Shootings, Births and Stress: Inside the Life of an EMS Pro



Published:

Fire and police may get the glory, but EMS professionals are truly unsung heroes of our emergency services. They take calls that put them in danger and treat medical emergencies in the field, saving lives.

The radio crackles and sirens wail as we speed down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, dodging confused motorists and slowing through red lights. Few cars pull over. If there’s one lesson I learned in my ride-along with Chatham Emergency Services, it’s this: always, ALWAYS pull over when you hear a siren. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for EMS personnel in the line of duty.

“It’s terribly stressful, I’m sorry,” District Chief Mary Meeks apologizes as she deftly navigates around cars blocking our path. “People just don’t know what to do. To be fair, the law is to pull off to the right, but if I’m in the right lane trying to get around other cars, there’s nowhere to go.”

We are on our way to a call for a diabetic in distress. When we arrive, Meeks springs into action pulling gear from the back of her supervisor SUV and administering lifesaving help to a man collapsed in the doorway of a local church.

The call is pretty routine. That said, there are no typical calls for EMS professionals. “Things can get weird really fast, and it happens on calls you don’t imagine would be scary,” Meeks says. One night, she took a non-emergency call for foot pain in an affluent neighborhood on the west side of Chatham County. “My partner and I roll up at three a.m. and knock on the door. The guy pulls out a gun.” The caller gave them the wrong address.

“My partner and I roll up at three a.m. and knock on the door. The guy pulls out a gun."

They left unharmed, but dangerous situations present themselves more than one would think for people in the business of saving lives. “We’ve had our people assaulted. I’ve been assaulted – bit, hit, kicked, spit on. Family members get hostile. Thankfully, all of it has been minor. There have only been a small handful of times where I felt unsafe,” Meeks says. “People don’t shoot at us. We just happen to be there when they decide to start shooting.”

Danger is always a reality, but Meeks’ favorite type of call endears. “I love delivering babies,” she confesses. The first she delivered was born with the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. “He came out blue and not crying. I’m trying to stimulate him and get him to wake up. Thankfully, he did. He started crying, and I cried. Oh my gosh, I cried. I cry every time I deliver babies. It’s so lame.”

She jokes, but delivering babies, saving lives, and facing danger are no laughing matters. Despite everything that EMS professionals do, they are the unfortunate redheaded stepchild of the first-responder world. The new kids on the block, relatively speaking. According to the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association, the first public ambulance hit the streets in Cincinnati in 1865. Still, it wasn’t until the 1960s and the dramatic increase in traffic accidents that accompanied that era, that the profession took off. The town doctor became the city hospital, which necessitated a way to get from here to there. Thus, EMS was born.

Fire brigades and peace officers are longer-established, far more recognizable, and their roles well defined – protect life and property, put out fires, stop crime from happening. “There’s so much more diversity in what we do,” Meeks says. “The public has this idea that we just pick them up and take them to the hospital. I make decisions for people by myself that can radically alter the course of their lives.”

Making those split-second decisions, EMTs and paramedics may not get the glory, but they are heroes to the people whose lives are in their hands.

When you need to call
Non-emergency calls are one of the biggest causes of burnout for EMTs and paramedics. People don’t regularly face emergency situations, so it’s hard to know what constitutes a true emergency. As a result, the 911 system gets overloaded and emergency crews are spread thin. Here’s when you need to call:
• Severe allergic reactions 
• Breathing problems
• Uncontrolled bleeding
• Vomiting or coughing blood
• Loss of consciousness 
• Suicidal ideation
• Poisoning
• When victim cannot move
• Chest pain
• Severe pain especially if it wakes you up
• Sudden changes in behavior like confusion or lack of responsiveness
• Changes in vision or balance
​• You are alone and in distress

Subscribe now to the print edition or get instant access to our interactive digital edition.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Greatest Destinations 2020

Greatest Professional Photographers 2020

Calling South’s Greatest Photographers! Are you a professional photographer with beautiful work? Enter South’s Greatest Photographers 2020!
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • Confident Complexion – Love Your Skin at Bluemercury!

    Feb 13, 2020
    11:00 AM - 6:00 PM

    The beauty of makeup is that you’re in control of when and how you wear it—whether it’s to enhance, conceal or simply not to wear it at all....

  • Savannah Philharmonic Cinephile du joure

    Feb 23, 2020
    5:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension

    The Blue Heron Chamber Ensemble goes to the movies to bring you Chamber works by film composers. Flutist Jeana Melilli, pianist Ben Warsaw and...

