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June 9, 2020 15 mins

For Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), the coronavirus is only the latest chapter in a vocation that requires constant vigilance. Meet Kyle Robillard, an EMT/Fireman/Sports Doctor, who tells us how multi-tasking tends to be a way of life for emergency responders, even as the stakes become more personal.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:06):
This is on the Job. This season, we're speaking with
folks who are finding their professional stride in a tumultuous
job market and learning how to double down on their
skills and their experience to overcome challenges. We'll bring you
inspiring stories of people making themselves essential, an important skill
set in any economy. Among all professionals that keep working

(00:26):
throughout the COVID nineteen crisis, none may be as widely
commended as those who work in the medical field. In
places hit hard like Manhattan, the city erupts every night
and applause at seven pm, showing gratitude for the work
of health professionals. Well, that applause echoes throughout the rural
areas of the country as well, where medical workers like
e m T stay busy serving their communities and adapting

(00:47):
to changing times. If you call nine one one after
you take a fall, or maybe you see someone having
trouble breathing, the people who show up in the ambulance
are Emergency medical technicians e m T s. And if
you're an EMT in the city of Rutland, Vermont, you
can expect those calls to start rolling in the moment
your eight am shift starts. When the emergency line rings,

(01:08):
it's a distinctive bell and a loud buzzer. It'll awake
the dead, and that's why it's intended to do. It's
very loud and very obnoxious. This is Kyle Robillard. He's
thirty two and he's an advanced e MT at Regional
Ambulance in Rutland, Vermont. One of the busiest ambulance services
in the state of Vermont, and it's not uncommon for

(01:30):
the department in a twenty period to run over thirty
calls for service. The calls can be for anything car accidents,
helping an elderly person who's fallen down, cardiac arress. Kyle
says he has people call even if they have a
bloody nose, So you don't know what's coming when you're
working at the amblets, but you know something is coming.

(01:50):
Regional Ambulance is a building right next to the local
hospital that's got a long garage with seven ambulances at
the ready, and when the alarm goes off, a dispatcher
in the office picks up and that call blares over
an intercom system throughout the building telling us the who, what, where,
when and why, the need of service, so you can
start to get a sense of what the call is.
The e m T s go out in pairs, so

(02:12):
Kyle and his partner will hear what the call is
and judge what they need to go on see. And
if they know that it isn't as serious, they'll know
that they don't have to blow through traffic to get there.
But if it's something like a heart attack, they move quick.
So we'll get out to the ambulance, we'll get in,
we'll sign on with the hospital, let them know what
we're going to because it's important to let the hospital
know like what to expect, especially if it's a significant incident.

(02:35):
They want to start to prepare rooms in space and
have resources available. E T. E m T is trained
to drive the ambulance, so they decide who's driving and
who's in the back with the patient. Sometimes the call
is severe enough, we're both in the back and we
call in another crew to drive for us. If it's
an easy call, like a nose bleed, if my partner
is a basic empt, I'll let them take the call

(02:57):
in and if it's something that requires a little more care,
I step in. So it's it's situational. They also do
a lot of transfers, so if a patient can't get
what they need at the Rutland Hospital, Kyle's team might
bring them to nearby Dartmouth or Boston. He's even gone
as far as Buffalo, New York, an eight hour drive,
regardless of what the call is. As soon as you

(03:17):
clock in. Being an m T keeps you on your
toes three years into the job. That's why Kyle likes it.
Somebody who's been doing this for over twenty years, who's
been to hundreds of thousands of calls, probably wouldn't mind
a slower day, and you can't blame him either. You know,
a career of service, you're going to see a lot
of stuff. But right now, I love going to work.

