EMT’s Deserve More

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Dear Editor:

I am married to a NYC EMT... what does this mean for our family? I assume that you expect to hear tales of missed holidays, no sleep, long hours and thankless situations, and while all of this rings true, it's not the hardest part of my husband's career. The toughest part for him (and our family) is payday. Yes, payday because on that day, it's decision time. Do we pay rent or our other bills (because Lord knows there's not enough for both)? Do groceries have to wait a few days until I make some money, or can we shop? Heaven forbid we have an event coming up, a medical necessity, or unforeseen car trouble, as his income doesn't allow for the added bill of a car note, which would provide us with a reliable vehicle.

So you see, along with carrying the weight of seeing some of the most awful situations that people have to endure, maybe it's a child being pulled from an abusive home (or worse, not being taken from one) or maybe trying unsuccessfully to revive an elderly person in front of their loved ones, he has to walk through our door with the defeat of not only the day, but also of not being even close to properly compensated for it. You see, in NY, EMTs make about half of what their firefighter, or police counterparts make, with less opportunities for advancement, less support from their union and the same expectations. Now that being said, the fact remains that when a cop is shot, or a fireman is pulled from a burning building, do you know who they call? My husband! He is there, when the worst happens, he is rushing his cohorts to the hospital, praying with, and for them... then coming home to the stress of a house we don't own, sharing a single car, mountains of unpaid bills and not much support from his "higher-ups." This is another fact of his job, while cops and firemen have wonderful brotherhoods, ripe with comradery, history, and deep respect; being paid an insulting salary, leaves EMT houses full of drama, backbiting, and a climate of "every man for himself."

So you may ask why he does it, why he continues with this career. Well... he loves it. He has seen babies born, revived people having heart attacks, comforted scared children with broken bones, and yes, HE HAS SAVED LIVES!! He always says, "trust me, if you call 911, you want the response to be by someone who loves the job," and the sad reality is that so many of these men and women don't. The discouraging nature of being deemed unworthy of a comparable wage leaves many of them frustrated, insulted, and angry. Every few weeks the debate starts again. Can we make it this month, do we move, does he switch careers? So many people respect what he does but don't truly understand it, it's most definitely more of a calling for him.

He also works in the same neighborhood where we live, so on multiple occasions we have encountered people who have a family member (or maybe they themselves) who he has helped. It's always the same... "oh my God you saved my dad, can I buy you a drink?" or "hi aren't you the guy who picked me up last month? THANK YOU!" or "my grandma is still here because of you." He's helped these people on their worst days, yet we struggle, and the struggle is scary and real for so many doing this job, but why? Why can't our city figure out how to pay these men and women a livable wage? Why did the city decide that they aren't worth more? How can this be remedied? I don't have the answers, but I do hope one of these days, "payday," doesn't have to be the worst day as an EMT.

Nicola DePierro-Nellen

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