Team Profile: Charlie Gannon, Weymouth EMS Chair Car Driver

Charlie Gannon

Describe the work you are doing at Brewster Ambulance

CG: I've been at Brewster for two years now. I really like the family feel, and you get to see a lot of the Brewster family. I drive a chair car, and my shift is Monday through Friday, 5:00 AM to 1:00 PM out of Weymouth. When I first got it, I started off doing part time Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM, and all day Saturday 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and then I said I wanted to do more, and Paul asked me if I wanted to move up to full time. I got that shift a year and a half ago and have been working full time since.


How did you get into the EMS field?

CG: I got into the chair car accidentally. I'm adopted, and my parents had a lot of kids. We ran a foster care out of our house and pretty much as I was growing up we had people coming in and out to help with our disabled kids that my mom and dad were taking care of, and I got to help with every day duties. They'd go to day programs and we'd help unload them onto the transport vans that came to the house. I would bring them out in their wheelchair and put them on the lift and so when I came to Brewster, I knew how to operate it. So that actually helped and I liked that aspect of it.

One of my brothers was a former medic or EMT and he would tell me a lot of cool stories about the different calls he would do which piqued my interest. As I got older I did part time jobs, and I thought, "Maybe I should do something that I like," and then I started looking at EMS jobs. I like driving, I like patient transports, I like helping people, and thought maybe there's a job like this that would eventually lead to EMT. I saw that there was an open interview and so I filled out an application, waited and waited, and then got a call from Paul and Lorna for an interview at Hyde Park. It went good and Paul gave me a start day right off the bat. I did my 5-day training and went from there.

Photo Gallery (click images to enlarge): Charlie doing the Vulcan salute; at Seaport World Trade Center beer shows; at Boston's Comic Con; Charlie in a favorite Star Wars sweater with Madison Brewster and Fallon (her cousin) at last year's Brewster Ambulance Christmas party at Lombardo's in Randolph; and on the job driving Brewster Ambulance chair car.


Describe a typical day Driving a chair car for Brewster

CG: I get in at 5:00 AM, and the first thing I do is my truck check out. I check all the fluids, the lights, make sure there's enough air in the tires and the ramp is working. I make sure I have enough supplies like towels and Brewster blankets and the straps, too. So after the truck is completely checked out, I call on the radio and sign in for service. Depending on how busy the day is, I may do an early pickup for dialysis or maybe do an early pickup for a someone going from Weymouth to one of the Boston hospitals for pre-surgery and it goes from there. It depends on how busy the day is and what calls the dispatcher gives you. And if not too busy, we get some downtime. Sometimes we find an area and get together and talk with other Brewster team members about our day and how its going.


What are your best practices and approach?

CG: A chair car driver typically requires one person unless you're training another employee. Sometimes if we go to a place and we can't do it ourselves, such as if the patient is too heavy, or going down stairs, we'll have a lift assist, otherwise it's one person doing everything. My approach to chair car in general is I will come there and fill out my paperwork, introduce myself, "Hi, I'm Charlie, I work for Brewster, what's your name?" Or, I'll address them if I already know their name. I treat them as if they were my family. I make sure they're all set, I'll ask them if they need anything from their room to bring with them, and they'll say to maybe grab my blanket or a sweater or bring a cane. Whatever I can do to help expedite the process of getting them to their appointment on time.

I load them in and make sure all four ties are down so they are secure, because I don't want them rolling around. I try to be kind and talk to them and listen to them if they have anything to say. I've found out from the two years I've been doing this that some of these people they are stuck in these places. The moments they have with you taking them to wherever they have to go, they get to see the scenery, get some fresh air and a little conversation doesn't hurt. They talk and at the end of the day they say, "Thank you for getting me out of there and it was a pleasure meeting you." It makes me feel good. I told Mark and George that I love going to work every day. I love putting that Brewster uniform on and I love making people have that little moment of faith. That makes my day.


Have you trained any new chair car drivers?

