Q: What is your current role at Brewster Ambulance Service?
MS: My current title and role at Brewster is EMT-B/Field Training Officer, and I'm also a base coordinator for our Wareham location. As a Basic EMT, I transport people from the hospital to nursing homes. I also go on 9-1-1 calls such as accidents and treat patients and bring them to the hospital. My duties as a Field Training Officer (FTO) is when I train new hires that are new to being an EMT in the field and to Brewster Ambulance Service. I train them on everything from the operations of the ambulance such as the computers on the ambulance all the way through to how to interact with patients and provide quality care, the Brewster way. I've been at the Wareham base since September 1, 2016. Before then I was in Taunton with Brewster.
Q: How did you get into EMS?
MS: In 1987 I was finishing Vo-Tech school and was slated to be an electrician. The day I was set to graduate, my dad had a massive heart attack. When I came home, there were fire trucks, ambulances, and they were doing CPR on my dad. Later he was pronounced dead. I was 19. I was devastated because I had a very close relationship with my dad. It took a chunk out of my heart. After that, I shifted my career direction, and in 1989 I joined the Marion on-call fire department rescue squad as a full firefighter. I remember thinking to myself, "I'm gonna become an EMT someday because I don't want any other son or daughter to lose their father or mother. Maybe I can make an impact on a life somewhere down the road. If I become an EMT I can help save lives." I got certified in 1989. The Marion Fire Department sent me through EMT school. I was there until 2014.
Q: What was it like having fire department experience?
MS: Well, it's as simple as you're always ready to go. You put on your coat and you're going to hop on a fire truck go to a scene. It was important to me to represent the town. It was challenging, it was fun, and it was definitely a learning experience. It was a great place to be. I loved going to drills—it was very exciting. Being part of the fire department was like being part of a very strong brotherhood. It reminded me of my teenage years and how you talk to your brothers and sisters. It's a strong brotherhood and we watched each other's backs and really helped each other. They would come over and always help out no matter where you were or what you were dealing with. They were very caring.
Q: How did it work being part of an on-call fire department?
MS: The way it worked was the department gave you a pager, because back then they didn't have cell phones. When the pager went off, you'd go down to the fire station, put on your gear and go out on the fire truck to the incident. Afterward, you'd come back and if there's a truck that needs to be refueled or repacked, you'd do that. They'd pay you for that time you were working. So for house fires, you'd be working for anywhere from three to six or seven hours. The firefighter's wives and/or girlfriends would be making sandwiches and drinks for us. It was a great job all around. When we were finished, we'd pack all our stuff, wash the gear, put it all back and go home or go to our other jobs, depending on what each volunteer firefighter did outside of the on-call rescue squad.
Q: What did you do in addition to being on the Marion on-call rescue squad?
MS: I was working for my brother; he was a master electrician. I also had always wanted to learn how to cook, so I got a job at The Wave Family Restaurant in Marion, which is now closed. I started out as a dishwasher, and then I moved on to be a line cook doing burgers and fries and got some experience cooking. So when I'd go to the fire station and they needed someone to cook, I'd say, "I'll cook!"
Q: Can you share a personal story that impacted you deeply during your experience as a firefighter?
MS: In November 12, 1995, while still on the Marion rescue squad, I lost my three-year-old-son Cody in a car accident. I wasn't on call at the time, but I heard our rescue squad in Marion get toned out for a bad car accident. When they say that, I know it's a fatality. I had a gut feeling, you know, that sixth sense that something was terribly wrong. My son Cody was with my ex-girlfriend and she had a new boyfriend. Apparently what happened was she went to take a legal left turn and the sun got in her eyes and she was hit by another car. Thank god I didn't go on that call as it may have ended my EMS career. I was in Falmouth when it happened. I just had a pit in my stomach that wouldn't let go of it though. So I left Falmouth to go back home to Marion and as I pulled into my mom's driveway, two cruisers pulled in behind me. They'd been looking for me. They said, "Mike, we've got some bad news." They told me that my son was in a bad car accident and that he didn't make it. After that it was a total blur. The deputy chief and all the firemen, they were all like, "Is there anything I can do? Let me know man." They kept coming by to check on me, but it was such a shock and I was enormously impacted from the loss.