  • Oglethorpe Mall Carnival

    Feb 20, 2020
    5:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Oglethorpe Mall

    Experience the sights, sounds and aromas of the electrifying midway with rides and games for all ages, favorite fair food and Victoria Circus...

  • GratiTuesday Program with Liz Massey

    Feb 25, 2020
    12:00 PM - 1:30 PM @ Savannah Power Yoga

    Gratitude! What is it good for? Our general well-being!   Studies now show that the practice of gratitude actually enhances our immune systems....

  • Nature and the Arts: Botanical Art and Illustration

    Feb 25, 2020
    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ One Hundred Miles (OHM), Savannah Office

    Nature and the Arts: Botanical Art and Illustration Tuesday, February 25th • 6:00-8:00 pm OHM Savannah Office - 2424 Drayton Street, Savannah,...

  • 2020 Tak Argentinis Valor Awards

    Feb 27, 2020
    6:15 PM - 9:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Join us as we honor some of the area’s most courageous first responders at the 2020 Valor Awards. Awards are presented to law enforcement, fire...

  • 2020 Tak Argentinis Valor Awards

    Feb 27, 2020
    6:15 PM - 9:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Join us as we honor some of the area’s most courageous first responders at the 2020 Valor Awards. Awards are presented to law enforcement, fire...

  • Second Annual Royal Flush Casino Night

    Feb 27, 2020
    7:00 PM - 11:00 PM @ Savannah Station

    Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Savannah will present its Second Annual Royal Flush Casino Night on Thursday, Feb. 27, benefiting the Coastal Empire...

  • Run Free Trail Run

    Feb 29, 2020
    7:30 AM @ Hunting Island State Park

    Join us for our inaugural Run Free Trail Run on February 29, 2020 at Hunting Island State Park. Choose from the 5k, 5 mile, or 10 mile option - or...

  • ESPN Diabetes 5K Race

    Feb 29, 2020
    8:00 AM

    Join us as we help build awareness, education and support for locals fighting Diabetes through this family friendly Run/walk event. A little...

  • Forsyth Farmer's Market

    Jun 29, 2019
    9:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ South end of Forsyth Park

    The Forsyth Farmers’ Market vendors offer a variety of local goods including seasonal produce, eggs, honey, pastured meat, bread, cheese,...

  • Red Cedar 5k Race

    Feb 29, 2020
    9:00 AM @ Red Cedar Elementary

    The 9th Annual Foxes Trot 5K, a family friendly race, will be held on March 9, 2018. This annual event has now become a student project,...

  • 17 Gun Salute Sporting Clay Benefit Tournament for SD Gunner Fund

    Feb 29, 2020
    12:00 PM - 6:00 PM @ 17 South Rod and Gun Club

    The 17 Gun Salute Sporting Clay Benefit Tournament will be held at 17 South Rod and Gun Club to benefit the SD Gunner Fund. There will food...

  • “Does the Earth Really Orbit the Sun? Thinking Scientifically vs. Believing What We See”

    Mar 04, 2020
    7:00 PM - 8:30 PM @ Savannah Country Day School

    Savannah Country Day School's Faculty Explorations lecture series continues with a lecture by Science Department Chair Adam Weber. About this...

  • Savannah Antiques & Architecture Weekend

    Mar 05, 2020
    6:00 PM - 6:00 PM @ Various Locations, Downtown Savannah, Georgia

    The Annual Savannah Antiques and Architecture Weekend is a three-day series of presentations, tours, appraisals, a glittering gala, and a cocktail...

  • First Fridays in Starland

    Jun 07, 2019
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Starland District

    First Fridays in Starland celebrates local business, art, and food in Savannah’s coolest neighborhood! Join us every First Friday of the...

  • The McCartney Years

    Mar 06, 2020
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Hailed by the original Beatles promoter as "The Best on the Scene," The McCartney Years is a period-true, technically stunning and explosive live...

  • Chick Fil A Benefitting Young Life 5K

    Mar 07, 2020
    6:30 AM @ Savannah Harbor Golf Club

    Rise and Run with Chick-fil-A at the 4th annual 5k and 1 mile youth event benefiting Young Life Savannah. Bring out your Cow Costume a make it a...

