"Editors' Expressions" is a new weekly feature in which the EMS World editorial staff ruminates on current news, noteworthy events and everyday happenings with relevance to healthcare and EMS delivery. Feel free to react in the comment box below or e-mail email@example.com.
Working in the EMS World editorial department can be, like most things connected to EMS, an exercise in dramatic highs and lows. While we get to read and report on the most inspirational success stories, we also post a seemingly never-ending series of line-of-duty deaths, attacks on EMS personnel, provider suicides, and the inevitable consequences of serving on the nation’s front lines.
And in those times, true to form, colleagues and supporters across EMS elect to act rather than complain, and leverage the tragedies into tangible efforts to better the working conditions in which EMS providers do their jobs.
I had the good fortune to have conversations last week with two committed Pennsylvanians working hard to improve the lives of providers and families in the EMS and first responder communities—on their own time and with no expectation for compensation or accolades.
Michael Bedner is a paramedic and was a close friend and colleague of Matthew Smelser, who was killed in a roadside accident January 5 while assisting a motorist on the side of I-70 in western Pennsylvania. Motivated by Smelser's death, Bedner has launched an initiative to raise awareness among legislators and the public of the dangers first responders face on our nation’s highways. “This had to be preventable,” says Bedner of Smelser’s death. “What could we have done differently? What can we change?”
Chad Vail works for the Pennsylvania State Police, and following a series of on-duty deaths in his home state, he founded the Fallen First Responders Association, a Pennsylvania nonprofit that provides financial assistance to the families of first responders who lose their lives in the line of duty. Members include law enforcement, firefighters (paid and volunteer), corrections officers, probation and parole agents, and EMTs and paramedics. Vail estimates about half of the members of the association are EMS.
"When you see news reports of funeral processions of first responders, it can be very powerful," Vail told me. "There is often an outpouring of support. But then the family must go home, pick up the pieces, and go forward without a paycheck coming in. Even if there is a death benefit, it's often not enough and can take a long time to process. In the meantime there are bills to pay." That's the idea behind the FFRA.
Look for a “Five Questions With” interview with Vail to be posted soon on EMS World.
On the topic of remembering those we’ve lost, the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride is now accepting registrations and sponsorships. Now in its 20th year, the NEMSMBR memorializes and celebrates the lives of those who serve every day, along with those who have died or have become sick or injured while performing their duties. EMS World is a proud sponsor of this initiative. Sign up to ride, support or sponsor—you might just see a member of the EMS World staff!
While nothing will bring back those lost or erase the hurt of friends and family, it's encouraging to learn of the motivation behind boots-on-the-ground efforts to inspire meaningful change. As Bedner says, “This is more than a Pennsylvania issue. At the end of the day, we all want to go home to our families."
Jonathan Bassett is editorial director of EMS World. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.