In South Bronx, NY, Station Chief for Emergency Medical Services, Captain Jennifer Ison works to oversee a team of paramedics. Over zoom, Lidia talks with Captain Ison and Lieutenant Dwight Scott, a paramedic. The pair tell Lidia why they became first responders and how they handle the increased risk from the pandemic. Lidia reflects on what it takes to be an EMS worker on the front-lines, and learns that they share something in common – a connection between work and family.
Watch as Lidia Has a virtual visit with FDNY EMS Station 17 in the South Bronx
Meet Captain Jennifer Ison, Station Chief, FDNY EMS Station 17
Captain Jennifer Ison stands in front of FDNY EMS Station 17 in South Bronx, NY. Photo/Jason Longo
“Both my parents were EMTs. My dad’s a paramedic, my mom was a nurse…They have been in EMS since way before I was born; they met on an ambulance volunteering together. I’m now going into my 15th year. I absolutely love EMS. I love helping people. I love critical thinking, making decisions on my feet, inspiring other people, working with members, medicine, the things that we can do, even before we get to the hospital. We’re not just driving you to the hospital, we are treating you…doing life-saving, cutting edge technology before you even get in the door of the emergency room.” – Captain Jennifer Ison
Two FDNY workers, South Bronx, NY. Photo/Jason Longo
“My best friend was starting to get worried about the Pandemic in March of 2020. I was like, “Listen, I’m going out there. Don’t worry until I worry.” Then all of a sudden, I think maybe towards the end of March, it was my day in the truck with my partner and we saw between 15 and 17 cardiac arrests in one day. The part of Queens that I was working in, at that time, was a very large hotspot for COVID-19. One of the hospitals that we went to was more a community emergency room, than an emergency department, if you know what I mean. It was just a large room that was split up with curtains. They couldn’t take any more patients. When I started, we were doing 2500 calls a day, and soon we hit 3000. But when we were doing 7500 calls a day, it was just insane. People were waiting hours and hours for ambulances. I think that’s when it really, really hit me.” – Captain Jennifer Ison
Captain Jennifer Ison, on the job.
“I’m on call 24 hours a day, and I’m responsible for an entire house, over 100 people…[With the COVID pandemic], we’re still technically in a state of emergency. You have your regular partner, and every day you come in and you grab your equipment. We have our PPE, which everybody is familiar with now, (personal protective equipment). It’s sort of like bunker gear for us. You grab that, your helmet, you make sure your ambulance is up to state standards. We carry stuff like BVMs; A BVM is a bag. Valve masks are what we use to help people breathe. We carry an automated external defibrillator and we carry first aid equipment, bleeding control; the things you need for basic life support. We are bringing the emergency room to you. We’re doing quality pre-hospital care.” – Captain Jennifer Ison
Meet Lieutenant Dwight Scott, FDNY EMS Station 17
Lieutenant Dwight Scott. Photo/Jason Longo
“I started around 1990 as an EMT working for a private ambulance and then six years later I joined the fire department as an EMT. After another six years, approximately, I went to school to become a paramedic and my program was about 10 months. Later, I took the exam to be promoted as a Lieutenant. We have a first-tier team of EMTs. Sometimes people are frantic when they call 911, and they don’t really know what’s going on. The EMT will make an assessment. If the EMTs find out it’s a problem above their training level, then they’ll call for the paramedics. Paramedics can start an IV. We can put you on a monitor to see your heart. We can do the same things they would do in the emergency room. If we have to give you a medication right there to save your life, we start right in the ambulance. We don’t wait until you get to the hospital.” – Lieutenant Scott
Emergency Medical Service members stand outside EMS Station 17. Photo/Jason Longo
“A lot of kids coming out of high school, they don’t really know what path they want to take. I tell somebody even if you go to college and you have a doctorate degree, being an EMT is a life-changing. It makes you a different kind of person because it makes you a team leader, it makes you think on your feet. Our job is very dynamic so you have to always adjust and think of different strategies to help somebody. You have to ask a lot of questions to find out what’s really going on. You have to be a detective. When you find somebody that’s unconscious you have to try to figure out what’s wrong with them. You have to look for clues.” – Lieutenant Scott
Scroll through the gallery to meet members of FDNY EMS Station 17 in the South Bronx.
“To become an EMT or a paramedic, you have to be a special type of person. It really is a calling. Not everybody loves blood and not everybody can keep a level head under pressure. You’re a person who’s okay not being thanked, who is happy just doing the right thing. I think that’s what a lot of my members are, people who just want to help people, who aren’t looking for that spotlight. You don’t necessarily think about EMS until you need us. Your worst day is just a regular day at the office for us. We provide a lot of emotional first aid. We wear a lot, a lot of hats.” – Captain Jennifer Ison