This article was written by Nelson Bradshaw, and was published in The Delaware County Times, in Delhi, New York, USA, on March 10, 2000.  The photograph was also taken by Nelson Bradshaw at the time of the interview. The paper ceased operation in July of 2016, after 35 years.

Thomas Slatin has chosen to be a career EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), and has the character required for the profession. He brings dedication, compassion, courage, stamina and training to his EMT role with the Hobart Fire Department.

Slatin, twenty years old, has been a licensed EMT for two years. Like other members of rescue squads in Delaware County, he does this work as a volunteer. Also like other emergency squad people, he is called, sometimes in the middle of the night to rescue those injured in car wrecks, fires and other disasters. The young man has seen a lot of rescue situations in his two years as an EMT. “I’ve seen everything from a full-blown cardiac arrest to lung tissue injuries to people getting run-over by farm equipment to you name it,” recalls slatin.

Slatin indicated that he is calm and methodical when he is playing his role in a rescue, but is not without feelings for those he helps. “At times I even get sick,” said Thomas. “But, it is human nature to feel that way. Everybody on the job has compassion and gets a little upset at times. If you don’t feel any compassion, then you don’t belong in the emergency medical service.”

Slatin is a careful risk taker, as he demonstrates in his hobby as a rock-climber and in his role as a rescuer. Slatin admitted that rock-climbing is dangerous, but added, “there is a technical aspect to it, where you have to know how to use your equipment to minimize the risks.” Asked if he enjoys danger at all, Slatin replied, “I think we all do, I think we get an adrenaline rush from it.” From rock-climbing, he has gotten physical conditioning, strong nerves and climbing skills and equipment useful on EMT calls.

There is a danger in EMT work, too. “If there is a car wreck, I’m at risk,” said Slatin. “I’m operating machinery to rip the car apart as well as treating the patient. That car can burst into flames at any time.”

People like Slatin, who freely give big chunks of their time and put themselves in harm’s way to rescue their neighbors are rate. More of them are needed for the volunteer squads of Delaware County. Slatin explained why such volunteers are hard to find: “Not many people are devoted enough to take the training and plan stuff around their on-call hours. I know a lot of fire departments that have a call list where everybody signs up for a twelve-hour period, once a week. That’s fine for some people, but others won’t make the commitment.

The training demanded of volunteers is substantial. The training process for EMT’s never ends. “The thing with training is that no matter how well you are trained, you always need more training,” said Slatin. “There is no training that can prepare you for everything you are going to see. I’m always taking training.”

Another reason for continued training, according to Slatin, is that emergency medical treatment is changing. “People are always improving the number of rhythms you do and the number of chest compressions to breaths in CPR,” he stated. “The way you do extrications is completely different from what it was twenty years ago. When the EMS system first started you would get a bunch of firemen and they would throw the patient in the back of the ambulance and floor it to the hospital. It has evolved to the point now where you can do anything in the back of the ambulance that you can do in an emergency room.”

In spite of all the demands put on EMT’s, Slatin said he thinks people should volunteer. “If you volunteer you help people a lot,” he said. “If we didn’t have volunteer fire departments, around here, I don’t know what we would do.” Slatin noted that he things there is something in it for volunteers. “You get a lot of experience and you get tons of respect.” He named camaraderie as another benefit of working on a rescue squad. “Volunteers depend on one another and we would do anything for one another,” said Slatin. Slatin stated that he thinks his interest in rescue work began in his childhood when he saw firemen battle a blaze. “I noted that everyone watched in amazement as the firemen were running around doing their jobs so professionally. They put out the fire, too, and saved the whole building.

Slatin wants to be a professional rescuer some day. He is preparing himself in college to become a Paramedic. He has just left a West Virginia college and will soon enroll in SUNY Oneonta, where he can get a major in Paramedic Science. Slatin says he will go on to get a masters degree in another discipline, such as Computer Science, on the chance that he may eventually burn out as an EMT or just get too old to do it. For now, he said, “I love it.”

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