No matter how long people have been in EMS, they never seem to get enough of swapping stories and reading about other medics' experiences--some funny, some sad, some so horrific they can only let go of the after-images by sharing them with others. In The E.R. Loading Dock, published in February 2009, Detroit medic Eric Liddy shares his own experiences, along with stories from medics around the country. More information is available on Eric's Facebook page.
What prompted you to write this book?
About 4 years ago, our Detroit Fire Department's EMS Honor Guard, of which I'm the deputy commander, went to the National EMS Memorial Service for the first time in our 3-year existence. When we got back, I wrote a one-page article for our union magazine, and it caught the attention of a published author in Providence, RI, who asked why I wasn't writing professionally. I had done some creative writing in high school, but hadn't thought much about it since. He and I began looking at the possibilities and came up with the idea of getting stories, not only from my experience, but from other medics. I put the idea out on a message board forum and got a lot of positive responses, so we formed a book committee and began collecting stories.
Why did you think these stories would be interesting to others in your profession, or were you looking for a wider audience?
I wrote it for both EMS and the general public. A lot of people know that the city of Detroit is known for its violence, but most of them don't know the full extent. There are providers in some areas of EMS who don't respond to rescue calls, or who work in rural areas with low call volume and don't see some of the things the rest of us see in the course of our careers. I particularly want the public to understand that we're part of public safety, just like fire and law enforcement, and that we also risk our lives doing what we do. The book includes some horrific memories, but there are also some funny things. We didn't cut or clean up the language, so it's a bit vulgar at times, but that's part of the job.
I understand you published the book yourself rather than going through a well-known agency. What did that involve?
A friend who had published his own material through Paladin Press explained that it can be extremely difficult to gain the attention of a publishing agency, and encouraged me to self-publish. Once I found a reputable self-publishing agency, which was Lulu Press (see Lulu.com) , I read through all of the how-to's and found it to be an extensive, lengthy process. This book took the better part of three years to compile and publish, but my thought is, if you feel strongly about getting your message out and you aren't able to gain the attention of a nationally recognized publishing house, then self-publishing is the way to go. In this case, the book proceeds are going to charity, so self-publishing means higher profitability on the book.
Tell us about the charities.
As we were going through the process, I began to realize how difficult it would be to cut quarterly checks to all of the people involved, so I suggested we choose a few charities to donate the money to. We came up with five: The National EMS Memorial Service, The American Cancer Society, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Multiple Sclerosis National Research Institute, and the Shriners' Children's Burn Centers. My ultimate goal is to see 10,000 books sold. If we can do that, I'll know we've made a real difference. On the other hand, I know that every dollar counts, no matter what charity it is.
What advice do you have for other potential EMS writers who have a story to tell?