The following is a post from Kim Sedmak, Executive Producer of "Life Reimagined TODAY" with Jane Pauley on NBC's TODAY show.
On a rainy, cold, wintry night, Jane Pauley's email popped up on my Blackberry with the words "be careful." Her cautionary message arrived just I was trying to securely strap myself into the back of an ambulance, all on behalf of our upcoming segment for NBC's TODAY show in our series " Life Reimagined Today. " We were profiling a guy named Jerry Leener, former CPA turned EMT with the Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland.
Jerry highly encouraged me to "ride along " before Jane shot the interview with him to better obtain a sense of what his job entails. Never one to shy away from the action, I agreed it made sense.
Before climbing into the 20,000 pound vehicle, I signed a release form, while Jerry's EMT partner Kevin provided me with a green neon jacket so as to be safely attired. They assured me I was going to see some action. On a Friday night in rush hour traffic with freezing rain, the DC/Maryland Beltway is prime time for an accident. They were right!
When the firehouse alarm bell rang, Kevin pushed back his chair and was the first to shout, "Here we go." I quickly followed them down the stairs into the back of the ambulance just as the station chief handed Jerry a computer printout while hurling himself into the front passenger's seat. Before I could even buckle the seat belt, we were heading at record speed through oncoming traffic and the dark of night, making our way to the scene as lights flashed and sirens roared.
It was raining hard, and I was being whipped around in the back, my imagination running wild with what we might encounter. I reminded myself that I was here to only witness and observe, that trained professionals were on the scene. Still, that didn't prevent me from saying a prayer or two for all involved.
When we finally came to a full stop, I made the executive decision not to get out of the ambulance. When I saw a second ambulance and an enormous fire engine, speeding cars, and spitting rain, my instincts told me it would be best to wait inside. These professionals didn't need to worry about a rookie on the loose.
Within moments, Jerry and Kevin hoisted a stretcher into the back of the ambulance with a young man positioned on a yellow backboard. Jerry immediately grabbed a two-way radio and started communicating with the hospital, while starting to administer a series of tests. There were no visible injuries, but perhaps internal injuries. The young man began to cry out in Spanish, holding his head.
In broken Spanish, Jerry begin communicating with this twenty-something. He learned he worked construction, lived in Loudoun County and the driver of the car was his cousin. Jerry looked me squarely in the eye and sternly said, "Keep talking to him and make sure he doesn't fall asleep."
Meanwhile, Jerry took his vitals, clicked on a penlight and examined the guy's pupils, all the while calmly typing all of this information into a small laptop.
When we arrived at the ER, their medical team quickly assessed Jerry had done all the right things. A flurry of nurses and other medical personnel took over and moved the young man to a treatment room as Jerry explained to the chief ER. doctor the guy might well have a serious neck injury and even a concussion. Before I knew it, much like the good accountant, Jerry was out in the hall again typing information into his small laptop. However, this is a far cry from his former desk job! I watched all this from afar, appreciating the calm both Jerry and Kevin exuded.
A few days later, Jerry left a voice mail telling me I could come back anytime and ride along. I didn't realize how much of a compliment he had paid me. Rest assured I do not have the temperament to be an EMT - that takes someone very special!
Watch our segment on NBC's TODAY show March 27 , 8:30-9 a.m. to learn more about Jerry Leener's life reimagined.
Also, join us for Jane Pauley's first-ever live webcast "Life Reimagined After TODAY" at 12:00 p.m. ET on March 27. Tune in at: www.facebook.com/lifereimagined.