  • Coastal Home & Garden Show

    Mar 07, 2020
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Crystal Coast Civic Center

    Turn all of your home and garden dreams into reality at the 32nd Annual - Coastal Home & Garden Show. With over 12,000 Sq Ft of exhibits , this is...

  • ELLA Foundation’s Charity Lee to Host Book Signing at The Foundery Coffee Pub on March 7

    Mar 07, 2020
    1:00 PM - 3:00 PM @ Foundery Coffee Pub

    WHAT:  Charity Lee Book Signing Event. The ELLA Foundation founder and Executive Director Charity Lee will sign copies of her powerful new memoir...


Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

2020 Southern Coast Heart Ball

The American Heart Association held its annual Southern Coast Heart Ball on Saturday, February 8th at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa. Guests enjoyed a cocktail reception with a silent auction, dinner and program, and dancing to end the evening. All proceeds went to the Open Your Heart campaign.

4th Annual Hearts for Healing Gala

Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center held its Fourth Annual Hearts for Healing Gala on Friday, February 7th at the Tybee Island Wedding Chapel. Guests enjoyed gourmet dining, dancing, and a silent auction. All proceeds from the auction benefitted the Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center's program for individuals with disabilities.

IDC Benefits the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire

The LeClerc Family owners of IDC (International Diamond Center) in Savannah 349 Mall Blvd held a benefit to support the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire on Thursday, February 6th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Guests enjoyed light food and drinks, while bidding on several silent auction items, including autographed footballs and helmets donated by Anthony Lanier II.

Royce Learning Center Annual Low Country Boil & Oyster Roast

The Royce Learning Center held their annual low country boil and oyster roast on Saturday, February 1st. Guests enjoyed mingling over the seafood selection. Royce Learning Center meets the needs of children and adults with learning differences and literacy needs through its unique programs.

Dining in the Dark 2020

The Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision held its annual Dining in the Dark event on Saturday, January 18th at the Embassy Suites Downtown Savannah. Guests were served a four-course meal in complete darkness by the Savannah Metro's SWAT team. Dining in the Dark serves to raise awareness about vision loss.

January Brews for a Cause

South magazine in collaboration with Southern Eagle Distributing hosted their monthly Brews for a Cause on Thursday, January 16th at the Savannah Taphouse in a successful effort to raise money and awareness for the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision. The night featured delicious appetizers by Savannah Taphouse and a range of flavored Bud Light Seltzers provided by Southern Eagle. These events provide good food, fun entertainment, refreshing drinks and most importantly – raise money for a great cause! Be sure to be on the lookout for our next Brews in February!

Ford Plantation's Grand Opening & Ribbon Cutting for Silk Hope

The Ford Plantation celebrated the completion of its two new Silk Hope model homes on January 10, 2020. The Silk Hope project is limited to 53 homes, on beautiful lots of buyers’ choosing amongst old oaks and a Lowcountry marsh setting. This member-backed project is the first new for sale residential development at The Ford Plantation in more than fifteen years and represents the final phase of home development to be offered. The Silk Hope community is the product of a collaboration of some of the world’s top residential architects and landscape designers and has been modeled to capture tranquil European village and Lowcountry architecture.

Mat Best Signs his New Best-seller at Nine Line

Veteran, entrepreneur and author Mat Best met fans and signed copies of his new book “Thank you for my Service” Thursday Dec. 12 at Nine Line Apparel. Best’s best-selling authorial debut chronicles his service as a U.S. Army Ranger. Best's Black Rifle Coffee co., partnered with Nine Line Apparel, has shops on River st. and off route 95 on Ft. Argyle rd.

Victory Antiques and Engel & Völkers' Holiday Party

Dickey Mopper and his team at Engel and Völkers celebrated the season at their annual holiday party on Wednesday Dec. 11, with a special appearance from the jolly fellow himself, Santa Claus. Mopper and company, celebrating alongside the crew of Victory Antiques, showed off the newest Engel and Völkers office at 1650 East Victory Dr. in Savannah.

Good Times Jazz Bar & Restaurant's 2nd Anniversary Celebration feat. Lady Leah

Jazz lovers celebrated Good Times Jazz bar's second anniversary on Nov. 8 and 9 featuring jazz vocalist Lady Leah and the culinary stylings of Good Times' chef Joe Randall, the dean of southern cuisine. In 2017 Randall teamed with Danielle and Stephen T. Moore to create one of the city's smoothest spots, a confluence of culture and taste fit for the soul of Savannah.