April seems to be a time of winter winding down and preparation for whatever the upcoming summer has in store for us in the EMS & rescue communities. It also seems to be a time of stress and frayed nerves for much of the public we serve.
From the stress of the raging Red River in North Dakota to the many incidents of mass murder, including the recent incidents involving multiple law enforcement officers in Oakland, California and Pittsburgh, PA... I don't know whether it is the ready accessibility of assault weapons (an AK 47 was used in both the Oakland and Pittsburgh incidents) the stress of these challenging economic times, the influence of First Person shooter games or what, but the frequency and lethality of incidents seems to be on the rise.
So, to quote fictional Chicago PD Sgt. Phil Esterhaus from that venerable 80's NBC TV classic, HILL STREET BLUES, "Let's be careful out there."
Speaking of violence and "the job," first up is Craig Hartpence's novel ADRENALINE JUNKIES: A Paramedic Nightmare. To begin with, Paramedic Hartpence is an EMS veteran of a California county EMS system that had a contract with a private ambulance service or services.
Secondly, he writes well. The problem with writing an EMS novel is that there has to be an underlying plot to string together the various tales/war stories. Craig does so in such an engaging and realistic way that I found myself remembering back to the mid 80's when I worked for 10 months for the Northern California Division of Medevac who had the contract for the southern half of the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County. While the names and faces were different, many of the incidents he shares were similar to ones that happened to me and my coworkers.
The bullet, literally, a long time EMS system veteran, Jason Holt has risen to Director of the county EMS service. He is shot by one of his employees after uncovering an actually quite plausible scam involving some of his employees and hundreds of deaths.
ADRENALINE JUNKIES is medic Holt's career told through a series of flashbacks as he lays wounded and is being treated by his own system - beginning with how he became an EMT working for a transfer service and having the EMS bug bite hard and deep, to the grind of putting himself through paramedic school while still working the streets, to rising up through the ranks. And it tells of many calls and adventures along the way.
Medic Holt is no straight arrow. He has more than his share of adventures, misadventures and judgment calls that go in both directions. However he lived and learned from his journey leading up to the point of his attempted murder.
To tell more is to give the plot away and this is one nicely written work about our craft that is worth tracking down and reading. Craig also included a rather extensive glossary of terms for the non EMS reader so they can equally enjoy this tale. This is a self published novel but you wouldn't know it by the quality of the writing and superior editing that shows throughout. I devoured this book in two nights.
ADRENALINE JUNKIES: A Paramedic Nightmare
Craig Alan Hartpence
$20.50 (hard cover), $15.00 (paperback)
Moving on is an interestingly titled book called WAR IS BEAUTIFUL: An American Ambulance Driver in The Spanish Civil War. This particular conflict was the prelude to World War 2 and the phrase "War is Beautiful" was actually a Fascist propaganda slogan the author observed scrawled on a recently captured city wall.
There have been a number accounts over the past several years of American health care volunteers for the Republican cause in this nearly forgotten conflict. And the truth is that most of those who survived were ostracized by the American Government as being Communists or at the least Socialists.
These veterans, on their return and wanting to join US Forces after Pearl Harbor were usually limited to enlisted positions only.