My mother was trying to keep me in positive spirits and helped me not to blow off things. She told me, "Mike, you gotta look forward. You're a fireman EMT and everybody's looking to you as a fireman." It helped me bring up my head and look forward, and so I chugged along. Because we had a number of fatalities there in '95, there was a debriefing team from the county that came in to talk to us. When I got into the session I just balled. The trauma counselor talked about it with me and helped me let it out. If you don't express your trauma and grief in a healthy way, you run the risk of having post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is common with first responders. It's best to get it out in the open and let it go, and having that resource was invaluable to me at the time. It really helped me move through my grief so I could get back to being of service to others. Everyone deals with trauma differently, though. I did notice, however, that every day it got better, but you never forget. You do your best to try to make life go on.
Q: Share more about your family as it is today.
MS: My mom passed away two years ago. I have three beautiful boys at home. I have a 17-year-old son, Luke, a 15-year-old, Joey, and a 14-year-old, Mason. My son Luke, he's copied and mimicked me all through his life, and he wants to become a fireman. I said, "Okay," and he's already got a job when he turns 18 this summer. I have a great relationship with my sons, my three boys. They're awesome and keep me smiling.
Q: How did you come to work for Brewster Ambulance?
MS: I worked for AMR in 1994. My cousin Christine worked for Brewster in Quincy, mainly out of the South Dartmouth area. She used to say to me, "Mike, come work for the privates," and I said, "I don't really like privates." The funny thing was that I really didn't understand how privates operated, how the model worked or how they did it. I always thought it was the town's responsibility to take that patient from point A to point B. But when it was explained to me, it was like a light switch went on. So every time I saw my cousin, she'd try to get me to come over. I'd always say, "Nah," and then one day I decided I'd give it a shot and see what it was all about. The ironic thing was that when I finally decided to go over to Brewster Ambulance Service, AMR bought them. They were in flux right when I went over and I sort of got mixed up in the shuffle. It's almost like I never really left AMR. I got uniforms with the Brewster logo at first and then a week later I got AMR uniforms because of the timing. I was stationed in Brockton and was there four years. I always lived in Wareham and wanted to be a bit closer to home, so I decided to transfer to South Dartmouth, with a service area of Taunton and Middleboro. I learned that area really well, around Fall River and New Bedford, and worked that area for about twelve years. I also did another three years in Plymouth after that.
Over that time, I saw Brewster Ambulance Service come back in 2010. I'd been watching what they were doing for six years and decided to make the move in June, 2016. I was encouraged to reach out to Jeff Begin. So when I talked to Jeff, he said, "Mikey, when are you coming over?" My thinking was that once I'm in an ambulance company, I'm in it for good. That's how committed I was to staying at AMR. But I saw what was happening in the market, how AMR was losing contracts and the way they were running their business, and so I thought more seriously about making a move. I saw the quality of what the Brewsters were doing and how they were really having an impact and taking a lot over, and that spoke volumes about the company and what they were set out to do.
Q: What Do you like about Brewster Ambulance and how would you like to expand your career there?
MS: They have good business ethics. It may seem minor, but they're nice people. They're professional—all of the Brewsters are. I thought about it for six months, but Jeff wouldn't let up. He really wanted me to come over and when I finally came over, Jeff was very happy. I initially started in Taunton and now I'm in Wareham. I'm loyal to my company. Someday I'd like to be on the management team. I want to do more for them and show them more.
The other thing I really noticed about Brewster Ambulance was how they are totally on top of things. They have very good policies and procedures and they stick by them. Things here are right to a tee, like washing your trucks every day, making sure you're uniformed, clean-cut and looking professional. Also, how they conduct themselves with patients and how they communicate with nurses and doctors is highly professional and consistent. The training is top notch—they have so much to offer education wise. Clinically, everybody is up on their records and they provide a lot regarding what we can do to keep up to date on the latest clinical treatments and equipment.
Q: So if you recommended Brewster Ambulance Service as a great place to work to a friend, what would you tell them?
MS: I'd tell them come on over, it's fun and it's not a hostile environment. Everybody talks to you. When you go up to a Brewster team person, they engage you and are very friendly and they interact with everybody. I get to see that a lot. I always tell people come to Brewster, it's nice place to be. Mark and George are great, we've got great equipment to work with, and it's really a super place to work.
Q: How do you know you're having a positive impact through the work you do as an EMS professional?
MS: When I see somebody, if I smile, I can see how people how react or how their ways are. If I come in with a bad attitude, if I am having a bad day, I just want to be left alone. I just see how people have a smile on their face and they're more livelier. I get to see those I train go on and they're excited, happy and sometimes I reach out to people I've trained and ask them how it's going, and they say, "I still love it—I'm doing great." When I see them advance it makes me feel very special, and I say to myself, "Wow. I did something right."