There are very few moments in my life that I can pinpoint as being something that changed everything else. One of those moments happened right on the first floor of Higgins, almost a year ago to this week. It was Welcome Week, and in what would set the tone of my freshman year, I was busily running about to each station set up around campus, eager to take it all in and give myself opportunities to get involved and find my place.
In Higgins, there were a group of kids in navy polos smiling widely and hovering around a small computer. The not-so-shy freshman that I was, I walked up and introduced myself, asking who they were. This was my first encounter with Eagle EMS, and at the time, I had no idea that it would be one of my most important. I spoke to two students who told me how fun it was to be on the squad, how great the people were, and how awesome it was to be able to ask upperclassman questions about all your classes since they all sat through the same ones—bio majors and premed students all follow the same track so the classes and teachers varied very little between the years.
In theory, all of these are great selling points. Except for the fact that I wasn’t a bio major, or premed. In fact, I was prelaw, and I was set on a double major in International Studies and Theater Arts. Yet, something about the enthusiasm and genuine sunniness radiating from the students made me add my name to the Eagle EMS listserv and jot down the interest meeting date in my planner.
At the end of Welcome Week, I reviewed all of the clubs and activities I saw, sorting them all into two piles: the “yes, attend the meeting” pile; and the “eh, not for me” pile. All of the many, many volunteer and service groups were put in the latter. None of them really seemed genuine to me. The groups seemed to be advertising the convenience of weekly, scheduled volunteering, or the great opportunities for reflection, or even how awesome it would look on a resume or transcript. There was no passion for actually helping people, no drive to serve because the service was needed. As someone who dedicated a lot of time to volunteering in high school, I was shocked and disappointed in what BC, a school very much about “men and women for others,” considered to be reasons for serving.
As I looked at the Eagle EMS website that night, I realized the only genuine opportunity to serve others and make a difference on campus—not on my resume—was right in front of me. Eagle EMS does not allow you to do it half-heartedly, or for the “wrong reasons,” like how I considered the rest of the organizations to be advertised. To be a member, you need to commit a lot of your time, energy, and money. There’s a rigorous application and interview process, a costly CPR certification class and following exam, and as you progress in the organization, there is the energy-consuming adventure that is getting your EMT certification.
If you want to be a part of this community, you need to really want it. I started to want it because I was determined to know that my time spent volunteering was going to mean something and make something out of me. What could mean more than potentially saving the lives of the people I helped? I wasn’t just organizing papers, or helping people accomplish tasks: my role as an EMT was to preserve the lives of people and come to their rescue. There is nothing more frightening than when you feel like your body is malfunctioning, and you don’t know what to do or why the malfunction is happening. When you are in this moment of fear, Eagle EMS is the one to come to your rescue and intervene so you are not alone.
A responsibility this big must be entrusted to the right people. There are two categories of people involved with Eagle EMS: an EMT and an Observer. Both roles allow you to answer those calls and give you patient contact. An EMT is someone who has completed the 200+ hours of class that covers emergency situations, biology, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, and practical skills; has done the 20 hours working in an Emergency Room; and has spent another chunk of hours riding shifts on an ambulance squad going on legitimate 911 calls. Once the hours, exams, and skills evaluations are completed for a state recognized class, the EMT student then has to pass a state certification exam. By the time a student is able to be an EMT member on Eagle EMS, he or she has already become a certified EMT from wherever state he or she is from—these people responding to your calls on campus are not just premed kids who want a fun pastime, they are legitimate members of the healthcare field equipped with skills to handle life-threatening illnesses and injuries in high stress situations.
Observers are new members who have not gone through the EMT certification process yet. Observers are expected to receive their CPR certifications within the first semester of being accepted to the organization. They then put in the same amount of monthly requirements as Eagle EMS’s EMTs do, except Observers are paired up with EMTs when on call or working standby at events like football games, or other large attendance events. After two semesters, Observers are expected to start the EMT certification process.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Personally, I became CPR certified through the first class offered at BC, as soon as I decided Eagle EMS was something I was serious about pursuing. I was an Observer for the two semesters of my freshman year, where I worked a ton of hockey games, random O’Connell house events, and some field sport games. I attended all of the required lessons and lectures each month, and by the time May rolled around, I was a changed person. My navy polo was a source of pride: throughout the year I learned priceless skills that made me more confident as someone who could make a difference, and as a person, in general.
While it’s difficult to explain, the skills involved with emergency medicine are the kind that shape your character. The first call that I went on while riding on my town ambulance squad allowed me to put those same skills into practice and come to the aid of a woman who was in severe need. I have never experienced anything more rewarding than having her hold my hand while we transported her to the hospital. In that wordless moment, I knew that I was no longer an observer, but a catalyst in improving the life of one person.
Throughout this summer, I completed a 220 hour EMT course that was equivalent to 10 college credits over the course of a month. I had to pay for my course out of pocket just to gain my certification for the sake of being certified. The class was intensive, rigorous, graphic (medically), and came with frequent tests and quizzes.
It was all worth it. In two weeks I will know if I passed my state exam, but after attending Eagle EMS’s skill sessions and lectures all year and after going through my class, I am confident that I passed. Sometimes when you want something this bad, and when you set your mind to go out and accomplish it, failure is not an option.
This mentality is one I find to be interwoven within the Eagle EMS community. The organization is entirely student-run, and it runs like clockwork. Our organization is highly respected by BC’s administration, BCPD, and the neighboring communities. This past year, we were invited to staff the Boston Marathon, a huge honor for collegiate EMS. Our professionalism and success comes from the fact that this organization is not like any other: our way of giving back is perhaps the highest form of service we can offer: the preservation of health and life in true emergencies.
As I prepare to return to campus for my second year with Eagle EMS, this time as an EMT, I am coming back to Chestnut Hill a better person. I believe in myself and am unafraid to tackle tough situations—whether they result from overloading with an additional class, branching out to new activities, or happen while volunteering, I am confident that I can successfully manage whatever comes my way. If it wasn’t for that fateful day in Higgins almost a year ago, I don’t know if I would be able to say the same thing. Eagle EMS saves lives, and undoubtedly changed mine.