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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Of God and Geography

by Steven P. Velasquez, MICP, NREMTP
Aug. 22, 2011

Sometimes the EMS calls we go on serve to remind us of how fortunate we are, if we're wise enough to understand the messages, hidden and not. 

One sunny afternoon I was detailed to a critical care transport truck with Bob (Bro) Casey, an MICN or Mobile Intensive Care Nurse.  For those of you not in the EMS field, that is someone who is both a paramedic and a registered nurse.  Working with Bob was always great because he was so smart, so cool and so unshakable that you knew no matter what happened, things would be ok.

We were dispatched to a home in New Brunswick, NJ for a child with difficulty breathing.  As we approached the scene, only a few short blocks from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, who also has a renowned children's hospital, we saw a single police car parked in front of the address.  We called on scene when the front door sprang open and a police officer darted out of the house with a limp baby in his arms.  He was performing chest compressions (CPR).  We grabbed the baby and got into the truck and went to work.  I radioed our dispatch center, “Med –Rescue 4 Urgent!”  No reply.  “Med-Rescue 4 Urgent Traffic!”  I heard field units asking the dispatch center for our last known location as they knew we were in trouble.  Coordinating another unit to assist didn't happen.  The police officer drove our truck and we did our best to resuscitate the baby. 

After dropping him off at the emergency department, we went out and cleaned our truck up and completed our paperwork (a form of documentation using an ink-charged writing implement with hand-written symbols on a carbon based material known as paper, derived from trees before electronic charting).

I thought for a moment that even with the grave circumstances this baby faced, how absolutely fortunate they were, even if reduced to the factor of geography alone.  This family spoke no English, were of Mexican or Central-American descent, I’m assuming were un or under-employed, uninsured and had little more than the roof over their head in the category of assets.  Yet, this very sick baby survived the event and received the best possible care one could ask for, despite their inability to pay for it.

The event caused me to contemplate my fortune in this world.  Born of a mother from Puerto Rico and a father from Peru, my life and future could have had many possible outcomes.   Had my father not trekked to the US in the early 1960s and met my mother, I might exist by another name, another set of circumstances and in a foreign land without access to everything people, even those without means, have here.  My father came here with his minimal life savings and approximately a 6th grade education by American standards.  He worked over thirty years as a laborer in a textile mill in Passaic and married my mother, a bookkeeper. 

"It's going to be ok baby.
You're here."

‘Twas a twist of fate and perhaps the hand of God that brought my father here, introduced him to my mother and gave them their humble start in a small apartment in the City of Passaic and later a house in Rutherford where I grew up and was educated.  Like this little angel, I have benefited so greatly to be born and raised here in the greatest of nations known through the history of man.  I know not what my life would have been like had I been raised elsewhere.  I am relatively certain this baby would not have survived elsewhere.

For parents that chose to live here despite adversity and enormous risks.  For a land of opportunity -- for all. For the best health-care system anywhere on Earth, we're both thankful for God and geography.