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Book Corner: April 2008


Life and EMS up here on the northern edge of the San Juan Mountains continues to be active and rewarding. But like a lyric from that Johnny Cash song, A BOY NAMED SUE, lately "we're a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer."

It is that magic time in the mountains that while we can still get a snowstorm or even a blizzard, (we've had them on the 4th of July,) we have officially moved from winter, to mud season. The winter tourist season is over, the calves have been born, the sheep shorn and everyone takes a moment to reset and prepare for summer. And it also that time of year when almost no one wears shoes indoors and the ambulances get washed a lot.

It has also been a good time for some quality reading and in this first review, DVD watching. As I've mentioned in previous columns, and much to my long suffering but not always patient bride Vicki's regret, I am on the mailing list for Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers. This is one of several companies that takes the returns from bookstores of books - printed and audio - along with the occasional DVD special and resells them at sometimes deeply discounted prices. It's a lot like panning for gold or silver; you go through an awful lot of silt to find the occasional nugget.

One of those nuggets is a History Channel Special entitled FRONTIER DOCTORS. The bullet: this 50-minute special documents the practice and history of medicine along the American frontier during the 17 & 1800s. It looks at what constituted the state and art of medical training back then and the use of herbal medicinals, mostly learned from the local Indians. This, along with charlatans and snake oil salesmen, are all combined to create what was the standard of out of hospital care at the time.

FRONTIER DOCTORS the DVD is sold online at the History Channel Store for $24.95. However it is available from Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers for $7.95 plus $3.50 S&H. (That's not for each item. It is a set fee per order whether that order is for one item or 30.)

In Search of History: FRONTIER DOCTORS
Item #7038038 at Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers
Also available new and used at

Switching to the printed media, next is NOT ON MY WATCH: The 21st Century Combat Medic by Joshua M. Peters & John R. Fansler. To begin with, NOT ON MY WATCH is a self-published book through one of the vanity presses, which means little in the way of professional editing. This is a shame because U.S. Army combat medics Peters & Fansler have a lot to share, but their account is uneven and sort of peters out at the end, all things that could have been taken care of with some good editorial direction.

With that said, I really enjoyed the first two thirds to three quarters of NOT ON MY WATCH. Josh Peters was a member of the 82nd Airborne stationed stateside when the events of September 11th, 2001 occurred. His unit was deployed to Afghanistan where he provided combat medical support in the mountains and valleys.

In the meantime, John Fansler joined the Army in response to the events of September 11th and after completing his basic and combat medic training was assigned to the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, where Josh Peters was reassigned after his Afghan combat tour. The two became friends and worked together through the unit's deployment to Iraq.

NOT ON MY WATCH provides snapshots of combat medicine in two theaters. The actual descriptions of Army life in both of these combat zones is very well handled from the worker bee's perspective. It culminates with a heck of a tale of EMS & rescue that literally blindsides medic Fansler in about as austere an environment as you can imagine.

John Fansler was on leave and was part of a two-helicopter convoy from their combat base to an incountry R&R center when the lead helo was shot down by an insurgent SAM. John's helo landed next to the downed craft and with almost no weapons for laying down cover fire, he and another soldier sprinted across the open area, being fired at by the insurgents the entire time. They proceeded to apply medical care and pull out the severely wounded and injured flight crew and passengers with no equipment. The description of this action is riveting and he definitely earned the award he received for going out and doing his best to ensure that his brother and sister soldiers did not die on his watch due to lack of efforts on his part.

So despite my earlier warning, NOT ON MY WATCH is a book about the practice of modern military EMS by two of our own that is at least worth tracking down through your local library if not for purchase.

Joshua M. Peters & John R. Fansler
AuthorHouse, 2005
ISBN: 1-4208-1145-2
$13.46 at

Switching to civilian EMS, next up is William Patrick's work SAVING TROY: A Year With Firefighters and Paramedics in a Battered City. The city is Troy, New York, an aging post industrial, economically challenged urban environment. The book is about one recent year's worth of fire, rescue & EMS calls. The Troy FD is a smaller urban/suburban type department with a rescue company, engine & truck companies and two man paramedic squads. However, transport is handled by two private ambulance companies.

SAVING TROY is a well written tale that immediately captures the reader's attention with the account of an off duty firefighter working his "hobby job" at a liquor store who is critically injured during an attempted robbery. The tale switches from the firefighter's account of events to the responder's accounts including some of them not realizing that the patient is one of their own.

From there the book follows the ups and downs of this department and the various types of calls and training that go into becoming a firefighter, an officer or a paramedic. It also follows how they all interact together in varying choreographies depending on the nature and type of call.

From there the book expands to take into account area political forces, economic issues, station life and various other factors including an ongoing battle between the fire department and the private ambulance companies over who should provide EMS for the city. All are shared to give an accurate picture of life and the constraints of meeting the fire, rescue and EMS needs of the visitors and residents of Troy.

And in between all this, are the calls. Fires, auto accidents, EMS runs and special rescue events such as barges breaking loose on the river and heading towards a major bridge in near flood conditions. Mr. Patrick, author of four previous books, shares a well-told tale from the Troy FD's point of view, richly supported with almost two dozen photos. I found SAVING TROY to be a highly interesting read and well worth the time to track down and locate from either your local library or for purchase.

SAVING TROY William B. Patrick
Hudson Whitman Pub., 2005
ISBN: 0-9768813-0-6
$24.95 from

As good as SAVING TROY is, I enjoyed Lt. Michael Morse's RESCUING PROVIDENCE even better. This is one medic's journey through 34 hours on two different ambulances.

What follows is a great story complete with calls, partner interactions, past war stories, and the impact of working so many hours on his family. Everything is covered, from drug overdoses, to suicide attempts in various forms, shootings, stabbings, birthing babies and medical conditions of all kinds... Oh, and other aspects of the job such as sleep deprivation and job burnout.

All in all, without giving any of the story away, this is one very well written look at the provision of EMS at the street level - sharp, gritty and realistic without being overly smug, smarmy or condescending. This is one medic's tale that is well worth tracking down for the read.

But don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself and let me know if I overstated my praises for Michael Morse's 34 hour slice of his career.

Lt. Michael Morse
Paladin Press, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-58160-629-4
$22.95 at

That's it for this issue of Book Corner. Next month I will briefly discuss the pros & cons of distance learning and two very good programs out there on the market - one a bit pricey on ACLS and one that is free to all EMS providers, ZERO HOUR: America's Medic.

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