(03:38):
I love putting on the uniform and tackling whatever comes
down the pipeline. And at the end of the day
you're probably physically exhausted, but you can look back your
day and say I did something today, Oh yeah, yep.
There's never a day where I left I'm like, oh man,
and he didn't get much accomplished here. Being an EMT
is actually Kyle's part time job. Full time, he's also

(03:59):
a fire fighter here in Rutland, where he was born
and raised, and a senior year of high school in
front of his started volunteering at a fire department nearby,
and it was the first time Kyle had heard that
was an option at eighteen. My father was a fireman
at the time and my uncle was also a fireman.
The one time at dinner, I approached my dad about
the thought of joining the volunteer department. His dad totally

(04:21):
supported it. So Kyle went into the family business, which
is really not uncommon for firefighters a lot of people
in Rutland. It's a generational family thing, but in every
fire department across the country you'll see sons stepping in
after their fathers or their mothers, and daughters doing the
same thing. So he started going in once a week
in training. Soon he was answering a pager he carried

(04:42):
everywhere and going into calls with the department. One time,
jumping up from dinner at a restaurant when he was
nineteen to respond to a raging fire. His dad said,
was a fire you might see every thirty years. Yeah,
my heart was in my throat. I didn't really know
what to expect. I remember seeing the huge glow and
the sky and just being like, holy, holy, holy ship.

(05:04):
Just before you know it, twelve hours has gone past.
You're tired, you're soaking wet, you're hungry, But in a
blink of an eye, the twelve hours is gone and
you've been at that fire the whole time. After high school,
he went to college and got his degree in sports
medicine while he was still working as a firefighter part time.
In college, he was learning a lot about injury mitigation

(05:26):
and physical rehab and he saw how much that could
apply to his work as an emergency responder. And then
there was e m T class being offered in Rutland
in the evenings and it worked with my schedule really well.
He thought, this will be great training to have. It
ties into firefighting, it ties into his work as an
athletic trainer. This seems like too much work, But are
you doing any of that as well on the side. Yeah.

(05:49):
The last three winters, I was traveling with the United
States Junior loose team. Wow. Yeah, that was an unbelievable experience.
I was able to travel Europe with a loose team
and practice sports medicine. It was unbelievable. That's all you're
working a lot. Are you a workaholic? Yeah, to a fault.
It's partially by nature. I think the fire department job

(06:11):
because our schedule is we worked twenty four hours, then
we have forty eight hours off. We tend to fill
that void productively. There was a time where I was
mismanaging my time very poorly. I've had to make some
changes in like a just my work schedule, so I'm
not working all the time. Kyle's dad was the same way,
always had another job. So three years ago it wasn't

(06:32):
all out of the question that Kyle would pick up
a second line of work, especially how complimentary the skill
sets are. We very much run a lot of calls
with the e M S Department and vice versa, so
it was a very natural transition to slide into doing
that job as well. Over the last fifteen years wearing
all these hats, Kyle's got a pretty impressive skill set.
He's got plenty of room for upward mobility, and more importantly,

(06:54):
he really cares about his job. He's a guy you
want showing up when you call nine month one. But
the calls that Kyle gets as an e MT shed
light on some of the harsh realities of rural America
and when you work in the place you grow up.
A lot of those calls hit home. Talking to some
of my bosses who were paramedics back in the eighties,

(07:18):
you know they were doing a lot of the normal
stuff you would think cardiac arressen, motor vehicle accidents. The
job description has definitely shifted. More on Kyle's story after
the break. A strong work ethic takes pride in a
job well done, sweats over the details. This is you.

(07:43):
But to get an honest day's work, you need a response,
You need a call back, You need a job. Express
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(08:06):
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(08:29):
dot com or on the Express Jobs app. An article
ran in the New York Times. It was titled a
Call to Arms on a Vermont heroin Epidemic. The article
focused on Rutland, where Kyle's from and where is now
an e MT. In the last few decades, heroin found
its way to rural areas all over the country. In
Rutland got hit hard. When I was a kid, I

(08:53):
always saw heroin and drugs of the similar nature were
big city drugs. That's not up here. I felt insulated
to it. Just it's everywhere. I've never seen anything like it.
There's a lot of prescription pill abuse to something that
really wasn't as prominent even thirty years ago. And the

(09:14):
thing with people who tend to abuse drugs like that,
they do it over and over again, So you have
a lot of repeat calls. Yeah, a lot of people
we know on a first name basis. In places like this,
where people live a little farther apart than they do
in cities, it's less densely populated, the problem can be
hard to see. When that New York Times article came out,

