Jeremy grew up in the west Texas town of Pecos and has lived in Marfa for four years. He has been EMS director for the last two years. In 2002, he and his wife (also an EMT-Intermediate) were full-time Marfa EMS employees. In 2002, in addition to working full time, his wife attended vocational (practical) nursing school. During that year, Jeremy and his wife, both employed in EMS full time, earning $5.85 an hour each, had a combined income below the Texas poverty level. Thus, they qualified for federal food stamps (which they received for almost a year). Furthermore, they qualified for the government's Poverty Transition program, which aids families with extremely low incomes. Jeremy reports things are better-his wife is pregnant with their second child, and he will soon complete paramedic school. But, the Big Bend area of Texas has started to attract upscale artists to the area, thus driving up the costs of real estate and the cost of living.
"I love Marfa and I love EMS," says Jeremy. "I just wish we could be paid what we are worth."
The name Doyle "Bodie" Glennon, Jr. may sound familiar. In 2002, Bodie won EMS awards at three levels: local, state and national. First, he was voted Employee of the Year for the D'Arbonne Ambulance Service in Farmerville, LA. In that same year, he was designated EMT of the Year for the State of Louisiana. Later in 2002, Bodie was awarded the prestigious Robert E. Motley EMT of the Year Award by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians at EMS EXPO 2002 in Nashville, TN. Bodie remains active in EMS and completed EMT-Intermediate education approximately a year and a half ago.
Bodie is 42 years old and a native of Arkansas, but has settled in Farmerville, Union Parish, LA. He has been employed full time by D'Arbonne Ambulance Service for 10 years, going to work for the small company a year after it went into business.
"As silly or naïve as this may sound, I know that something I do makes a difference," says Bodie. "That is what pushes me to keep on working. I found the job that I was put on this earth to do."
Not only is Bodie's dedication to EMS evident by his awards, it is more evident by his work. Bodie earns $7.35 an hour and receives no benefits. He works 48 hours on duty, followed by 48 hours off duty. Every other weekend, he works 72 hours straight. That is, Bodie works 72 hours during the first week of his two-week cycle and 96 hours during the second week. Thus, Bodie spends half of his life at work. With overtime included, he makes approximately $34,000 annually. D'Arbonne Ambulance Service, like many small ambulance operations, has been seriously affected by the current Medicare fee schedule. This is made worse by the fact that a large number of people living in Union Parish have incomes well below the poverty line. D'Arbonne operates two ambulances and runs approximately 15 calls a day.
According to Bodie, "D'Arbonne is a 'mom-and-pop' operation, but they have been good to me and good to the citizens of Farmerville and Union Parish."
Bodie has been married for 15 years and has two children, ages 15 and 12. Bodie's wife previously worked as a dispatcher, but is now a full-time housewife. Bodie and his family have only had four vacations in the last 10 years. With Bodie's income, he and his family qualify for food stamps, although he has elected not to accept them. He does receive $200 a month in government assistance, and both of his children qualify for reduced-cost school lunches under the federal school lunch program.
"You learn to cut a lot of corners," says Bodie. "In addition, my wife is quite frugal and good at managing money." When asked if he ever thinks of leaving Louisiana, he says, "Yeah, I've thought about it. But it would cost me to move and would be more expensive to live elsewhere. I like it here, and I like my coworkers and the people here."
When asked if he ever regretted getting into EMS, Bodie says, "No. Never. I like the idea of being able to help. It is what I was put on this earth to do. I hope the pay gets better. EMTs and paramedics are worth much more to society than what they are paid."
Single Mom in Mississippi
Lori Hollingsworth always wanted to be a paramedic. As a child, she often told her parents that she was going to work on an ambulance one day. In 1995, following a bitter divorce that left her with full custody of her children, Lori finally realized her dream when she gave up the comfortable life of a paralegal and enrolled in the University of Mississippi's School of Health-Related Professions EMS program. In 1996, Lori earned an Associate's Degree in Paramedicine and, as a newly registered paramedic, began work for a private ambulance company in the Jackson area. She still works for the same company.
"I love my job, and I like helping people," Lori says. "But I am having a hard time making ends meet."