Friday, May 6, 2011

Z is for Zygomaticotemporal

Zygomaticotemporal...pertaining to the zygomatic and temporal bones of the face. I named this piece thus, not because I plan to discuss anatomy, but simply because I know what that word means. I know what a lot of medical terms mean because I went to college and studied Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology, Cardiology...the list goes on. No, I am not a doctor. I'm not even a nurse. I am a Paramedic and there are lingering misperceptions about just what we do and do not know, what we can and can not do. I aim to clear that up.

If you know the history of EMS it isn't hard to see why the level of education and skill required for this profession isn't common knowlege. This is a relatively new service industry. I am 53 and in my lifetime, ambulance services have gone from being run by funeral homes to the sophisticated agencies they are today. As late as the early 1960's, if someone had an emergency, they would call the operator and she in turn would contact the local mortuary who would send an ambulance (basically a hearse with a white coat of paint) staffed by a couple of dudes with absolutely no medical training. Talk about your conflict of interest. What is more lucrative, a ride to a hospital, or a funeral...HMMM?

In the mid-60's things began to change. Congress enacted a law requiring a single number that would connect citizens directly to whatever emergency services were available, and on February 16, 1968, in Haleyville, Alabama, the first 911 call was placed. By the early 1970's, the Emergency Medical Technician course had been established and in less than 50 years, the industry has grown into a vital link in the chain of patient care. I have a degree in Emergency Medical Science. I took the same science and medical classes as the RN students. The course load did differ in some ways. When the nurses were taking bottle washing and butt wiping, I was taking car cutting and butt whipping, but that's a whole other blog topic.

Unfortunately, respect and especially compensation have not kept up with the growth in the industry. I have been asked if we have oxygen, been called a "stretcher bearer" by a nurse, and have been ordered to "just take me to the hospital where I can get some help". I was transporting a homeless man once who looked a me and stated, "You're a loser 'cause you're nothing but an ambulance driver"...a HOMELESS MAN!

In spite of these short comings, I love my profession. I have worked in EMS for over a quarter of a century, all on the front lines and I wouldn't trade my life with anyone. I am looking forward to sharing some of my experiences, from Z to A with folks and can't wait to read about the lives of others. There is one question that I am sure everyone reading this wants to ask. I have been asked it hundreds of times in my career, so I'll go ahead and answer it...Yes, I drive the truck!


  1. You go girl! Super start to the challenge and I look forward to learning more.

  2. The average citizen has little knowledge of what we do. They are spoon fed nightly by television, news, shows, and commercials that grossly misrepresent what Paramedics do. We perform our craft with the help of other responding agencies, some good, some not so good. But, we still get it done. We deal with weather, traffic, family members, neighbors, SNF staff, Doctor's offices, clinics, Urgent Care's, Rehabs, indoors, outdoors, below ground, high angles, fire, ice, drugs, and ETOH. In my 28 years in "the streets" I have never "seen it all" because they keep inventing new ways to amaze me.

  3. Good for you! It's a job I could never do. I don't mind the sight of blood and can handle basic first aid, but the education required would be beyond me. I never wanted to go to college, instead graduated from the school of hard knocks.

    Great first post. You're on your way!

    I’m hosting Z to A in May, but I’m blogging at: Ross County Roundup

  4. A great start to the challenge. You know, most people have no idea what an EMS does, even if they watch ER or any other medical dramas on tv. You do a great job.

  5. Very good word! Welcome to the challenge!

  6. Excellent post on EMT work! It's a lot tougher than many think, I'm sure. What a great career choice for anyone who wants a challenging position.

  7. Interesting! I'm that person who gets weak in the knees in emergencies (thank goodness my hubby doesn't!), so I can't begin to imagine handling all that you must encounter. I'm looking forward to reading your blog and getting to know you. :O)

  8. Really enjoyed your post a lot, Cyndi. I look forward to reading more about your experiences as a paramedic. I have such admiration for the work they do. Oh,and I must say, you're a great writer, too. I'll be following your blog for sure.

  9. With all my years at the hospital I never heard emergency vehicles came from a mortuary, and wonder if that might be specific to your local? Our's came right from the hospital. The vehicles were parked right there, and those folks were indeed trained. Perhaps not as much as today; but they were medical personnel.

    I don't have a weak stomach, but hubby does. I always think it's good for one strong stomach person to be in each family. lol