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Coming of Age in the Time of COVID-19

The amazing process of becoming an EMT for the City of Virginia Beach begins with a monumental decision. In my case, that meant realizing I was at a place in my life to dedicate time assisting my neighbors and giving back to my community.

In Virginia Beach, there are two tracks to become an EMT: traditional college or the city's own EMT academy. I chose the latter, and followed the steps to be accepted into the July 2019 class—Academy 34. There are so many amazing people at the EMS training center who go above and beyond their volunteer work to ensure our success.

An exciting, informative, and whirlwind five months later, graduation arrived. After passing the National Registry exam, my next step was Virginia Beach's unique internship program, where interns are taken under the wings of more amazing people who guide them into becoming one of the best EMT volunteers in the country.

Then came COVID-19.

The virus arrived with a whisper here in the city, and continues to insidiously blow around, spreading sickness and fear. Should I pause my training? Am I going to be infected? Will I bring the virus home to my family?

You hear people on the news asking these questions, but when it’s you asking them, everything changes. I paused, looked around at my fellow volunteers, and felt the collective strength of hundreds of people who have dedicated a part of their lives to assisting those in need.

I realized this moment in time, maybe more than others, was precisely why I chose to become a part of this family of volunteers, and I had each of them standing beside me. The Virginia Beach Department of EMS has been gauging the situation, responding to new guidance, and deploying safety measures that surpass the recommendations.

I finished my training and was released as an Attendant in Charge (EMT) in March. I can't say enough about the support I've received from family, friends and neighbors. My family, especially my husband, has sacrificed time with me, delayed hugs until after I've showered, abandoned the garage because I use it to decontaminate, and prepared meals. My friends and neighbors leave goodies at our door and provide moral support electronically. I am blessed beyond measure.

Am I invincible? No. Am I secure in the knowledge that I’m being taught the best safety practices possible? Yes. Is there a community out there that needs us right now? Absolutely! We stand before you in order to stand with you.

Andrea L.K. Tembreull, NREMT, is a volunteer EMT with the Ocean Park Volunteer Rescue Squad in Virginia Beach, Va.

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