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Leadership/Management

A Suicide and an Angry Plea

Berry cartoon Greenlaw

The Pennsylvania EMS Memorial Bike Ride began on a somber note Saturday following the Friday suicide of Maine firefighter-EMT Isaac “Skippy” Greenlaw, a past rider in EMS memorial events. 

Greenlaw, 41, was captain of the Levant Fire Department and a dispatcher for Medcomm, as well as working for several other departments. He was close with EMS cartoonist and fellow rider Steve Berry, who wrote the following and drew the accompanying art.  

I cannot sleep yet am exhausted from the recent loss of a colleague who represented the best of us. My heart is broken for not only what I knew of this person but for what he sacrificed for EMS. Please forgive my rant, but my heart demands it. I drew this cartoon 15 years ago, yet never shared it. For at that time we were never allowed to show our emotions regarding the painful psychological scenarios we endure. The cartoon obviously depicts the image of EMS providers as machines—incapable of feelings. I am encouraged by our current times to know now that we can feel our pain without fear of rejection and…if there are those out there who feel we must still reject that notion, [they] are antiquated in their philosophy of indifference and need to either evolve or retire, as they only serve to advocate the philosophy of mechanical submission to human suffering. 

Though I mourn our loss of a wonderful human being of EMS, I am encouraged that we no longer can ignore [how] this profession at times can painfully overwhelm our psyche. I have lost too many friends and colleagues in EMS over the past 35 years for reasons unrelated to the actual physical dangers of EMS, and I am angry... No, let me retract. I am f--king pissed off at the neglect of those we have lost so needlessly. We must embrace the needs of our brothers and sisters of EMS regarding their psychological health. We dedicate our lives to save others yet sacrifice our own. We must treasure the lives who have dedicated [themselves to] a contributory life.

Greenlaw is survived by his parents, wife, five children, two sisters, four nieces and nephews, and a grandfather, as well as friends and colleagues in public safety. Find his obituary at https://kileyfuneralhome.com/tribute/details/363/Isaac-Greenlaw/obituary.html. 

A memorial will be held Wednesday, September 12, from 4-7:30 p.m. EDT at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. A service with full firefighter honors will begin at 7:30 p.m. following the visitation. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to The National EMS Memorial Bike Ride, Inc., P.O. Box 381, Victor, NY 14564-0381.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 800/273-8255.

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