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What It Means to be A Paramedic


Chief Ludwig is a featured speaker at EMS World Expo, scheduled for September 10-12, 2013, in Las Vegas, NV. Visit

For awhile now, whenever I think about it, I have been jotting down sayings from out in the field. Some come from my own experiences and some are sayings or comments that I have heard from paramedic/firefighters that are a reflection of their experiences. When compiled, what emerges is a unique perspective of life that few people will ever experience.

I have witnessed the miracle of birth; I have held a baby in my arms as it took it last breath; I sometimes do not eat meals on time; I have laughed with my patients; I have cried with my patients; Patients have vomited on me; I have comforted a father who held his dead son in his arms and grieved with the greatest sorrow I have ever seen.

I administer medications; sometimes, I work on Christmas; I have compassion for my patients; I control bleeding; I cut my patients out of wrecked cars; I have been called an ambulance driver; I have had people try to beat me through an intersection when I am driving with lights and sirens; I have said a short prayer for a patient I just delivered to an emergency room in critical condition.

I start IVs; I work shift work; I have sat for hours in my ambulance while on a standby; I read EKGs; I have fought fires; I work a second job on my off-days to provide for my children; I have worked past the end of my shift when I had important plans after I was scheduled to get off work; I have intubated patients in dark alleys, windowless basements and cramped bathrooms.

I have had doctors yell at me for taking too long to arrive at the hospital, even though the patient had to be extricated from a third floor; I love my work; I must continually go to school and educate myself; I love my job; I have seen the worst that one human being can do to another; I have ventilated a building; I have seen an elderly lady lie for days with a broken hip because she had nobody to check on her.

I have seen a mother burn to death after running back into a burning building to save her child; I splint broken bones; I cook the meals in my fire station; I laugh with my brother and sister firefighters; I bandage cuts; I have concern for my patients; I sometimes get upset at people who do not get out of my way when I am driving my ambulance; I must use all my senses; I am the godfather to my partner’s first-born child.

I have performed CPR; I work in intense summer heat; I work in severe winter cold; I have seen what a shotgun blast can do to a human body; I have reasoned with a person threatening to jump from a window ledge; I have carried hose up more than 10 stories; I lift and carry patients who weigh more than me; I have helped a doctor crack a chest; I have caught colds from my patients.

I have accidentally stuck myself with a needle; I take blood pressures; I install car seats; I put out car fires; I slide a brass pole; I have been cussed out by a patient; I have resuscitated people who have walked out of the hospital; I have rappelled off the side of a building; I have seen what a bee sting can do to someone who is allergic to bee stings; I have peeled a steering wheel off someone’s chest.

I have not finished many meals; I have fallen through a floor; I sit on the ramp and wave at people who honk their horns; I constantly train on the equipment on my apparatus; I climb ladders; I have treated stab wounds; I’ve had to tell a son that his father died; I have had patients thank me; I have seen the effects of not wearing a helmet when a motorcycle crashes; I have been criticized for showing up late at a call.

I have held a young child’s hand while his mother was loaded onto a stretcher and then into an ambulance; I immobilize neck and back injuries; I have gotten lost in a smoke-filled building; I have driven home after my shift wondering whether a patient survived; I have let a father cut the umbilical cord; I have climbed down dark holes; I have hugged my children after coming home from a shift.

I administer medication for pain; I listen when patients tell me they are dying; I deal with the homeless; I have laughed with my partner about some call we remembered last week; I have had a citizen file a complaint against me; I have driven an elderly lady to the hospital in the front seat of my ambulance as CPR was performed on her husband of 56 years in the rear of the ambulance and listened to her fear of the unknown.

I have gone an entire shift without eating; I have pulled a firehouse prank on a newly graduated recruit; I have smelled a burnt body; I read all the latest fire and EMS journals; I have a license to practice medicine; I have loaded hose after a fire; I have decompressed a chest filled with air; I have listened to my partner’s frustrations; I have chopped a hole in a roof; I have cried after a call; I have hugged family members after a terrible shift; I have made a child smile.

I would not dream of doing any another job. I am a professional. I am a paramedic/firefighter.

Ludwig Named Deputy Chief of Memphis FD

Gary Ludwig, a Firehouse® Magazine contributing editor, has been appointed deputy chief of the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. Ludwig writes the monthly EMS column in Firehouse® and is a “front-page” columnist for

“We are excited to welcome Gary to our team,” Fire Chief Richard Arwood said. “His background, education, experience and recognition as a national fire service leader will complement our existing outstanding management team.” As deputy chief, Ludwig will oversee emergency medical service operations.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected,” Ludwig said. “I am truly thrilled about the opportunity to work for the Memphis Fire Department and with the many professionals who I have come to know in Memphis. The professionalism and quality of the department and its members were key factors in my decision. I look forward to serving the citizens of Memphis.”

Ludwig has more than 28 years of experience in fire and EMS, including 25 years with the City of St. Louis. He retired as the chief paramedic from the St. Louis Fire Department in 2001. He also was director of emergency services and chief of special operations for Jefferson County, MO.

Ludwig is serving in his fifth term as vice chairman for the EMS Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). He has a master’s degree in management and Business and is a licensed paramedic. Additionally, he holds countless certifications, including Firefighter I and II and Hazardous Material Operations.

Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is deputy chief of EMS in the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. He has more than 28 years of fire-rescue service experience, and previously served 25 years with the City of St. Louis, retiring as the chief paramedic from the St. Louis Fire Department. Ludwig is vice chairman of the EMS Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has a master’s degree in business and management, and is a licensed paramedic. He is a frequent speaker at EMS and fire conferences nationally and internationally. He can be reached through his website at

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