CG: I trained one or two people, but I haven't done any new training with anybody recently. All of the new people that have come in since I started, if they have a question, I always ask them if they need a refresher or advice on how to do certain things and then they'll come over and talk to me. I know that the people that train them, they train them their way, but it's always good to have a second view of how to do things. If they think they need it, they'll come to me and say, "Can you show me how to do this properly or how do you do it or how you can make it go faster?" Sometimes they ask me, "Did I do the paperwork alright?" and I'll go over their paperwork and make sure they filled it in correctly and I help them out that way. I look at myself like a mentor, a more experienced chair car driver, and anytime they ask for help, I'm always there to give them a hand.


Have you ever worked with any of the paramedics?

CG: One of our old dialysis patients, when I first started out, we used to transport on a regular basis and once in a while she would be having difficult times and such, and there were a few instances I would have to call ALS for assistance. I was on scene at another dialysis appointment and I was done with what I had to do with my patient and before I walked up to my truck I saw that there was a crew of ours having lift assist problems with a patient. They asked me to help and I went over and gave them a hand. Any time I see one of us in need I go and help out.


What are some of the things you enjoy doing outside of work?

CG: I love comics. Boston Comic Con was awesome this year. I've gone to the Seaport World Trade Comic Con three times with my girlfriend and we go usually all three days. Sometimes I'll make an outfit to wear of my favorite character and got like that. It's a great atmosphere of local Comic Con artists and sometimes they'll bring A-list actors and creators and take pictures from the latest TV shows or movies, and there's a ton of tables with old vintage toys and nicknacks. William Shatner came to this year's Comic Con. They had a Star Trek day at Fenway and he threw out the first pitch.


Charlie and his fellow Brewster Ambulance chair car drivers Nick from CC30 and Blaise CC31

Charlie and his fellow Brewster Ambulance chair car drivers Nick from CC30 and Blaise CC31


What else do you enjoy in your off-time?

CG: I snow board in the winter. That was something that my girlfriend and her dad liked to do. When I started dating her, they got me from being a skier to a rider. We try to go every March to their time share up in Vermont for a couple of days which is nice. I also enjoy craft beer, so me, her and her whole family they're like a little mix. Some of them like to drink wine, the other half, me included, we all like to drink craft beer. We go to Seaport World Trade Center and Harpoon Brewery does some. I went to two different beer shows last year, and we're going to Portland for the Belgium Beer Festival this weekend. We're actually taking Amtrak's Downeaster there. The train leaves Boston around nine and I think we're gonna get there in three hours, so we'll be there by noon and the festival starts at one, so we'll be good there.

In the summer I like to go to the beach. Any chance I get off early, I'll swing by Nantasket Beach. I also like all kinds of music, and I read comic books like crazy. Every Wednesday I go with my girlfriend to pick up our folder of comic books. We have a comic book subscription at Newbury Comics in the South Shore Plaza. It has clothes, music, pop figures and anything pop culture related. They have an okay selection of comic books and we go and pick up our folder of new comics and we always look for stuff that we're interested in reading or to add to our folder.


What is it about Brewster Ambulance that you really like?

CG: The company is run top notch. I've worked a bunch of part time jobs in the past and have never seen anything run so smoothly as Brewster. I sign in and do my job, but if I need help from anybody, after my shift—even after hours—if I have questions, I call in and there's somebody there to answer my questions. I like that I have that flexibility and I'm not gonna be scared to go up and ask so-and-so and be afraid that they are not going to answer me. It's a big family relationship. That's good they have that because it helps with getting more hires to come in because Brewster has this long history of camaraderie and is top notch. You can go to any other company and come back to Brewster and like I said, "Oh, yeah, that's why I like working for Brewster." I chose Brewster after doing my research and want to evolve my career here.


How do you deal with job-related stress?

CG: Granted, it is a stressful situation, job wise, but it's one of those jobs where you can't let it bug you too much. You're gonna come across people that are going to rub you the wrong way, but it's how you deal with it. Some drivers that I work with on a daily basis and I see them acting a whole different side of them that I would never normally see, but then after a while talking it over with somebody—as I said we all meet up and talk about our day—I see that after we all talk about it and we vent, the rest of the shift is much better. We get back to base and sign off, we're all laughing it off, saying, "What was that day all about." Sometimes you need to do that.