(09:35):
a lot of people here were shocked. They didn't know
that an epidemic was happening right where they lived. It's
far more widespread than you think. I'm sure you know somebody.
One of my close friends, he and I shared the
same birthday. He was born two minutes ahead of me.
He passed away this winter from an overdose. You know

(09:57):
it's that's it's awful. Kyle's right, I do know someone,
one of my best friends growing up. The great thing
about living in a small town is everyone knows everyone.
There's a real sense of community. But when something happens
to someone in that community, they can make it that

(10:17):
much harder. Because Kyle's lived in Rutland all his life,
he knows that when a call comes in, there's a
good chance that he'll know who he's going to help.
Remember when I talked about I was bad at time
management and I wear a lot of hats. Well, I
was doing perpetry. Also sure one of our coworkers was
a heroin addict. I would have to bring him to
the methodon clinic before going to the job site in

(10:38):
the morning. Then one day, while he was working at
the firehouse, he got a call to respond to an overdose.
The address sounded really familiar and I would. I was like,
please don't be this person's house. Please don't be this
person's house. We drove by his apartment. I was like,
thank God. But then we pull up to this other apartment.
I see this individual's dogs outside the door, and I'm like, oh,

(11:05):
he was inside unconscious. They did chest compressions on him,
and they gave him Narcan, which is a nasal spray
that can help reverse an opioid overdose. After that, he
woke up. He was alive, incoherent, but it was my
co worker. Um. But two days later he was back
at the job site like nothing happened. We didn't speak

(11:27):
of it, you know. Yep, that's one of the things
I fear is going to an overdose or somebody I know.
I asked Kyle. It calls like that way on him
if the things he sees on the job as an
empt overshadowed the reasons he got into it. Trying not
to think that way. I don't want to become jaded.

(11:48):
I just my goals when I go to work are two,
make my partner's life easier, try and help as many
people as I'm called upon to help, and then try
and make the station a little bit cleaner, a little
bit nicer than when I found it. If I can
do those three things, I've had a good shift. Do

(12:12):
you like your job? Yeah, I like it a lot.
To shifts fly by, I look at the quack, I'm like,
oh man, I've only got like an hour left. Is
very rewarding work. And never leave feeling deflated like I
didn't do anything. What would you say to someone who's
interested in becoming an EMT, I'd say, if you like
a challenge, if you like continually learning, and if you

(12:34):
like being busy. It's a great career opportunity. Starting from
this career. You can become a physician assistant. You can
become a flight medic. You know, you can take this
education wherever you want to, which is awesome. When I
asked how what his favorite part of the job is,
he says he loves working with the elderly population. He

(12:55):
says that they show a lot of gratitude. He especially
likes those longer transfers they'll do with something times from
hospital to hospital, for going to Burlington which is in
an hour and forty five two hours away, and dart Myths,
which is over the hour. You can either spend a
time with your nose in the computer right in your report,
you can get to know the person you know in
the back seat with you, and sometimes they have pretty

(13:15):
incredible stories. In a lot of cases he helps out
those same elderly people multiple times. They get to know
each other by name. And that's the other side of
this work and doing it in a small town. You
get to be the person that someone trust, they'll see
when they ask for help. You're doing your job, but
you're not just a uniform. I think sometimes in this

(13:37):
profession and others similar to it, you forget you're dealing
with people not too dissimilar from yourself. So anytime I'm
in the back seat, I like to talk to them,
get a little bit of their backstory and and get
to know them by name, you know, talk to them
like I'd be talking to my brother like I'm talking
to you right now. You can have a great conversation
with somebody, and I think that goes I think that

(14:00):
goes a long way with people. For On the Job,
I'm Otis Gray. Thanks for listening to On the Job,

(14:22):
brought to you by Express Employment Professionals. This season of
On the Job is produced by Audiation and Red Seat Ventures.
The episodes are written and produced by me Otus Gray.
Our executive producer is Sandy Smallens. The show is mixed
by Matt Noble for Audiation Studios at The Loft in Bronxville,
New York. Music by Blue Dost Sessions. Find us on

(14:43):
I Heart Radio and Apple Podcasts. If you liked what
you heard, please consider rating and reviewing the show on
Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. We'll see you next time.
For more inspiring stories about making yourself essential as you
discover your life's work, Ariation
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