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Thursday, November 22, 2012

When she was a little girl...

by Steven P. Velasquez
November 22, 2012

Nicolette, my first born (now 16)
When she was a little girl, every holiday was celebrated at her grandparents' house.  Whether we were up in the Pocono's with Pop Pop and Grandmom or in Rutherford at Abuela and Abuelo's house.  Regardless,  the food was always delicious, the house warm and the family -- beloved.

Abuela's Thanksgiving ham

When she was a little girl, I used to hold her little hand and cross her across this street. 

Today, for the first time, 
I watched her park her mother's car in front of Abuela's house.

When she was a little girl, I used to pick her up out of her child seat from my vehicle and throw her over my shoulder with a blankie.

I'd hold her close and listen to her breathe while protecting her from the cold.  Today, she lets herself in and out of the car on her own, and from the driver's seat (no more booster).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ambulance Aides Mourn Loss

Ambulance Aides Mourn Loss

by Steven P. Velasquez, MICP
November 20, 2012

The headline above is a direct  stab at the irresponsible media outlets that have had over thirty five years to learn who we, in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), are.  It appears that even if we sacrifice our lives (or have them taken from us), these drones, who insist on ridiculous politically correct terms for everyone but us, can't get it right. We are not ambulance attendants, ambulance aides, stretcher tenders, ambulance drivers or, as we were so shamefully bunched during the attacks of September 11, 2001 - first responders.  We are your municipalities third service. We are an extension of the hospitals. We are mobile health services. We are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), Paramedics (MICP) and Registered Nurses (R.N.'s).  We are an essential part of the trinity of public protection, Police, Fire and EMS.  We have earned that distinction through sacrifice, compassion and service to mankind and sometimes we earn it with our blood or ultimate sacrifice.  During this past week, our service has been dealt several devastating blows and now we have lost one of our brothers.

The following is an attempt to journal a sad page in EMS history that is currently being written here in Newark, New Jersey's largest city. 

An unfortunate series of events unfolded Monday, November 19th as shots rang  out, lives were lost, police cars crashed, Troopers gave chase through busy daytime traffic, and a fleeing suspect vehicle crashed into an ambulance killing 30 year-old Keith Chipepo, an EMT working for Grand Medical Transportation (GMT) of Irvington, NJ.  Chipepo was reportedly ejected from the patient compartment of his ambulance while caring for a patient who fortunately was strapped to a stretcher and thus left uninjured.  Chipepo's partner, who was driving, is reported to have sustained fractures to several extremities, but has been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

Tuesday night, several EMS agencies visited a make-shift memorial at the intersections of South Orange Ave. and South 9th St., where the fatal multi-vehicle collision occurred.  Agencies that can often appear polarized (transport vs. 911 services), though we carry the same certifications, set aside petty differences and parked their vehicles silently beside a humble roadside memorial made of candles, balloons, some memorabilia and a water colored painting to Daddy, -- from Chipepo's children.

Roadside memorials are all too common a sight in the Brick City.  They mark where families are destroyed, lives are lost and pain remains.  This humble site will soon be removed as time waits for no one and vigils pass in a single breath.

Paramedic Nicole Ackerman (UHEMS) looks over the memorial
EMS agencies from Union Township, MONOC, Elizabeth F.D. EMS, GMT (Grand Medical Transport), Guardian Ambulance, Nationwide Ambulance, LifeStar, Madison Coach and several units from University Hospital's EMS Dept. each stopped and paid respect to the memory and the sacrifice made by EMT Keith Chipepo.

This is the second fatal accident in a week involving the NJ State Police and EMS personnel.  The first occurred on Saturday Nov. 10th at Central and Norfolk Streets where a chase that originated on Rte. 280 spilled onto local streets, crashed into a UHEMS paramedic unit and killed an innocent pedestrian, also in his thirties and also of Montclair, NJ.  This author was the driver of that ambulance.  

To receive news of a second collision with such similar circumstances, in the same place has shocked many.  Some, who believe in bad things happening in threes, are waiting for the next devastating blow.  We hope this does not happen and pray for all affected by these recent tragedies. 

Funeral arrangements for EMT Keith Chipepo are forthcoming.  To anyone in emergency services, we ask that you please attempt to be there.  Show Keith's family and children how much he is loved and appreciated and that his life, in the service of mankind is worth something and will not be forgotten.

Rest In Peace Brother - Your work here is done. Last alarm 19th November 2012.
A Thanksgiving turkey made with watercolors, glued feathers and his children's names

Sunday, November 11, 2012

MIC 3 Give Me the Air!

MIC 3 Give Me the Air!

(pronounced as mick)

by Steven P. Velasquez
November 11, 2012

"MIC 3 Urgent!! Give me the air!!" 

(A paramedic's voice panting and confused, only able to process the name of one of the two intersecting streets they're on)  

"I'm on Central and... (long pause) 
I'm just east of 1st Street....  (another pause) 
MIC 3 I'm on Central Ave...." (radio silence)

Dispatcher - "Units clear the air! MIC 3, your location!?  Are you injured!?" 
(The sound of a microphone keying up, but only labored breathing is heard).  

Dispatcher - "MIC 3 repeat your last!!"

This is the kind of radio transmission that no one in public safety wants to hear.  A unit, clearly in distress and disoriented is calling for help but can't clear their thoughts enough to articulate a clear message.  Their vehicle has been struck by another, at a high rate of speed and redirected into a tree.

Green means it's safe right?
Paramedic educator / legend John Nichol is said to have told his students;

 "The most dangerous place to be in Newark, is at a green light."  

 He told them this truism because of the ridiculous amount of auto-theft and subsequent collisions that follow from joy riding, to car-jacking, to police pursuits.  Last night, Nichol's pearls of wisdom proved true for this author in particular.