Some would say chair car driving isn't as stressful as dealing with a 911 emergency as a paramedic or EMT. We do get our own share of stressful situations and things that annoy us and we get antsy a little bit too, and who do we go to for support, we're the chair car guys. But we always meet up somewhere during the day or after the call and we all have Facebook, social media and if we know the person, we have their cell number and we always have some type of link to somebody in the company we can talk to.

Not being biased, I personally think that we actually have a good amount of stress as well. It all depends on the call and the type of day it is. We can be doing one to three calls a day and some times it goes up to eight calls within our shift and on top of that they ask, "You know, we're being blown up with calls coming in, is there any way you can stay and do a couple more?" Working since 5 AM, sometimes I end up staying for Paul [Prusik], because he asks once in a while. And if I'm not doing anything, some days I'll stay until 4 or 5 PM if I can. I just came off of doing two weeks doing 5 to 4. He knows I'll bend over backwards for the company and help out when it's needed. He and I are on the same page as far as covering each other's back and that's why I like having Paul as a supervisor.


Where do your runs take you on an average day?

CG: I mainly drive in and around Weymouth, Braintree and Quincy, and sometimes I go to Boston if we're dropping patients at hospitals or to go and help out. Some of the drivers are needed in the immediate area and they're in another area and the Weymouth trucks back them up. I like the fact that we get to go to these places I would never go to in my personal car. A couple of months ago, I went all the way down to Fall River and I was near Battleship Cove and I was like, "I haven't been here since I was a kid1" I also posted I went to Plymouth Rock and took selfies next to the Mayflower and I was like, "Hey! What job is like this where I can get to go to these awesome places in a day?" That's what I like, that I have a moving office and I can pretty much go to all these different places. One time I think the longest trip I took was from Lindon Ponds to Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I was bringing a patient to a hospital and it was a wait and return and I enjoyed the day because it twas a beautiful day and it was by the water and it was nice trip.


Do you have a patient story you can share?

CG: When I first started picking up people from Lindon Ponds, there was a gentleman I picked up and his name was Mr. Murray. He was having his first dialysis in Weymouth and I picked him up for the first time and he was really nervous about it. He was with his wife and I came in and introduced myself and asked him if he needed me to grab anything to get ready to go. He asked for me to grab his cane and his leg rest for his wheelchair. His wife introduced herself to me and I said, "Hi, I'm Charlie, nice to meet you."

We got it all squared up, I got the paperwork and I had a long talk with him on the ride. I pretty much talked to him about everything and learned that he was a grandfather and had a lot of nieces and nephews that he sees on a normal basis. He also told me about his daughters who come to visit him and take him to dialysis, so I got to know that side of his life.

When we got there, we took him off and brought him into the dialysis, I escorted him with his wife and we transferred him from his wheelchair to his dialysis chair. He shook my hand and held it for a while and said, "Hey, I really appreciate your kindness and I hope to see you again soon." After that, I saw him multiple times, and every time I would see him—either transporting him and his wife or just passing through Lindon Ponds—his wife would always come up to me and say, "You are the best driver we've ever had because you were the first, and we will never forget that." Every time I would go by his room in Lindon Ponds he would always wave to me and say, "Hey, how ya doing, Charlie?" and that just made my day. This is what I wanted to do and hope to do it for a long time.


to what do you attribute your desire to help others and treat them with so much respect?

CG: I had a great upbringing. I was adopted at six years old by a great family that just loved kids in general and loved to treat everybody individually like all the same, and I use that as my backbone. So every time I go do something I always look back to them and say, "Hey, you know what? These people gave me this foundation and I want to just make them proud." My dad passed away 5, 6 years ago, he was a WWII vet. He instilled in us a lot of great values such as treat everyone the same and like you would like to be treated and I take that with me everywhere I go. The people that you surround yourself with, they have a big impact on you. and I like to surround myself with great people who have positive vibes and that's what I like to go by. I enjoy life, I love what I do, I love making people happy, and there's nothing more important than that. You just gotta be you.