scene, we had a nuchal cord, which is where the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck. This cord was wrapped two times around the baby's neck. We got the cord untangled and suctioned the baby's mouth, and other than the nuchal cord, it was a smooth delivery.
The baby came out, we dried him off, gave some stimulation for the baby to come around, he started breathing. All the while, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, "What is wrong with the baby?" we need to get to the hospital right now. So we got them out to the truck, got to the hospital. The baby eventually went into town, because he ended up being very sick. If the father didn't tell us that, we wouldn't have known.
We brought this miracle into the world and it was such an amazing, overwhelming feeling. They were supposed to deliver in town because of his illness, but they couldn't communicate what was wrong with the baby to us. It was very scary.
I carried the baby up to Labor and Delivery at the hospital because the mother was too weak to hold him. We gave the hospital the report, and then they had to get the reports from Brigham.
We talked about what we could have done differently, but everything went smoothly given the circumstances, as we did everything that we could have done. Even if we knew what was wrong with the baby, we wouldn't have done anything differently. But we researched the condition after we were told what it was, which was Hypoplastic Left Heart syndrome. Dad didn't come in the ambulance with us, he drove there. There were so many people, Brockton fire department, EMTs, my partner, another paramedic truck came also because we called for extra people.
Q: What are some of the considerations when you're in a crisis situation and there is a language barrier?
KC: It makes it tough when you're making fast decisions like that, using a translator. And everyone is focused on the mom and baby, I can't think of anyone that wasn't dedicated to something, and everybody had a role, and I don't know if we even had a person to do that. I've used Google translate but if we had I would like to see some sort of access to what the hospitals have: little telephones and they just call up and say I need such and such language and they get someone on the phone that will translate.
When there's a situation like we were in, everyone is focused on the situation. I don't have time to pull out my cell phone to do a Google translate. We have a direct line of communication with the hospitals in our trucks where we pass along information during transport. We can send the hospital photos of the patient or situation such as if it was a motor vehicle accident. At first I thought it would take away from patient care, but it actually is fast and when you get used to it, it's doesn't effect the patient care at all.
It's more often than not, we deal with more people of those other cultures than native English speakers. Elderly people and who are from other countries and they don't know how to speak English and we're dealing with their grandchildren who are trying to tell us what's going on with their grandparent. We still don't know if the information we're getting is accurate or not. Odds are we deal with this on a daily basis and it makes communication very difficult.
We have this Twiage system, and that's our communication system. We have these phones on the truck, the apps open, you put the hospital you want to send it to, the patient data, and then there are red for priority one, yellow is urgent and three is routine, like a cold and they're usually stable. You press the button and it alerts the hospital if you're coming in with a specific priority. You can send a quick voice message to them, you can type vital signs, and patient condition's details. We can send pictures of their EKGs, we can get them registered before we get there and they assign us a room and it eliminates this wait time when you get to the hospital. I'd like to see an app like that like a Language Line where you press that language button and it automatically gets you to someone who can translate for you. Even if it was off these phone devices where you press a language button, where you get what you need.
The ethnicities we encounter in Brockton include Cape Verdean, Creole, and Portuguese. In Quincy it's primarily Asian.
Q: What do you see for your career and work moving forward?
KC: In the middle of all of this, I wanted to pursue my career in criminal justice, but it didn't work out for me. I was on the TEMS team for six years—I was at the Boston Marathon bombing, I was there the whole week, Watertown and everything. I'm back in this position where I thought that I would stay with EMS, but also pursue the criminal justice thing, because I actually really enjoyed working with the police and the FBI and doing that stuff, but I like doing the medical aspect.
I've been talking with my partner about what I'd like to do next, but one things is that I see myself here long term. I may pursue my physician's assistant certification, or maybe pursue further within the company. I don't know for sure because I had that mindset last year that I was going into criminal justice and was going to become a police officer until I got hurt. Maybe it was a blessing. Maybe it was to continue on the paramedic or medical path. I'm 33 now, and you never know. I don't see myself becoming a doctor at this point. I find myself back to what can I do within the medical field because that's what I know and enjoy doing. I did Irish step dancing for 20 years and competed up until 2009. I much prefer the medical path I've chosen, but I would definitely consider teaching dance in the future while continuing my work as a paramedic.
And you know, I have to mention the role my husband has played in all of this. He has given me a lot of inspiration over the years to never give up, especially when I got hurt. He was also in the medical field and worked for H&H, and now he's a police officer with the Town of Milton.
Q: What is your advice to new people considering EMS?
KC: Take it slow, I would say, one thing. I guess for the new people that are in EMT school who want to pursue paramedic certification is getting a good solid foundation as an EMT is good before going to paramedic school. When they do transition, don't be afraid to get in there and get your hands on and don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to pick up that book and do some research on some different things. Don't be afraid to say you don't know what something is. It makes you that much more knowledgable. Don't be afraid to learn and continue learning because there's always going to be something you can learn. You can always learn more in-depth or more details about certain things.
With me, I wanted to give up, living in my uncle's backyard in the middle of a snowstorm with a one-year-old. Don't give up because being a paramedic is a very rewarding career. I love being a paramedic. I love taking care of people, I love trying to help them. I get such joy helping people. Saving a life. So those times we do, it does give you that overwhelming feeling and kinda makes you feel like, when you second guess yourself, you think back to those days and it makes it all worth while.
Q: What is one word you would use to describe Brewster Ambulance?
KC: Family. Brewster is a family. I consider them my family. They make us feel like we're part of a family. The Brewsters are amazing people. They treat their employees so well. They welcomed us when we came over from Fallon and the AMR crews, they welcomed us with open arms. They continue to do so. They're there for us when we have concerns, they're there to help us resolve our problems. They put a lot of time into their employees.